Leporello's "Catalog Aria" from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni

Lyrics, Translation, and History

Uruguayan tenor Erwin Schrott as 'Don Giovanni' and American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as 'Zerlina' sing the duet 'La ci darem la mano' in the Metropolitan Opera/Marthe Keller production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 'Don Giovanni,' final dress rehearsal prior to season premiere, Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York, New York, September 25, 2008. Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

This great aria is sung by Leporello in the second scene of the first act of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's famous opera, Don Giovanni, (read the synopsis of Don Giovanni) when he and Don Giovanni are confronted by Don Giovanni's past lover, Donna Elvira. Ever since Don Giovanni slept with her and vanished, she has been on the hunt for him. Don Giovanni panics and demands Leporello explain to Donna Elvira about his way of life.  Don Giovanni quickly flees and Leporello sings this aria about the many women who make up Don Giovanni's catalog of conquests.

Notable Performances of the "Catalog Aria"

Catalog Aria, Italian Lyrics

Madamina, il catalogo è questo
Delle belle che amò il padron mio;
un catalogo egli è che ho fatt'io;
Osservate, leggete con me.
In Italia seicento e quaranta;
In Almagna duecento e trentuna;
Cento in Francia, in Turchia novantuna;
Ma in Ispagna son già mille e tre.
V'han fra queste contadine,
Cameriere, cittadine,
V'han contesse, baronesse,
Marchesine, principesse.
E v'han donne d'ogni grado,
D'ogni forma, d'ogni età.
Nella bionda egli ha l'usanza
Di lodar la gentilezza,
Nella bruna la costanza,
Nella bianca la dolcezza.
Vuol d'inverno la grassotta,
Vuol d'estate la magrotta;
È la grande maestosa,
La piccina e ognor vezzosa.
Delle vecchie fa conquista
Pel piacer di porle in lista;
Sua passion predominante
È la giovin principiante.
Non si picca - se sia ricca,
Se sia brutta, se sia bella;
Purché porti la gonnella,
Voi sapete quel che fa.

Catalog Aria, English Translation

My dear lady, this is a list
Of the beauties my master has loved;
a list which I have compiled;
Observe and read along with me.
In Italy six hundred and forty;
In Germany two hundred and thirty;
One hundred in France, in Turkey ninety-one;
But in Spain already one thousand and three.
Among these are peasants,
Waitresses, city girls,
Countesses, baronesses,
Marchionesses, princesses.
And women of all ranks,
On each form, of all ages.
The blonde girls he has the custom
Of praising their kindness,
In brunettes, their constancy,
In girls with white hair, their sweetness.
In Winter he prefers overweight girls,
In Summer, they're slim;
It is the tall girls he calls majestic,
The young girls are always charming.
He seduces the old women
For the pleasure of adding to the list.
His most favorite
Is the young beginner.
Whether rich or poor,
If she is bad, whether she is beautiful;
Provided she wears a skirt,
You know what he does.

Don Giovanni History

Following a successful trip to Prague in 1787, Mozart was commissioned to compose a new opera. Perhaps by his own accord or by the suggestion of someone else, Mozart wrote Don Giovanni as a comic/dramatic opera in two acts based on the legend of Don Juan (Prague is credited to have started the genre of Don Juan operas). It was premiered at the Teatro di Praga on October 29, 1787. It is believed by many that Mozart finished the opera just a day before it was performed - he wrote on his own score that he finished the work on October 28. Despite finishing the opera by the skin of his teeth, the opera was a huge success at its premiere. His Prague audiences treated him like a rock star. In a note published by Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist of Don Giovanni, he describes how the citizens of Prague received Mozart: 

It is not easy to convey an adequate conception of the enthusiasm of the Bohemians for [Mozart's] music. The pieces which were admired least of all in other countries were regarded by those people as things divine; and, more wonderful still, the great beauties which other nations discovered in the music of that rare genius only after many, many performances, were perfectly appreciated by the Bohemians on the very first evening.

Don Giovanni's Influence

Mozart’s opera wasn’t just a success with audiences, many composers to come after him highly regarded his composition. In fact, it is said when Tchaikovsky viewed the original manuscript purchased by mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, he stated that he was in the presence of divinity.  For the 100th anniversary of Don Giovanni's creation, instead of quoting its music directly, Tchaikovsky honored Mozart by taking four of Mozart's lesser-known works and composed/arranged them in his fourth orchestral suite, titled Mozartiana (listen to Tchaikovsky's Mozartiana on YouTube).  

Tchaikovsky wasn't the only composer to be inspired by Mozart's Don Giovanni.

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Diabelli Variations, Op. 120, No. 22 Allegro molto alla "Notte e giorno faticar" di Mozart (listen on YouTube)
  • Frédéric Chopin: Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni 
  • Franz Liszt: Réminiscences de Don Juan (listen on YouTube)
  • Franz Liszt: Fantasy on Themes from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni (listen on YouTube)