The Synopsis of Don Giovanni

Mozart's opera Don Giovanni

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1787 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


October 29, 1787 at the Prague National Theatre

The Setting

Mozart's Don Giovanni takes place in a picturesque, 17th-century Spanish town.

Main Characters

  • Don Giovanni (baritone)
  • Commendatore (bass)
  • Donna Anna (soprano)
  • Don Ottavio (tenor)
  • Donna Elvira (soprano)
  • Leporello (bass)
  • Masetto (bass)
  • Zerlina (soprano)

The Story of Don Giovanni, ACT I

Late one evening outside of the old nobleman Commendatore's palace, Leporello (Don Giovanni's servant) is keeping watch as Don Giovanni tries to seduce Commendatore's daughter, Donna Anna. The masked Don Giovanni fools Donna Anna initially as she thinks he is her betrothed, Don Ottavio. When she realizes that it may not be him, she demands he remove his mask and screams for help. Commendatore rushes to her aid. As the two men fight, Donna Anna disappears to call for Don Ottavio. When they return, they discover Commendatore has been killed. They swear vengeance to the masked intruder.

The following morning, Don Giovanni and Leporello are outside of a tavern in a busy town square when Don Giovanni hears a woman singing about her lover abandoning her. Her distress is music to Don Giovanni's ears; he slithers over to her in order to seduce her. Before setting his eyes upon her, he quickly starts flirting. When his eyes catch up to his mouth, he realizes she is Donna Elvira, one of his many past conquests. Donna Elvira has been on the hunt for him. He pushes Leporello in front of her and demands him to divulge the truth of his many lovers before fleeing. Leporello tells her she is just one of many hundreds of girls within Don Giovanni's catalog of women. Donna Elvira storms away infuriated.

A little while later, a wedding party arrives celebrating the marriage of Zerlina and Masetto, both peasants. It isn't long before Don Giovanni takes notice of Zerlina and sets his sights on her. He tries to persuade Masetto to let him host a wedding party for them at his castle, but Masetto quickly realizes his dishonest intentions. Don Giovanni is just trying to get Zerlina alone with him. Masetto gets angry, but Leporello is able to remove him from the scene. Now alone with Zerlina, Don Giovanni starts working his charm and the two begin singing the duet "La ci darem la mano." Donna Elvira cuts in and snatches Zerlina away from him. Donna Anna and Don Ottavio arrive in mourning of her father's death. Still plotting their revenge, they ask Don Giovanni for help. He readily agrees. Donna Elvira cuts in and tells them that he cannot be trusted as he is a womanizer. When Don Giovanni shouts that Donna Elvira is just a mad woman, Donna Anna recognizes his voice as the masked perpetrator.

In Don Giovanni's castle, the wedding celebration for Zerlina and Masetto is underway. Don Giovanni, full of confidence, tells Leporello to invite as many girls as he can find. Meanwhile, Zerlina and Masetto are walking to the castle. Still angry, Zerlina tries to reason with him that she has remained faithful. When they hear Don Giovanni approaching, Masetto quickly hides. He wants to see how Zerlina will act around Don Giovanni in order to prove herself. Don Giovanni starts to charm her but realizes that Masetto is spying on them. Smartly, he calls out Masetto and scolds him for leaving the poor Zerlina alone. He hands her back to Masetto and they proceed inside the castle. Not long after, three masked guests arrive, having been invited by Leporello. The three guests are Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, and Donna Elvira. They pray for their protection and vengeance before entering the ballroom with everyone else.

During the activities and extravagances, Leporello distracts Masetto as Don Giovanni takes Zerlina into another room where they can be alone. Zerlina screams, but Don Giovanni is able to drag Leporello into the room. When everyone arrives, Don Giovanni places the blame on Leporello. The three remove their masks and proclaim Don Giovanni's guilt. When Don Ottavio approaches him with a sword, Don Giovanni narrowly manages to escape.

The Story of Don Giovanni, ACT II

Underneath a balcony at Donna Elvira's house, Don Giovanni has concocted a plan to seduce Elvira's house maid. He switches clothes with Leporello and hides in the bushes. While hiding, he sings a song of repentance as Leporello stands below the balcony pretending to be Don Giovanni. Donna Elvira accepts his apology and greets Leporello outside. Still in costume, Leporello leads Donna Elvira away. Don Giovanni emerges from hiding and starts singing a song to the maid. Midway through his song, Don Ottavio and a few friends arrive looking for Don Giovanni. Still dressed as Leporello, he convinces them he also hates Don Giovanni and will join them in their hunt to kill him. He manages to send Don Ottavio's friends away and beats Ottavio with his own weapons. Don Giovanni laughs as he leaves the scene. Donna Anna arrives shortly after and consoles her fiancé.

Leporello abandons Donna Elvira in a darkened courtyard. Having difficulty finding a door in which to escape, Donna Anna and Don Ottavio arrive. Leporello finally finds his exit, but only as Zerlina and Masetto enter through it. Upon seeing the disguised servant, they capture him. It isn't long before Anna and Ottavio catch on to what is happening. As they threaten to kill him, Elvira pleads for their mercy as she claims he is her reconciled husband. Scared for his life, Leporello removes his cloak and hat to reveal his true identity. He begs for forgiveness before seizing his opportunity to escape.

Leporello meets Don Giovanni in the graveyard next to Commendatore's statue and tells Giovanni of the dangers he encountered. Don Giovanni brushes them off and tells Leporello that he tried to seduce one of Leporello's past girlfriends. Leporello is not amused, but Don Giovanni laughs heartily. All of a sudden, the statue begins to speak. He warns Don Giovanni that he won't be laughing anymore after the morning's sunrise. Don Giovanni invites the statue to dinner, and to his surprise, the statue accepts.

Inside Donna Anna's room, Ottavio is asking for marriage. Anna refuses to marry until her father's death is avenged.

Back in Don Giovanni's dining room, he is enjoying an extravagant meal fit for a king. Donna Elvira arrives to tell him that she is no longer mad at him. Curious, he asks her why. It is because she now only feels pity for him. She asks him to change his lifestyle but he refuses, claiming that wine and women are the essences of humankind. Angrily, she leaves. Moments later, she screams and rushes back through the dining room before disappearing into another room. Don Giovanni demands Leporello to figure out what has frightened her. Moments later, Leporello screams and runs back to the dining room. Diving under the dining room table, he tells Don Giovanni that the statue has arrived for dinner. Don Giovanni greets the statue at the door. The statue asks Don Giovanni to repent for his sins, but Don Giovanni refuses. Then, with a great flash, the earth opens up beneath their feet and the statue pulls Don Giovanni with him to Hell.

Don Ottavio, Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, Masetto, and Zerlina return to the dining room to tell the moral of the story.