Don Giovanni

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

Information on the piece

Dramma giocoso in two acts
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte; First performed on 29th October, 1787 at Prague
Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 16th October, 2010

Recommended from 16 years on

3 hrs 30 mins / 1 interval

In Italian language with German and English surtitles

Pre-performance lecture (in German): 45 minutes prior to each performance

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About the performance

“Where have you gotten the deranged rights to which you've dedicated your life?”, asks George Sand of the legendary figure. He casually confides in Gottfried Benn: “I once had the dream that a young birch tree gave me the gift of a son.” No other fictional character of modern times has had more public attention than Don Juan, that “seducer of Seville”, who emerged in 1613 from the pen of a Spanish monk. Only seven years younger than his compatriot Don Quixote, since that time he has made his way through dramas, epics, novels and operas, and eerily wandered over cinema screens and plasma monitors. Against the backdrop of different moral attitudes he brags – monuments and icons – of his famous tricks, pitted against death which he casts as a stone shadow. “Mine will be hell!”, Lord Byron heard him say.

On 29 October 1787, conducted by the composer, the overture to a dramma giocoso about the race with death of DON GIOVANNI begins with a piercing chord in the Graf Nostitz National Theatre in Prague. In retrospect, in the history of music theatre, this moment can be likened to the big bang. In order to set the mood for placing himself in the role of the unbridled libertine and blasphemer, the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte had to repeatedly flirt with the daughter of his landlady. Mozart himself, who had achieved success with his FIGARO one year before, composes under enormous pressure of time for a fee of 1000 guilders. The overture is completed only by 7 p.m. on the evening of the first performance. Søren Kierkegaard sees a “bolt of lightning” that “makes its own way from the darkness of the storm cloud, more unsettled than this and yet just as steady in time. Hear the emotion of unbridled desire, hear the rustle of love, hear the murmur of temptation, hear the turmoil of seduction, hear the moment of stillness – hear, hear, hear Mozart's DON GIOVANNI!”

The descent into hell to which the archetype of moral abjection was condemned until now is seen in terms of his soul. For his demise, the entire metaphysics of the west is called into play. But this not only confirms the indignation of the persons wronged, it also elicits dismay. At the threshold of the French revolution, the freedom that the libertine extols against the decree of humility characterises him as the very prototype of anarchy. His unbridled manner, peeled from a life designed from hormonal dictates, reflects the compulsive longings and self-realisation fantasies of generations to follow.

The 19th century will reveal his close relation to the figure of Faust, melancholically leaving him to the realm of psychoanalysis. Julia Kristeva finds in him the “son of a mother who becomes a dreamer with her husband and passes this on to her child that he may conquer all women as no one ever before”. Albert Camus finds it improbable that he could experience sadness. As with the “laughing, the victorious impudence, the erratic”, the profoundly mundane that the French philosopher diagnoses in him, can in fact be deceiving! – The restless figure ponders with D. H. Lawrence: “Where is there peace for me? The mystery must fall in love with me …”

What drives the seducer through the bedrooms of the centuries? What haunts the hunter? Who is this man really, who always means only?


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