Mozart’s magnificent opera “Don Giovanni” is a study in obsession and addiction. The opera, sung in Italian, was debuted on October 29th, 1787 in the “Teatro de Praga” in Prague. It is an “opera buffo” which includes elements of comedy, melodrama, and, in this case, the supernatural. It’s debut was an immediate and tremendous success.
20th and 21st century performances of “Don Giovanni” have strongly emphasized the dark side of the opera where the “charming” aristocrat, Don Giovanni, is portrayed as an addictive and abusive man who harms everyone he encounters because of his uncontrolled passions and unbounded freedom to experience very pleasure. This “Don Giovanni,” in our age of addiction, is often depicted as not only addicted to sex/women but also alcohol and drugs.
The opera “Le nozze di Figaro” depicts the foolishness and shallowness of nobility over-reaching its prerogatives. Figaro and the other servants win the day putting the nobles in their place. So, too, does “Don Giovanni,” only to the extreme and for eternity. Both operas are the products of the Enlightenment and the budding age of democracy in the modern world. Don Giovanni is not only trapped in foolishness but also crime, but he, unlike Count Almaviva who repents and is granted absolution, is unrepentant of his excessive manipulation of people, and he defiantly descends to hell.
In the ancient Hellenic religious world, Don Giovanni would be Dionysus, the god of wine and irrational excesses of all kinds. In the modern Christian western world of Europe and America, Don Giovanni is a reprobate worthy of eternal punishment.