Don Giovanni

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PreviousJanuary 1971

For Romeo Castellucci, approaching Don Giovanni means facing up to the ambiguity and complexity as well as the inner disequilibrium with which Mozart imbues the protagonist of his opera. Vitality and de­struction: in this essential ambivalence Castellucci sees one of the fascinations of this figure. Wholly bound up in the moment, Don Giovanni’s life force is embodied with symbolic pregnance in the almost obsessive headlong spate of the ‘Champagne Aria’ ‘Fin ch’han dal vino’. This forms the frenetic prelude to a party that will be open to all — and whose true purpose Don Giovanni announces quite blatantly: Leporello, his manservant and antithetical alter ego, will subsequently be able to add another ten names to the lengthy list of Giovanni’s female conquests. Dedicated to the pleasure principle, his existence, which knows neither rest nor reflection, drives Don Giovanni to ceaseless seduction — a desperate com­pulsion beyond pleasure, reflecting awareness of his own mortality. Of death.

Mozart’s Don Giovanni was described by Kierkegaard as the spirit of sensuous desire, as ‘flesh incarnate’. His life realizes itself in pure immanence, beyond good and evil. That makes him highly dangerous. Don Giovanni does not acknowledge any rules of social coexistence; he recognizes no law — whether the law of morality, justice or religion. He rebels against the Law of the Father. Although he repre­sents a smouldering energy that magnetizes the people around him and sets them in motion, Don Giovanni isolates himself radically from society (albeit not without exploiting his privileged status). He brings confusion, chaos and destruction to everything he touches. The dancing at the party he throws is to be ‘without any order’, as it says in the ‘Champagne Aria’ — and Mozart takes Don Giovanni at his word: in the finale to Act I, the overlayering of various dance movements even briefly leads to a collapse of the musical structure.

In this context the opera’s original main title assumes deeper connotations, in that the word ‘dissoluto’, here meaning a dissolute person or rake, also signals its etymological derivation from ‘dissolvere’ — and indeed, Don Giovanni leads a life ‘dissolved’ from any ties to human, let alone higher rules. Even more, he is someone who actively loosens, separates and divides. Following Don Giovanni’s attempt to ravish Donna Anna under cover of darkness, the opera’s introduction ends with the killing of her father, the Commendatore. Now for the first time society turns against the culprit — soon to be identified by Donna Anna — with a call for vengeance. However, he will be ‘punished’ (‘punito’) — as in Tirso de Molina’s Catholic morality play El burlador de Sevilla y con­ vidado de piedra, which marks the birth of the Don Juan figure in the early 17th century — not by human agency but by a supernatural power, namely the Commendatore, who returns as a statue, as the ‘stony guest’. This irruption of transcendency will only seem disproportionate to those who see Don Giovanni solely as the rogueish seducer to which Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto tends to reduce him. But Mozart opens up abysses and dimensions of tragedy and anarchy, from the very first moment: the beginning of the overture anticipates the music of the ‘stony guest’, the dialogue between the Com­mendatore and Don Giovanni, ‘in which even the most matter-­of­-fact listener is carried to the limits of human imagination and beyond; where in sight and sound we apprehend the supernatural’ (Eduard Mörike in Mozart’s Journey to Prague, tr. L. von Loewenstein­Wertheim).

Romeo Castellucci will develop his production in a process of continuous exchange with conductor Teodor Currentzis. The figures around Don Giovanni must be grasped in their sharply contrasting char­acters and musical physiognomies as well as in their individual relationships to the protagonist, without denying the comic element of this dramma giocoso. During the course of the action Castellucci will charge the neutral dramatic space with a series of precise connotations resulting from his deep excavations of the work.

Program and cast

Creative Team

Teodor Currentzis - Conductor
Romeo Castellucci - Direction, Sets, Costumes and Lighting
Cindy Van Acker - Choreography
Piersandra Di Matteo, Christian Arseni - Dramaturgy
Theresa Wilson - Costumes Collaborator
Marco Giusti - Lighting Collaborator


Davide Luciano - Don Giovanni
Mika Kares - Il Commendatore
Nadezhda Pavlova - Donna Anna
Michael Spyres - Don Ottavio
Federica Lombardi - Donna Elvira
Vito Priante - Leporello
David Steffens - Masetto
Anna Lucia Richter - Zerlina


musicAeterna Choir
Vitaly Polonsky - Chorus Master
musicAeterna Orchestra

Großes Festspielhaus

The plans for a Grosses Festspielhaus (Large Festival Hall), where the former archiepiscopal princely stables were located, were drawn up primarily by the architect Clemens Holzmeister; Herbert von Karajan also made many suggestions for the building project, in particular regarding the design of the theatre hall. Every effort was made and no expense spared so as to “insert” between the three-centuries-old façade of the former court stables and the Mönchsberg a theatre with an opera stage whose structure and technical equipment would still meet highest international demands after fifty years. Between autumn 1956 and the early summer of 1960, 55,000 cubic metres of rock were blasted away to create the relevant space. The building was largely financed from the state budget and as a result the Republic of Austria is the owner of the Grosses Festspielhaus.


The Grosses Festspielhaus was opened on 26 July 1960 with a festive ceremony and the performance of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Even though the new stage was undoubtedly impressive in its dimensions, voices were raised even then expressing regret that it would hardly be suitable for staging operas by Mozart which require a more intimate setting. The ground plan of the auditorium is almost square, nearly 35 metres long and from the stalls as well as from the circle offers ideal acoustic conditions and sight-lines for 2,179 seats. The iron stage curtain weighs 34 tonnes and in the middle is one metre thick. The ground steel plates were created by Rudolf Hoflehner; the main curtain behind it was designed by Leo Wollner.


The décor for the concert hall was renewed in 1993 by Richard Peduzzi. Five bronze doors with handles designed by Toni Schneider-Manzell allow the public access from the Hofstallgasse. The façade is ornamented by a Latin inscription by the Benedictine monk Professor Thomas Michels (Order of St. Benedict):Sacra camenae domus concitis carmine patet quo nos attonitos numen ad auras ferat (The holy house of the muse is open for lovers of the arts, may divine power inspire us and raise us to the heights).


Mostly local materials were used for fitting out the Grosses Festspielhaus: the reinforced concrete columns in the entrance foyer were covered with the conglomerate rock removed from the wall of the Mönchsberg; the floor is made of Adnet marble. Low beam lighting in the sloping ceiling and panel dishes made of glass from Murano create a solid lighting design. Two sculptures created by Wander Bertoni in Carrara marble represent music and drama. The four large-scale paintings in the form of crosses on the theme Dreams with the Wrong Solutions, which were bought by the Austrian patron of the arts and collector Karlheinz Essl and made available on loan to the Salzburg Festival, are by the New York painter and sculptor Robert Longo (1993).


The interval hall adjoining the entrance foyer is largely based on the original ground plan of the archiepiscopal princely stables. The floor of green serpentine is new and contains mosaics of horses by Kurt Fischer. On the wall is a steel relief by Rudolf Hochlehner entitled Homage to Anton von Webern. Through the arch built by Fischer von Erlach one can look out onto the horse statue and fountain and the Schüttkasten which was acquired by the Salzburg Festival in 1987. A separate access on the left of the interval foyer leads via an escalator and steps to the underground car park for the old town centre of Salzburg.


The furnishings for a Patrons’ Lounge on the first floor of the Grosses Festspielhaus were financed by the American patrons of the arts Donald and Jeanne Kahn, who later became major sponsors of the Salzburg Festival. Since 1995 it has served as a reception area for patrons, sponsors as well as their guests and is also used for press conferences and various other functions in connection with the Salzburg Festival.


Specifications Grosses Festspielhaus

Stage width: 100 m Stage depth: 25 m

Proscenium width: 30 m

Proscenium height: 9 m

Five lifting podia, 18 x 3 m each; speed max. 0.25 m / sec.; loading capacity 20 tons each

Hydraulic stage machinery (double attachment of ABB)

Gridiron: 155 hoists with a loading capacity of 500 kg each, a third of them hydraulically driven and electronically controlled

Lighting: 825 adjustable electric circuits with a power of over 5000 watts each; digital light console; depot of around 2,000 individual lights

Electroacoustics: sound control board with 16 inputs, 16 main outputs and 4 auxiliary outputs; sockets for loudspeakers and microphones throughout the entire stage and auditorium.

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