Mozart - Don Giovanni - Versailles Opera

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January 2021
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Synopsis

Don Giovanni, a young, arrogant, and sexually promiscuous nobleman, abuses and outrages everyone else in the cast, until he encounters something he cannot kill, beat up, dodge, or outwit.


Act 1
    
 
The overture begins with a thundering D minor cadence, followed by a short mysterioso sequence which leads into a light-hearted D major allegro.

Scene 1 – The garden of the Commendatore

Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant, complains of his lot ("Notte e giorno faticar" – "Night and day I slave away"). He is keeping watch while Don Giovanni has entered the Commendatore's house in an attempt to rape or seduce the Commendatore's daughter, Donna Anna. Don Giovanni enters the garden from inside the house, pursued by Donna Anna. Giovanni is masked and Donna Anna insists on knowing his true identity (Trio: "Non sperar, se non m'uccidi, Ch'io ti lasci fuggir mai!" – "Do not hope, unless you kill me, that I shall ever let you run away!"); before he can break free from her grasp she cries for help. The Commendatore appears and forces Giovanni to fight a duel while Donna Anna flees to seek help. Giovanni kills the Commendatore with his sword and escapes with Leporello. Anna, returning with her fiancé, Don Ottavio, is horrified to see her father lying dead in a pool of his own blood. She makes Ottavio swear vengeance against the unknown murderer. (Duet: "Ah, vendicar, se il puoi, giura quel sangue ognor!" – "Ah, swear to avenge that blood if you can!").

Scene 2 – A public square outside Don Giovanni's palace

Giovanni and Leporello arrive and hear a woman (Donna Elvira) singing of having been abandoned by her lover, on whom she is seeking revenge ("Ah, chi mi dice mai" – "Ah, who could ever tell me"). Giovanni starts to flirt with her, but it turns out he is the former lover she is seeking. The two recognize each other and she reproaches him bitterly. He shoves Leporello forward, ordering him to tell Elvira the truth, and then hurries away.

Leporello tells Elvira that Don Giovanni is not worth her feelings for him. He is unfaithful to everyone; his conquests include 640 women and girls in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey, but in Spain, 1,003 ("Madamina, il catalogo è questo" – "My dear lady, this is the catalogue"). In a frequently cut recitative, Elvira vows vengeance.

Scene 3 – The open country

A marriage procession with Masetto and Zerlina enters. Don Giovanni and Leporello arrive soon after. Giovanni is immediately attracted to Zerlina, and he attempts to remove the jealous Masetto by offering to host a wedding celebration at his castle. On realizing that Giovanni means to remain behind with Zerlina, Masetto becomes angry ("Ho capito! Signor, sì" – "I understand! Yes, my lord!") but is forced to leave. Don Giovanni and Zerlina are soon alone and he immediately begins his seductive arts (Duet: "Là ci darem la mano" – "There we will entwine our hands").

Elvira arrives and thwarts the seduction ("Ah, fuggi il traditor" – "Flee from the traitor!"). She leaves with Zerlina. Ottavio and Anna enter, plotting vengeance on the still unknown murderer of Anna's father. Anna, unaware that she is speaking to her attacker, pleads for Giovanni's help. Giovanni, relieved that he is unrecognised, readily promises it, and asks who has disturbed her peace. Before she can answer, Elvira returns and tells Anna and Ottavio that Giovanni is a false-hearted seducer. Giovanni tries to convince Ottavio and Anna that Elvira is insane (Quartet: "Non ti fidar, o misera" – "Don't trust him, oh sad one"). As Giovanni leaves, Anna suddenly recognizes him as her father's murderer and tells Ottavio the story of his intrusion, claiming that she was deceived at first because she was expecting a night visit from Ottavio himself, but managed to fight Giovanni off after discovering the imposture, leading to the events we have already witnessed (long recitative exchange between Anna and Ottavio, leading to Anna's aria: "Or sai chi l'onore Rapire a me volse" – "Now you know who wanted to rob me of my honour"). Ottavio, not yet convinced (Anna having only recognised Giovanni's voice, not seen his face), resolves to keep an eye on his friend ("Dalla sua pace la mia dipende" – "On her peace my peace depends").

Leporello informs Giovanni that all the guests of the peasant wedding are in Giovanni's house and that he distracted Masetto from his jealousy, but that Zerlina, returning with Elvira, made a scene and spoiled everything. However, Don Giovanni remains cheerful and tells Leporello to organize a party and invite every girl he can find. (Giovanni's "Champagne Aria": "Fin ch'han dal vino calda la testa" – "Till they are tipsy"). They hasten to his palace.

Scene 4 – A garden outside Don Giovanni's palace
 

Zerlina follows the jealous Masetto and tries to pacify him ("Batti, batti o bel Masetto" – "Beat, O beat me, handsome Masetto"), but just as she manages to persuade him of her innocence, Don Giovanni's voice from offstage startles and frightens her. Masetto hides, resolving to see for himself what Zerlina will do when Giovanni arrives. Zerlina tries to hide from Don Giovanni, but he finds her and attempts to continue the seduction, until he stumbles upon Masetto's hiding place. Confused but quickly recovering, Giovanni reproaches Masetto for leaving Zerlina alone, and returns her temporarily to him. Giovanni then leads both offstage to his ballroom. Three masked guests – the disguised Ottavio, Anna, and Elvira – enter the garden. From a balcony, Leporello invites them to his master's party. They accept the invitation and Leporello leaves the balcony. Alone, Ottavio and Anna pray for protection, Elvira for vengeance (Trio: "Protegga il giusto cielo" – "May the just heavens protect us").
Luigi Bassi in the title role of Don Giovanni in 1787

Scene 5 – Don Giovanni's ballroom

As the merriment, featuring three separate chamber orchestras on stage, proceeds, Leporello distracts Masetto by dancing with him, while Don Giovanni leads Zerlina offstage to a private room. When Zerlina screams for help, Don Giovanni tries to fool the onlookers by dragging Leporello into the room and threatening to kill him for assaulting Zerlina. But Ottavio produces a pistol, and the three guests unmask and declare that they know all. But despite being denounced on all sides, Don Giovanni escapes – for the moment.


Act 2

Scene 1 – Outside Elvira's house

Leporello threatens to leave Giovanni, but his master calms him with a peace offering of money (Duet: "Eh via buffone" – "Go on, fool"). Wanting to seduce Elvira's maid, and believing that she will trust him better if he appears in lower-class clothes, Giovanni persuades Leporello to exchange cloak and hat with him. Elvira comes to her window (Trio: "Ah taci, ingiusto core" – "Ah, be quiet unjust heart"). Seeing an opportunity for a game, Giovanni hides and sends Leporello out in the open wearing Giovanni's cloak and hat. From his hiding place Giovanni sings a promise of repentance, expressing a desire to return to her and threatening to kill himself if she does not take him back, while Leporello poses as Giovanni and tries to keep from laughing. Elvira is convinced and descends to the street. Leporello, continuing to pose as Giovanni, leads her away to keep her occupied while Giovanni serenades her maid with his mandolin. ("Deh vieni alla finestra" – "Ah, come to the window").

Before Giovanni can complete his seduction of the maid, Masetto and his friends arrive, searching for Giovanni with the intent of killing him. Giovanni (still disguised as Leporello) convinces the posse that he also hates Giovanni, and joins the hunt. After cunningly dispersing Masetto's friends (Giovanni aria: "Metà di voi qua vadano" – "Half of you go this way"), Giovanni takes Masetto's weapons away, beats him up, and runs off, laughing. Zerlina arrives and consoles the bruised and battered Masetto ("Vedrai carino" – "You'll see, dear one").

Scene 2 – A dark courtyard

Leporello abandons Elvira. (Sextet: "Sola, sola in buio loco" – "All alone in this dark place"). As he tries to escape, Ottavio arrives with Anna, consoling her in her grief. Just as Leporello is about to slip through the door, which he has difficulty finding, Zerlina and Masetto open it and, seeing him dressed as Giovanni, catch him before he can escape. When Anna and Ottavio notice what is going on, all move to surround Leporello, threatening him with death. Elvira tries to protect the man who she thinks is Giovanni, claiming that he is her husband and begging for pity. The other four are resolved to punish the traitor, but Leporello removes his cloak to reveal his true identity. He begs for mercy and, seeing an opportunity, runs off (Leporello aria: "Ah pietà signori miei" – "Ah, have mercy, my lords"). Given the circumstances, Ottavio is now convinced that Giovanni was the murderer of Donna Anna's father (the deceased Commendatore) and swears vengeance ("Il mio tesoro" – "My treasure" – though in the Vienna version this was cut).[18] Elvira is still furious at Giovanni for betraying her, but she also feels sorry for him. ("Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata" – "That ungrateful wretch betrayed me").

Scene 3 – A graveyard with the statue of the Commendatore.

Leporello tells Don Giovanni of his brush with danger, and Giovanni taunts him, saying that he took advantage of his disguise as Leporello by trying to seduce one of Leporello's girlfriends. But the servant is not amused, suggesting it could have been his wife, and Don Giovanni laughs aloud at his servant's protests. The voice of the statue warns Giovanni that his laughter will not last beyond sunrise. At the command of his master, Leporello reads the inscription upon the statue's base: "Here am I waiting for revenge against the scoundrel who killed me" (Dell'empio che mi trasse al passo estremo qui attendo la vendetta). The servant trembles, but the unabashed Giovanni orders him to invite the statue to dinner, threatening to kill him if he does not. Leporello makes several attempts to invite the statue to dinner but for fear cannot complete the task (Duet: "O, statua gentilissima" – "Oh most noble statue"). It falls upon Don Giovanni himself to complete the invitation, thereby sealing his own doom. Much to his surprise, the statue nods its head and responds affirmatively.

Scene 4 – Donna Anna's room

Ottavio pressures Anna to marry him, but she thinks it inappropriate so soon after her father's death. He accuses her of being cruel, and she assures him that she loves him, and is faithful ("Non mi dir" – "Tell me not").
 
Scene 5 – Don Giovanni's chambers

Giovanni revels in the luxury of a great meal, served by Leporello, and musical entertainment during which the orchestra plays then-contemporary late-18th-century operatic music: "O quanto in sì bel giubilo" from Vicente Martín y Soler's Una cosa rara (1786), "Come un agnello" from Giuseppe Sarti's Fra i due litiganti il terzo gode (1782) and finally, "Non più andrai" from Mozart's own The Marriage of Figaro (1786). (Finale "Già la mensa preparata" – "Already the table is prepared"). Elvira appears, saying that she no longer feels resentment for Giovanni, only pity. ("L'ultima prova dell'amor mio" – "The final proof of my love"). Surprised by her lack of hatred, Giovanni asks what it is that she wants, and she begs him to change his life. Giovanni taunts her and then turns away, praising wine and women as the "support and glory of humankind" (sostegno e gloria d'umanità). Hurt and angry, Elvira gives up and leaves. A moment later, her scream is heard from outside the walls of the palace, and she returns only to flee through another door. Giovanni orders Leporello to see what has upset her; upon peering outside, the servant also cries out, and runs back into the room, stammering that the statue has appeared as promised. An ominous knocking sounds at the door. Leporello, paralyzed by fear, cannot answer it, so Giovanni opens it himself, revealing the statue of the Commendatore. With the D minor cadences from the overture now accompanying the bass voice ("Don Giovanni! A cenar teco m'invitasti" – "Don Giovanni! You invited me to dine with you"), the Commendatore offers a last chance to repent, but Giovanni adamantly refuses. The statue disappears and Don Giovanni cries out in pain and terror as he is surrounded by a chorus of demons, who carry him down to Hell. Leporello, watching from under the table, also cries out in fear.

Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Donna Elvira, Zerlina, and Masetto arrive, searching for the villain. They find instead Leporello hiding under the table, shaken by the supernatural horror he has witnessed. Giovanni is dead. Anna and Ottavio will marry when Anna's year of mourning is over; Elvira will spend the rest of her life in a convent; Zerlina and Masetto will finally go home for dinner; and Leporello will go to the tavern to find a better master.

The concluding ensemble delivers the moral of the opera – "Such is the end of the evildoer: the death of a sinner always reflects his life" ("Questo è il fin di chi fa mal, e de' perfidi la morte alla vita è sempre ugual"). In the past, the final ensemble was sometimes omitted by conductors (such as Gustav Mahler) who claimed that the opera should end when the title character dies. However, this approach has not survived, and today's conductors almost always include the finale in its entirety. The return to D major and the innocent simplicity of the last few bars conclude the opera.

 

Program and cast

Cast


Alexandre Duhamel: Don Giovanni
Robert Gleadow: Leporello
Iulia Maria Dan: Donna Anna
Lauren Fagan Donna Elvira
James Ley: Don Ottavio
Angela Brower and Megan Marino: Zerlina (en alternance)
Leonard Bernad: Masetto, Le Commandeur


Les Musiciens du Louvre
Marc Minkowski: Conductor
Ivan Alexandre: Director
Antoine Fontaine: Stage sets and costumes
Tobias Haström Stahl: Lights


Programme


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Don Giovanni


Drama giocoso in two acts on a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte from Giovanni Bertati, created in prague in 1787.

Palace of Versailles

Royal Opera

The Royal Opera of Versailles, located in the grounds of the Castle, one of the major opera houses.

The opening of the opera house at Versailles brought to a close a process of planning, projects and designs that had lasted for nearly a century. While the Royal Opera was finally built towards the end of the reign of Louis XV, it had been envisaged since as early as 1682, the year when his predecessor Louis XIV took up residence at Versailles. The King had commissioned Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Vigarani to draw up plans for a ballet theatre. Mansart shrewdly decided on a position at the far end of the new wing that was to be built over the coming years: the nearby reservoirs for the gardens’ fountains could be used to fight any fire that might break out, while the sloping ground on that part of the site would allow provision of the necessary technical spaces below the stage without major excavation work. So cleverly-chosen, indeed, was the planned location that none of Mansart’s successors ever questioned it.

Major building work was already under way in 1685, but was soon interrupted because of the wars and financial difficulties which beset the later part of the king’s reign. Louis XV in his turn was long put off by the huge expense involved in the project. As a result, for almost a century the French court was forced to put up with a makeshift theatre installed below the Passage des Princes. When a grand opera was required, with a large cast and complicated stage machinery, a temporary theatre would be built in the stables of the Grande Ecurie, with the entire structure being demolished once the performances were over. This temporary solution was adopted, for instance, during the celebrations of the Dauphin’s wedding in February 1745, but its inconvenience was so starkly obvious that Louis XV finally resolved to build a permanent theatre, entrusting its design to his first architect, Ange­Jacques Gabriel.

The process of actually building the new theatre, however, was to take over twenty years. During this lengthy period of construction Gabriel, who had studied the leading theatres of Italy, in particular Vicenza, Bologna, Parma, Modena and Turin, presented a series of different designs to his royal patron, none of which was accepted. Only in 1768, faced with the forthcoming successive marriages of his grandchildren, did the king finally give the order for work to commence. Building progressed steadily and the new opera house was completed in twenty-three months, ready for its inauguration on the 16th of May 1770, the day of the Dauphin’s marriage to the Archduchess Marie-Antoinette, with a performance of Persée by Quinault and Lully.
 

Royal Chapel
 

This extraordinary two-level palatine chapel was built by Jules Hardouin Mansart between 1699 and 1708 and completed by Robert de Cotte in 1710.
The paintings on the vaulted ceiling by Antoine Coypel, Charles de la Fosse and Jean Jouvenet, as well as the lavish decoration fashioned by a team of sculptors working for Louis XIV, depict a number of Old and New Testament scenes. Facing the royal gallery is the remarkable organ, created by Robert Clicquot, the King's organ builder, which was first played on Easter Sunday 1711 by François Couperin.
Even though Hardouin-Mansart did not witness the completion of the chapel, he was the one who had dictated the major aspects of the architecture and decor: a ground floor with a nave, aisles and ambulatory, and an upper floor with galleries, a harmonious combination of white and gold contrasting with the polychromatic marble floor and paintings on the vaulted ceiling, all combining to create an original space with references to both gothic architecture and baroque aesthetics.
Every day, generally at 10 a.m., the court would attend the King's mass. The King would sit in the royal gallery, surrounded by his family, while the ladies of the court would occupy the side galleries. The "officers" and the public would sit in the nave. The King would only descend to the ground floor for important religious festivals when he would take communion, for Order of the Holy Spirit ceremonies and for the baptisms and weddings of the Children of France, which were celebrated there between 1710 and 1789. Above the altar, around the Cliquot organ played by the greatest virtuosos of their age, including François Couperin, the Chapel Choir, renowned throughout Europe, would sing motets throughout the entire service, every day.

The Orangerie gardens
 

From May to October, orange trees and other shrubs are taken out of the Parterre Bas of the Orangerie gardens. At the center of this parterre, there is a large circular pool surrounded by six sections of lawn.

 

Orangerie
 

A great stone cathedral within a formal garden, The Orangerie is both a royal and magical place.

Built between 1684 and 1686 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart to house and protect precious trees and shrubs during the Winter, this extraordinarily large building is located beneath the parterre du Midi (South flowerbed), for which it acts as a support. Two monumental staircases, known as "les Cent Marches" (the hundred steps), frame the Orangerie's three galleries, which overlook the parterre where, during the Summer, more than 1,200 exotic trees are arranged.

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