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Thread: Notes on 'Mozart's' Opera 'Don Giovanni'

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    Default Notes on 'Mozart's' Opera 'Don Giovanni'

    Hello to fellow members of this Forum. As a person deeply involved in modern criticism of Mozart's reputation (as I see on the internet are others) I'd like to share as my first post here a few interesting facts on the true history of 'Mozart's' opera, 'Don Giovanni'. These may suprise some readers. Hopefully they'll be accepted.

    NOTES ON 'MOZART'S' OPERA 'DON GIOVANNI' (1787 - PRAGUE)

    According to convention, Mozart composed his great opera 'Don Giovanni' in 1787 for the Italian Opera in the city of Prague, a grateful institution that had been rescued from financial meltdown only the year before when it staged 'The Marriage of Figaro'. But closer examination of Mozart's relationship with Prague musicians and admirers (many of whom insisted on 'his' music being performed in the city at the expense of other composers - often for years) is itself revealing.

    Little known, for example, is that the Mozart/Da Ponte 'collaboration' on 'Don Giovanni' was not what tradition tells us it was. It is untrue, for example, that Da Ponte was the maker of the libretto of this opera in Prague. In fact, the libretto is little more than a hurriedly made new version of an newly written libretto made for a quite different opera - one made by the Italian librettist Giovanni Bertati (1735-1815).

    In the 19th century, long after Mozart's and Da Ponte's death, the truth about the libretto of Mozart's 'Don Giovanni' was nearly lost. How ? Well, those involved in the 'Mozart industry' were keen to suppress connections between Da Ponte and Bertati's earlier libretto, i.e. they wished to create the illusion that both music and text for the Prague opera was entirely a collaboration of Mozart and Da Ponte. 'Mozarteans' such as the famous Otto Jahn quietly searched high and low for Bertati's text so that it could be suppressed. Fortunately Jahn was unable to locate it or to bury it. But Bertati's text finally surfaced, independently, in 1886From that date onwards it was clear that Da Ponte was not, in fact, 'librettist' of 'Mozart's' opera. He was, at best, only its editor.

    Further revelations on the libretto of the opera staged in 1787 have come more recently with discovery of some handwritten new parts having been suggested not by Da Ponte, but by the famous Casanova (who is known to have been in Prague at the time of the premiere. These notes are in Casanova's own hand).

    And so, by any fair reckoning, the libretto of 'Mozart's Don Giovanni' was NOT created by Lorenzo Da Ponte but was, in actual fact, the result of a hotchpotch - a libretto recently written by Bertati and adjusted for Mozart in Prague by Casanova, this overseen by Da Ponte and falsely/inaccurately described in textbooks ever since as his (Da Ponte's) work.

    OK - but what about the music ? Surely this is wholly by Mozart ? Well, consider first the following -

    1. The 'acquisition' of Bertati's libretto for use in Prague begs the question of what opera Bertati's original was written for. The surprising answer is that it relates to an opera composed by a little known Italian composer named Gazzaniga called 'Il Convitato di Pietra' ITSELF PREMIERED ONLY A FEW MONTHS BEFORE 'MOZART'S DON GIOVANNI' - an opera that was very successful in his native Italy even before 'Mozart's' opera was premiered in Prague ! In later years, this same Gazzaniga opera (virtually unknown to modern music lovers) was so successful it was even staged in London IN PREFERENCE TO 'DON GIOVANNI' OF 'MOZART' ! But there is a twist in the story - Lorenzo da Ponte (who was in London at the time of its premiere and who was already working in theatres there with great influence) altered its content before its English premiere. How ? Well, he managed to insert in to the London performance music by various other composers such as Sarti, Frederici and Guglielmi. Why did he do this ? We may well understand that his changing the opera by musical additions/omissions would tend to hide the fact that he and Mozart had in 1787 heavily borrowed themselves from Sarti and Gazzaniga.

    Such practices must be ignored if we are to say Mozart and Da Ponte were the true librettist and the true composer of 'Don Giovanni'.

    2. The above facts were first published in 'A Book of Operas' by H.E. Krehbiel almost a century ago but they're still little known to Mozart students. Much more could be said on the whole subject of 'Mozart's' late operas. But here with 'Don Giovanni' is an example of things never being quite what they seem in Mozart's 'official' career.
    Last edited by colleengail726; Aug-02-2007 at 02:45.

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    Mr. Newman, is this you?

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    Hello there ChamberNut - I suppose yours is a pen-name, isn't it ? So is mine. But it's not Mr Newman.

    Regards

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    Where can we access the notes in Casanova's own hand? Do you have a transcript of them? I'd be fascinated to see them.

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