Don Giovanni: the Characters and Their Music
The Characters and Their Music Giving Character’s character is one of the most interesting challenges in operatic composition; another is composing for all the specific characters. A composer has to distinguish between characters through his music. Jan can’t sound like Fran, and Dan can’t sound like Stan. Each character must have his/her own traits. Mozart opera, Don Giovanni, provides us with many different characters to compare and contrast. One scene In particular lends Itself to the comparison of Don Galvan, Leprosy, and The Commentator.
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Scene fifteen of Act two, places all three characters In close interaction with each other, making it easy to compare and find out how Mozart and his Librettist Lorenz dad Pone brought them all to life. The libretto provides the main character traits of Don Giovanni, Leprosy, and The Commentator. It gives an easy way of distinguishing between the characters. Don Giovanni is portrayed as being smart, charming, and brave, yet selfish, arrogant, womankind, and pompous. We see all of these traits In the final dinner scene. These opposing traits set up a love hate relationship between Don Giovanni and the viewers.
Leprosy on the other hand, is wimpy, subservient, nervous, and a bit dumb. He is often the butt of Don Giovanni Jokes, and is always being bossed around. He can be thought of as the comic relief of the opera. In the dinner scene we get a definite feeling of Leprosy being a wimpy idiot. After being slain by Don Giovanni, the Commentator returns as a statue. He Is portrayed as being a mighty, powerful, and ominous. He tries to make Don Giovanni repent for all the terrible things he did. In the dinner scene he Is truly a powerful being from beyond. His power is demonstrated when he sends Don Giovanni down to hell.
The above character descriptions are what Lorenz dad Pone et up for Mozart to compose his music to. We now can observe how Mozart used musical devices to give each character his own flavor. One area to compare is the rhythmic traits of each character’s musical lines. Leprosy’s nervousness and fear In the dinner scene Is exemplified through a very Jumpy unsteady rhythmic vocal line. Mozart really makes his nervousness obvious by Glenn him notes no longer In value than a quarter note. Mozart uses dotted eights to sixteenth notes to make his part especially disjointed.
This creates the effect of someone shaking from fear as they are trying to speak. Mozart also uses a continuous triple pattern, which begins at measure 470, to create a rambling effect. Leprosy seems to have lost his sanity from fright of the statue, and Is now babbling Incoherently. Don Giovanni and the Commentator have very different rhythmic vocal parts then Leprosy. They are much more bold and brave then Leprosy, so Mozart gives them a more solid rhythm. The Commentator has the most stable part out of all of them. He has many whole and half notes. The stability of the rhythm adds to the confidence and power of his character.
The only time his rhythm becomes quicker is when he is yelling at Don Giovanni to repent. Don Giovanni shares many similar rhythmic traits as the Commentator, although It has a little more diversity. Don Galvan shifts from being appropriately varies the speed of Don Giovanni rhythm. An example of this occurs at measure 522. Previous to this measure, Don Giovanni has a stable rhythm with most words occurring on the strong beats. It abruptly changes to a short offbeat eight note. Rhythm is not the only musical area that Mozart crafts specifically for each character. He also uses certain melodic lines for each character.
The Commentator’s musical lines are the most striking. He often has huge leaps in his part, giving the listener a full dose of the impeding force he is. The space creates a feeling of something bigger and more powerful then a mortal. It is important to note that a lot of these giant leaps are not easy. There are many augmented fourths, minor sevenths, and other strange intervals that he has to navigate through. An example of the strange interval leaps can be found from measure 552 to 461. This little section takes a break from having a key center and instead floats around between diminished chords.
This only adds to the “something not of this earth leaning” the Commentator gives us. Mozart also uses repeated notes to produce a powerful effect. The orchestral motive moves up by step each measure while the Commentator stays on the same note. This occurs between measures 465 and 470 and again between measures 475 and 478. Don Giovanni once again has similar qualities as the Commentator. The large Jumps are present but they are tonally different. They are often very key oriented, outlining triads or doing some sort of five to one motion. The harmonically stable nature of his vocal part lends itself to his personality.
Some of his lines almost sound like fanfares. Fanfares are very bold sounding. Appropriately his fanfare like lines begins at measure 504 when he starts bragging that he is not afraid of anything, even Gods wrath. Without the appropriate use of dynamics, none of the above would come of, as they should to the audience. Mozart makes good use of dynamics by making Leprosy very quiet when he is afraid and hiding. The Commentator is always forte or fortissimo so that his power is evident. Don Giovanni is once again a blend of the Commentator. He has a wide range of dynamics because he has a wide range of emotions throughout the dinner scene.
The above examples are Just a few things that Mozart and Lorenz dad Pone did to make sure that the opera was as effective as possible. The next step is to Observe how musicians interpret and express what Mozart and dad Pone created. Ere two productions of Don Giovanni in comparison are “The Goldenberg Summer Opera Festival” video and the Opera Film Drama socio by Joseph Loose. The two different productions are very good, but they definitely have their own opinions regarding many aspects of the opera. The first major difference was obviously the method of performance. The Goldenberg version was a live production and the
Loose version was video with lip-psyching. I felt that neither medium was better then the other. I place the integrity of each version in the hands of the performers. Which had the best singers? The singer who performed Don Giovanni was much better in the live version. Ruggeri Raymond of the video version gave a very good “what’s on the page performance. ” On the other hand, Benjamin Luzon of the live version went beyond what’s on the page. I really felt like Don Giovanni was on the stage rather then some singer acting as Don Giovanni. He changed his voice and is so much more emotional than the video Giovanni.
The video Giovanni keeps the same exact voice for like an emotional person would. An example of this occurs when he takes the Commentator’s icy hand. He lets us know that Giovanni confidence is frozen and shattered by that icy grip. The video Giovanni reacts as if he touched a cold soda. I also had the same feeling towards the singers who portrayed Leprosy. Stafford Dean of the Goldenberg Festival Opera performed Leprosy amazingly. I think he Nas the best out of all the performers at capturing the true spirit of Leprosy. He seemed much more scared then Joss van Dam of the video version.
I thought that the ‘died Leprosy seemed almost too confident at times. He didn’t give true Justice to the fear Leprosy actually had. When Don Giovanni is being taken to hell, Leprosy is singing “come mi FAA terror, mi FAA terror” which translates into, ” I shall die of fright. ” Ere video version didn’t convince me of that fear. I also thought the video Leprosy’s triplet sounded out of time. I don’t now if this was done on purpose, but I actually thought it helped get the babbling of Leprosy across. Overall I thought the live performance was better, but there were a few things I really liked about the video erosion.
Most of the better qualities dealt with the Commentator. I thought John Macaulay’s singing was more appropriate. In particular I liked his use of vibrato. He Nas very hesitant to let it get too wide. Instead he used a more straight voice; it helped him sound bigger and more ominous. The singer in the live version used a more active vibrato, which caused him to sound like Don Giovanni. The above thoughts are about a very complex piece of music. The fact that it appears to be simple, is a result of the genius of Mozart and his incredibly ability to write music. Is opera works so well because Mozart made it so accessible to regular people. He achieved this simplicity through his meticulous detail to each characters personality. He made sure that Don Giovanni sounded like he should sound: bold, cocky, and charming. Mozart truly wrote an opera that almost performs itself. I feel that if a person can sing the notes, then most of the point has gotten across. If the singer is boring, the listener can still understand the character through his or her melodic line or the rhythmic patterns of the part. Overall, Mozart composed the perfect music for ;ACH character.