Leporello in Don Giovanni Background- Term Paper

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Subject: Plays
  • Type: Term Paper
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Excerpt from Term Paper :

The key to his lust is easy -- voi sapete quell chef a (providing she wears a skirt). In other words, any female will do, as long as Giovanni can have the conquest. But this is too much for Leporello, and at the beginning of Act II he tells his master: No, no padrone, non-vo' restar (No master, I want to leave you.) Giovanni hands him a purse with 4 gold coins, which in a moral gaffe', Leporello accepts, but:

Oh, senite; per questa volta la ceremonia

OK, Listen, I'll accept it just this once,

Accetto; ma non-vi ci avvezzate;

but don't make it a habit. Don't think that

Non-credete di sedurre I miei pari, you can seduce me with the power of money

Come le donne, a forza di danari.

The way you do the women. (Act II, 1).

Leporello is not really convinced and tries to convince Giovanni that the morality of his actions is leading to disaster, once again forming the basis of right behavior. He even later says a prayer that Giovanni will fail:

(Gia quell mendace labbro torna a sedur

(What a smooth deceiver he is!

Costei, deh proteggete, o dei!

I hope the gods protect her from her

La sua credulita!)

uncertainty! (Act II).

Yet even with Leporello's disdain for Giovanni, he begs his Master not to dine with the Statue, No, no attendete! (No, wait). All is lost, and after Giovanni is moved to Hell, Leporello can calm a bit. After telling the moral tale, and seemingly finding vindication in Giovanni's punishment, we can only believe that Leporello knew he tried his very best to reform Giovanni, but was, alas, unsuccessful. And now, Ed io vando all'osteria a trovar pardon miglior (And I'm going to the inn to find a better master.)

Musical Analysis -- Leporello- It is interesting that rather than a wide vocal distance between Leporello and Giovanni, Mozart chooses to score Giovanni as a baritone and Leporello as a bass. Often, the evil or nefarious characters in opera are regulated to the bass roles, in this case, the often ostinato-like resonance from Leporello seems to fuel the depth or grounding of both the musical key and the nature of the moral character. We open in F-Major, with Leporello's lament rocking back and forth from tonic (F) to dominant (C) in pianissimo and completing the triad at the end of the phrase B-flat.

When Leporello makes his famous list, we are solidly in the key of D-Major, the contrast key for Mozart (d-minor speaks of lust and evil), and we have a sense of urgency from the orchestra with continual eight notes as Leporello ashamedly makes his list:

The moral contrast is echoed in Act 2, Scene 1 when Leporello tries to get away from Giovanni, we are in D-Major, but the trills and movement form a template of upward argument between Giovanni and Leporello as the intensity grows. Note Leporello's solid D. Of "No," which ironically is echoed at the end of the opera when the Commendatore takes Giovanni into hell, even becoming a major scale of repeated, and finalized "no."

Almost each time Leporello speaks, whether it be to one of the ladies or to Giovanni himself, Mozart outlines a basic major chord, signaliing to us the moral integrity of the character which, in the case of this character, really remains almost true to his nature of honesty, steadfastness and honor. Note the outline of C-Major until we have the B-Flat introducing Donna Elvira, which then moves into F-Major and outlines that chord.

Note too, these contrast between chords, the outline of D-Major

when Giovanni makes his bribe to Leporello, to which Leoprello works back down the scale in d-minor, but redeemds himself with the plight of the women in a solid C-Major, one of the only times we find this in his dialog.

Conclusions -- Leporello as the Moral Conscious - Depsite the comedic nature of Leporello acting as Giovanni, playing sentry, trying to fix his errors, and acting the peasant when it suits the scene, Leporello is hardly a total comedic character. Musically, his vocal tone is the center and basis of the grounding of morals and solid values. This is accentuated in his recitativi and arias where he moves into a minor notion only when he "bends" the rules to take the 4 gold coins in payment for his silence and continued abetting of Giovanni's evil schemes. Even when frightened, he remains the moral center of the opera, the contrast to Giovanni's situational ethics and disregard for women. Whenever Leporello appears, we are reminded of major tonality, of the basic chordal structures of the overture, and of the manner in which Giovanni moves us from tonic, and Leporello tugs us back. Continually, Mozart uses Leporello to outline major chords; almost a constant reminded to Giovanni that his days are numbered. Indeed, the pace, volume and movement in scale fashion for Leporello seems to build an ostinato in which we cannot help but let out an audible "sigh" when we are released from Giovanni's poison. Even in the most modern of products, the pathos of Giovanni is timeless, and in this world of changing moral character, of utilitarianism taken to the extreme, who cannot feel sorrow for Giovanni's conquests, their only commonality being their biological nature; or for Leporello, who continues to convince, albeit without success, for the moral reformation of the errant Don (Tommasini, 2011).


Most Performed Operas. (2010, March). Retrieved from OperaBase: http://operabase.com/top.cgi?lang=en#opera

California Institute of Technology. (2009, May 30). The Legend of Don Juan. Retrieved from Don Juan in Hell: http://tacit.caltech.edu/hell/djplot.html

Stimmel, T. (2010). Opera and the Psychology of Love. Minneapolis: Two Harbors Press.

Tommasini, A. (2011, October 14). Reckless in Seduction, if Not Onstage. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/15/arts/music/don-giovanni-at-the-metropolitan-opera-review.html?_r=1

Musical Productions (Recordings):

Mozart, W.A. (Composer). (2006). Don Giovanni. [Taussig, Tomowa-Sintow, Duesing, Mathis,

Macurdy, Performers, & K. Bohm, Conductor] [Sound Recording]. Vienna Philharmonic. Retrieved November 2011.

____. (1997). Don Giovanni. [Terfel, Fleming, Murray, Pertusi, Lippert, Groop, Performers, & G. Solti, Conductor]. [Sound Recording]. London Philharmonic Orchestra. Retrieved November 2011.


Losey, J. (Director). (2002). Don Giovanni. [Motion Picture DVD]. Retrieved November 2011.

Don Giovanni. (1988). Royal Opera House, Allen, Te Kanawa. Retrieved from YouTube,

November 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fccdGBi9Jus

Eh via buffone. Don Giovanni. Ohanyan, Kuzikyan. Retrieved from YouTube, November 2011:


Scores cited from:

Mozart, W.A.(n.d.) Don Giovanni- Vocal Score. New York: Schirmer Scores. From the Indiana

University Library, Bloomington, IN: M1503.M93 D6 S3, Retrieved from: http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bhq9391/large/index.html

____. (2002). Opera Journeys Libretto -- Don Giovanni. B. Fisher, ed. Coral Gables, FL: Opera

Journey's Publishing Company.

Online Sources Used in Document:

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