The 1788 Vienna performances of Don Giovanni may have omitted the final sextet, in which the remaining characters express their intentions after the descent of Don Giovanni to hell and deliver the moral of the story: sinners are always punished in the end. Throughout the nineteenth century the custom was to cut the sextet and close the opera with Don Giovanni’s fiery punishment. How does this revision alter the meaning or effect of the opera? In your opinion, does it represent an improvement over the original version? What does the preference for this alteration during the nineteenth century suggest about that period’s view of Mozart and the opera?
In her study Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, Wye Jamison Allanbrook describes Don Giovanni as a
galvanizing and disturbing figure—daemonic, if you must— because his sphere of action encompasses the highest and the lowest possibilities of human behavior. Rarely does one encounter a man at once of such silliness and such intensity, such spirit and such utter lack of humanity (p. 217).
Describe how these aspects of Don Giovanni’s character are depicted in his interactions with Donna Anna and Leporello (Act 1, Scene 1) and Zerlina (Act 1, Scene 9). Compare any modern characters in modern movies that parallel Don Giovanni?
Choose one musical example from Don Giovanni and discuss Mozart’s approach to characterization. How does Mozart write music that dramatizes his characters’ different social positions or moral foundations? Provide examples of specific musical elements that tell us something important about each character in your chosen scene.
Discuss Beethoven’s music as it relates to Enlightenment philosophy. What political ideals did Enlightenment scholars and thinkers express? How does Beethoven’s symphonic music express these same philosophical positions?
Discuss the relationship between music and text in one of the three songs from Chapter 9 (Die Forelle, Gretchen am Spinnrade, or Der Erlkönig). How does Schubert reflect, amplify, and/or complicate the meaning of the words through his musical choices? Choose one specific example of how Schubert’s music influences your understanding of the words. Describe the details of the interaction between music and text in as much detail as you can.
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