SECOND ACT FINALE

The Finale takes place a little while later, in Don Giovanni’s dining room. It may be 5 in the morning, but Giovanni is hungry and ready for a sumptuous feast. What’s more, his private orchestra is ready to entertain him during his meal. But the meal doesn’t go quite as planned. You’ll notice that the Finale consists of three complete scenes:

  1. Giovanni enjoying music, food, and tormenting Leporello (who you’ll hear singing with his mouth full) and Elvira, who comes in to beg Giovanni to repent his wicked ways.
    audio fileGia la mensa

    Leporello
    (Ah, che barbaro appetito!
    Che bocconi da gigante,
    Mi par proprio di svenir.)

    Don Giovanni
    (Nel veder i miei bocconi
    Gli par proprio di svenir.)
    Piatto.

    Leporello
    (What a monstrous appetite!
    Such huge mouthfuls!
    I’m so hungry I could faint.)

    Don Giovanni
    (He watches me eat—
    and he’s so hungry he could faint.)
    Next dish.

    Donna Elvira enters and falls on her knees before Don Giovanni.

    audio fileL’ultima prova dell’amor mio

    Donna Elvira
    L’ultima prova
    Dell’amor mio
    Ancor vogl’io
    Fare con te.
    Più non ramento,
    Gl’inganni tuoi,
    Pietade io sento…

    Leporello e Don Giovanni
    Cos’è, cos’è?

    Donna Elvira
    Da te non chiede
    Quest’alma oppressa
    Della sua fede
    Qualche mercè.

    Don Giovanni
    Mi maraviglio!
    Cosa volete?
    Se non sorgete
    Non resto in piè!

    Elvira
    Ah non deridere
    Gli affanni miei!

    Leporello
    Quasi da piangere
    Mi fa costei.

    Don Giovanni
    Io te deridere?
    Cielo! perche?
    Che vuoi, mio bene?

    Donna Elvira
    Che vita cangi.

    Don Giovanni
    Brava!

    Donna Elvira e Leporello Cor perfido!

    Donna Elvira
    I want
    to offer you
    a final proof
    of my love.
    I forgive you
    for your deceptions.
    I feel pity for you.

    Leporello and Don Giovanni
    What is this?

    Donna Elvira
    I do not
    ask you
    to reward
    my loyalty.

    Don Giovanni
    Wonderful!
    What do you want?
    Get up,
    or I’ll have to get down.

    Donna Elvira
    Do not mock
    my pain!

    Leporello
    (She almost makes
    me weep.)

    Don Giovanni
    I mock you?
    Good heavens! Why?
    What do you want, my love?

    Donna Elvira
    That you change your life.

    Don Giovanni
    Well said!

    Donna Elvira and Leporello
    Treacherous heart!

  2. The great scene with the Stone Guest, who urges Giovanni to repent and, when he refuses, drags him off to hell assisted by a chorus of demons.
    audio fileDon Giovanni, a cenar teco

    Il Commendatore
    Risolvi!

    Don Giovanni
    Ho già risolto.

    Il Commendatore
    Verrai?

    Leporello
    Dito di no!

    Don Giovanni
    Ho fermo il core in petto:
    Non ho timor, verrò!

    Il Commendatore
    Dammi la mano in pegno!





    Don Giovanni
    Eccola! Ohimè!

    Il Commendatore
    Cos’hai?

    Don Giovanni
    Che gelo è questo mai?

    Il Commendatore
    Pentiti, cangia vita:
    È l’ultimo momento!

    Don Giovanni
    No, no, ch’io non mi pento
    Vanne lontan da me!

    Il Commendatore
    Pentiti, scellerato!

    Don Giovanni
    No, vecchio infatuato!

    Il Commendatore
    Pentiti!

    Don Giovanni
    No!

    Leporello e il Commendatore
    Sì!

    Don Giovanni
    No!

    Il Commendatore
    Ah, tempo più non v’è.

    The Statue
    Decide.

    Don Giovanni
    I have decided.

    The Statue
    Will you come?

    Leporello
    Tell him NO!

    Don Giovanni
    My heart is steady. I’m not afraid. I will come!

    The Statue
    Then give me your hand.

    The statue reaches for Don Giovanni’s hand. When their hands meet, Don Giovanni screams and tries to pull his hand away—but in vain.

    Don Giovanni
    Here it is. Ow!

    The Statue
    What’s wrong?

    Don Giovanni
    What icy chill is this?

    The Statue
    Repent, change your life;
    this is the final moment.

    Don Giovanni
    No, I will not repent.
    Leave me!

    The Statue
    Repent, scoundrel.

    Don Giovanni
    No, you old idiot!

    The Statue
    Repent.

    Don Giovanni
    No!

    The Statue
    Yes!

    Don Giovanni
    No!

    The Statue
    There is no more time.

    The statue disappears. A crevice opens in the floor; demons emerge, seize Don Giovanni, and drag him down

  3. The Epilogue: Leporello explains to everybody else what happened, and they all sing a) about what they’re each going to do next and b) the moral of the story. audio fileAh, dov’e il perfido

    Don Ottavio
    Or che tutti, o mio tesoro,
    Vendicati siam dal cielo,
    Porgi, porgi a me un ristoro:
    Non mi far languire ancor.

    Donna Anna
    Lascia, o caro, un anno ancora
    Allo sfogo del mio cor.

    Donna Anna e Don Ottavio
    Al desio di chi m’adora / t’adora
    Ceder deve un fido amor.

    Donna Elvira
    Io men vado in un ritiro
    A finir la vita mia.

    Zerlina e Masetto
    Noi, Masetto / Zerlina, a casa andiamo
    A cenar in compangia.

    Leporello
    Ed io vado all’osteria
    A trovar padron miglior.

    Leporello, Masetto, Zerlina
    Resti dunque quel birbon
    Con Proserpina e Pluton.
    E noi tutti, o buona gente,
    Ripetiam allegramente
    L’antichissima canzon.

    Tutti
    Questo è il fin di chi fa mal!
    E de’ perfidi la morte
    Alla vita è sempre ugual!

    Don Ottavio
    Now that heaven has avenged us,
    my treasure,
    grant me some consolation.
    Do not make me languish any longer.

    Donna Anna
    Allow a year, darling,
    for my heart to find peace.

    Donna Anna and Don Ottavio
    The true lover
    cedes to the desires of his beloved.

    Donna Elvira
    I will go join a convent
    and there end my life.

    Zerlina and Masetto
    We will go home
    and have dinner.

    Leporello
    And I will go to the inn,
    to find a better master.

    Zerlina, Masetto, Leporello
    That rascal has gone below
    with Proserpina and Pluto.
    And we, good people,
    cheerfully repeat
    the old song:

    All
    This is the end of one who does wrong!
    The wicked die
    as they have lived.

Kyle Ketelsen as Don Giovanni and Patrick Carfizzi as Leporello.
Photo by Tim Rummelhoff, courtesy of The Minnesota Opera
Dale Travis as the Commendatore and David Pittsinger as Don Giovanni.
Photo by P. Switzer, courtesy of Opera Colorado.
Andrea Silvestrelli as Commendatore, Ildebrando d’Archangelo as Leporello, and Bryn Terfel as Don Giovanni.
Photo by Robert Kusel, courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago

As with the First Act Finale, commentary on this amazing piece of music could easily fill an entire book. So I will restrict myself to mentioning the many references in the finale to music we’ve already heard (in this or other operas!) and a few subtle things you may have missed.

The power of D major.

Over the course of this opera we’ve heard music in a great many keys; but we began the overture with a terrifyingly violent assertion of D, and we begin the finale the same way. We’ll hear music in various keys over the course of the finale, but it is basically in D major, D minor (for the statue scene), and even more violent D major for the epilogue. Notice that the finale opens with tonic-dominant-tonic in D major, and that the first vocal exchange is Giovanni and Leporello endlessly arpeggiating the D major chord, in case there’s any question which key is supposed to be home base.

In-jokes date quickly.

If you found yourself wondering what the point was of the scene where the offstage orchestra quotes various forgotten operas and Giovanni messily devours dinner at great length, don’t worry; this scene has the highest concentration of dumb in-jokes in any opera I know. The operas quoted were all popular in 1787, and the audience would have known each of those tunes; what’s more, the choice of tunes comments ironically on the situation. When I’ve done English captions for this scene I’ve called the first two operas The Playboy Punished and The Servant’s Revenge to achieve the desired effect, since modern opera audiences have no connection to the music of Soler or Paisiello. The quote from Figaro is another joke on the singer playing Leporello, who sang “Non più andrai” in the Prague performances of Figaro: “I’ve heard this song way too many times!” “Non più andrai” was then, and is now, the catchiest and most popular tune in Figaro. You probably also noticed endless repetitions of the words “Saporita” (the name of the first Anna) and “Cuoco” (Italian for “Kücher,” name of the man who played harpsichord at the first performances of Don Giovanni).

Deus ex machina.

In the traditional eighteenth-century ending for a serious opera, some god appears (usually on a theatrical apparatus or machine, thus the Latin term deus ex machina or “God from the machine”), punishes the wicked, rewards the good, and tells the audience it’s time to go home. In the other Mozart/da Ponte operas, the ending comes about through a metaphorical deus ex machina: that most divine characteristic of a Christian, forgiveness, ends the show. In Figaro and Così, character A, who has done something wrong, kneels down and begs forgiveness, and character B sings some extraordinarily touching phrase and forgives character A. Mozart and da Ponte give us both metaphorical and literal deus ex machinae in Don Giovanni. Elvira, without being prompted by Giovanni asking for forgiveness, comes in (as she had resolved she would, at the end of “Mi tradì”) forgives him, and begs him to repent. Her transformation from the comic butt of “Ah, chi mi dice mai” to ideal Christian nobility is complete, and it is fitting that she will go join a convent at the end of the show. But we need the literal deus ex machina to end the show, the terrifying appearance of the vengeful father-God. Much has been made of the Oedipal nature of the relationship between Giovanni and the Commendatore, and many commentators have pointed out that Mozart may have used this drama to work through some of the issues in his relationship with his own domineering father, who had recently died when he wrote the opera. Such a psychological explanation may be illuminating, but it must never detract from the theatrical power of the scene—the only eighteenth-century deus ex machina that can still impress a modern opera audience.

Stage directions in the music.

Do you hear how Elvira (and then Leporello) have to go up a few stairs to get to the entrance hall, where the sight of the statue causes them both to scream? Mozart’s operas are filled with this kind of detail, which more than compensate for the general lack of stage directions in the printed libretti.

Leporello’s comic stuttering.

All the way through this darkly eloquent finale, Leporello is there as our stand-in, our Everyman, conspicuous because of his complete lack of eloquence. It begins when he’s supposed to sing with his mouth full. His panic later on is reflected in his inability to put together a coherent sentence, culminating with his comical imitation of the statue’s tread, all of which irritates Giovanni. We’ll hear the same expressive incapacity from Leporello in the Epilogue, as he struggles to tell the others what happened to his master.

The return of the opening chords.

You’ll remember the terrifying chords that began the overture to this opera. And you probably recognized them as the statue entered; here they are harmonically denser, more terrifying, and the slow funeral march in D minor that follows undoubtedly sent shivers down the spines of that 1787 audience. It gave me nightmares, when I first heard this music as a little kid with an active imagination—music to embody your worst fears. The stark octaves that the statue sings upon entering have been parodied countless times; but like all such moments of imaginative genius, no parody can strip the original of its power.

The statue anticipates twentieth-century atonality.

Listen again to the statue’s line, “He who has eaten the food of heaven eats no more your mortal food.” The harmony at this moment is generated by the notes of the statue’s melodya bizarre, eerie melody of wide leaps between notes that form dissonant harmonies when sounded together, a bit like a cat walking across a piano keyboard. Mozart clearly wanted some spooky, hair-raising music to illustrate the statue’s strange and unsettling pronouncement, and the music he wrote anticipates the kind of music used in horror films to spook an audience. In the twentieth-century, serious composers largely abandoned tonal music (music that involves tonics and dominants and tonal centers) for atonality, since many felt that the great composers of the past had already said everything that could be said with tonality. How curious that even a tonal composer like Mozart counted atonality among his various tools, and used it to great expressive effect in this finale.

Text repetition for dramatic purposes.

One of my favorite dramatic moments in the scene with the statue Mozart created entirely out of clever repetition of the text da Ponte gave him. Listen carefully to the exchange between Giovanni and the statue, underscored by Leporello’s patter babblings. An idiomatic translation, including all the repeats, would go:

STATUE: I am here for another reason.

GIOVANNI: Then speak! What do you want?

STATUE: I will speak; you, listen. I don’t have much time.

GIOVANNI: Speak! Speak! I’m standing here listening!

STATUE: I will speak! You will listen! There is not much time.

GIOVANNI: Then speak, speak: I’m listening.

The statue, being old, proud, and made of stone, speaks very slowly, and Giovanni—easily bored, easily impatient—gets frustrated with him and keeps interrupting. The statue, irritated in turn, repeats his command that Giovanni listen, not talk...and Giovanni’s pride makes him interrupt again. It’s a brilliant, though subtle, dramatic moment, and reminds me uncomfortably of conversations I used to have with my own leisurely-paced father in my headstrong youth!

The Don Giovanni scales.

Did you notice all the scalar motion returning with a vengeance? We hear those sad scales from the overture in the violins, as the statue is explaining why he’s there, and scales when he urges Giovanni to repent, in the celli. These may remind you of the scales in the tune of the Giovanni/Commendatore duel. Mozart paints the pains of hellfire with terrifying defending scales, and finally, when Giovanni is long gone and all the other characters are telling us the moral of the story— “Evildoers die as they have lived”—the scales return. No longer are they minor and oppressive; no longer do they descend. In their final appearance the scales soar upwards again and again, bright and brilliant affirmations of D major—terrifying in their vehement certainty.

The epilogue, by the way, was omitted at the Vienna performances, and often afterwards. In the nineteenth century, Don Giovanni was beloved by the Romantics for its grotesque, demonic elements, and so when they performed it they concluded with the destruction of the Romantic hero, not the tidying-up of loose ends and affirmation of conventional values (and conventional major harmony) we get in the epilogue. I happen to adore the epilogue, not because I care so much about what happens to the surviving characters but because I think it makes sense, musically, to close with this vigorous celebration of D major—the structure, order, rules, the scales—that have destroyed Giovanni.