Long Story Short
Bad boy acts badly, then gets punished.
The Commendatore is a retired old army general.
Donna Anna, the Commendatore’s daughter, is a proud, beautiful noblewoman who has problems with men.
Don Ottavio is Donna Anna’s fiancé. He’s great at doubting, dreaming, and hesitating, but not much for taking decisive action.
Don Giovanni is a wealthy nobleman who adores women and their bodies but has little interest in human relationships. He is handsome, charming, bold, clever, fearless, and incredibly sexy; and at the same time he’s a brute, a liar, and a killer.
Donna Elvira is a noblewoman of staunch religiosity whose love for God is only surpassed by her mad passion for Don Giovanni. Before the opera begins, he promised to marry her, slept with her, and then left town; so in the opera she pursues him with single-minded fury, hoping to get him to return to her, or, failing that, to spoil his attempts to be with any other women.
Zerlina is an attractive peasant girl who catches Don Giovanni’s eye. She is a lot more practical about sex and emotions than Donna Anna or Donna Elvira, and is probably a bit happier than either of them as a result.
Masetto is a big, dumb peasant guy who wants to marry Zerlina.
Leporello is Don Giovanni’s servant. A whiner, coward, and buffoon, Leporello is continually bullied and abused by Giovanni—yet he never leaves the master he loves and hates. He says he disapproves of the way Giovanni treats women, but he obviously admires and respects Giovanni as well.
Where and When?
Technically Seville, in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries; but really Don Giovanni is a myth that takes place at all times and places.
What's Going On?
The subtitle of this opera tells you just about everything you need to know: Il dissoluto punito (The Dissolute Man Punished). There’s this guy, Don Giovanni, who’s dissolute, and he gets punished.
More specifically, the opera chronicles the final twenty-four hours of this notorious libertine’s wicked life. It begins in the middle of the night, as he is trying to escape from Donna Anna’s bedroom after either seducing or raping her (or attempting to do one of the above; the bedroom is offstage, so no one really knows what happened in there). Anna’s father, the Commendatore, challenges Don Giovanni to a duel, and Giovanni kills him. Anna forces her fiancé Don Ottavio to swear an oath that he will avenge the murdered Commendatore.
That afternoon, Giovanni is attempting to escape from the clingy Donna Elvira, who thinks she’s married to him, when he stumbles upon the wedding of Zerlina and Masetto. He invites them and their friends to a feast at his palace, that evening, where he attempts to rape Zerlina. Ottavio, Anna, and Elvira, who have joined the party wearing masks, protect her and confront Giovanni; but he manages to give them all the slip.
Giovanni continues playing pranks on people all night long, until he and Leporello happen upon the statue of the Commendatore out in the cemetery. Audaciously Giovanni invites the statue to join him for a very late dinner, and the statue says it will come. At dinner the statue offers Giovanni a last chance to repent. He refuses, and gets dragged down to hell. All the other characters rejoice at Giovanni’s fitting punishment.