Mozart’s oeuvre often focuses on these subjects – he revolutionised traditional operas by making a member of the serving class the hero of one of his masterpieces in “Le Nozze di Figaro”, where the popular figure of Figaro (a barber) triumphs over his social superiors because of his higher moral values, and because of his wit. The play by Beaumarchais on which the opera libretto was based was banned in Vienna in the times just before the French Revolution, as the content was deemed too inflammatory.
The opera “Don Giovanni” remains to this day one of the most often performed operas worldwide. This paper will explain the particular fascination this opera still holds today by demonstrating the complexity of two of the main characters of the libretto, Leporello, Don Giovanni’s valet, and Don Ottavio, the fiancé of Donna Anna, one of the women Don Giovanni tried to seduce.
As in the comic opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” Mozart and Da Ponte sketch a two-tier society and the characters in Don Giovanni are either members of the aristocracy or the serving class comprised of servants and peasants. Again, moral values are not identical with class and rank, but low morals can be found in the aristocracy (Don Giovanni) and high morals can be found in the peasant class (Zerlina, Masetto). Leporello appears to be a case of his own - in the first Act we find Leporello in the garden owned by the Commendatore whilst his master, Don Giovanni, is attempting to seduce Donna Anna, the Commendatore’s daughter and fiancée of Don Ottavio. Leporello, although a loyal servant, is dissatisfied with his employment and with his master. He complains that he is kept busy day and night, as expressed in his aria “Notte e giorno faticar” which could be translated as “day and night nothing but work”. The close proximity to his master and the knowledge he has therefore gathered about his master’s life ...
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