The Vienna Don Giovanni

November 2010
57 line illustrations
232 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843835868
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press

The Vienna Don Giovanni

Ian Woodfield

Aspects of Don Giovanni's compositional history are uncovered and the study provides for detailed evidence with which to evaluate Da Ponte's recollections. The essential truth of his account - that the revision of the opera in Vienna was an interactive process - seems to be fully borne out. A general theory of transmission is proposed, which clarifies the relationship between the fluid text produced by re-creation and the static text generated by replication.
In the year following its 1787 Prague première, Don Giovanni was performed in Vienna. Everyone, according to the well-known account by Da Ponte, thought something was wrong with it. In response, Mozart made changes, producing a Vienna 'version' of the opera, cutting two of the original arias but inserting three newly-composed pieces. The dilemma faced by musicians and scholars ever since has been whether to preserve the opera in these two 'authentic' forms, or whether to fashion a hybrid text incorporating the best of both.
This study presents new evidence about the Vienna form of the opera, based on the examination of late eighteenth-century manuscript copies. The Prague Conservatory score is identified as the primary exemplar for the Viennese dissemination of Don Giovanni, which is shown to incorporate two quite distinct versions, represented by the performing materials in Vienna [O.A.361] and the early Lausch commercial copy in Florence. To account for this phenomenon, seen also in early sources of the Prague Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, a general theory of transmission for the Mozart Da Ponte operas is proposed, which clarifies the relationship between the fluid text produced by re-creation (performing) and the static text generated by replication (copying). Aspects of the compositional history of Don Giovanni are uncovered. Evidence to suggest that Mozart first considered an order in which Donna Elvira's scena precedes the comic duet 'Per queste tue manine' is assessed. The essential truth of Da Ponte's account - that the revision of the opera in Vienna was an interactive process, involving the views of performers, the reactions of audiences and the composer's responses - seems to be fully borne out. The final part of the study investigates the late eighteenth-century transmission of Don Giovanni. The idea that hybrid versions gained currency only in the nineteenth century or in the lighter Singspiel tradition is challenged.

IAN WOODFIELD is Professor and Director of Research at the School of Music and Sonic Arts, Queen's University Belfast.

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Keywords: Music

Table of Contents

Casts of the First Performances and Introduction
The Prague Don Giovanni
A possible cut
Prague musical fingerprints
The Vienna Don Giovanni
The Graz score
The Court Theatre score (OA361/1)
The Court Theatre parts (OA361/Stimmen)
Later copies deriving from the Court Theatre score
The Lausch and Julliard scores
The casting of the Vienna Don Giovanni
The full version (Vienna 1)
An intermediate version?
The final versions Vienna 2a and Vienna 2b
Da Ponte's story
The late eighteenth-century dissemination of Don Giovanni
Guardasoni's performances of Don Giovanni in 1788 and 1789
The reception of the Vienna Music in 1790s Prague
The 1798 Vienna revival
The autograph of Don Giovanni after Mozart's death
The Breitkopf & Härtel full score
Later manuscripts based on the published score


[A] serious, thoughtful, and thought-provoking study. NOTES

Woodfields Buch ist eine akribische, fundierte philologische Studie, die jüngste Erkenntnisse der Opernforschung in ihre Betrachtungen einbezieht [...] Eine überaus anregende Lektüre für jeden, der sich mit der Opernpraxis des 18. Jahrhunderts beschäftigt. DIE MUSIKFORSCHUNG

Following up his fascinating study of the compositional history of Così Fan Tutte, musicologist Ian Woodfield turns his meticulous investigation skills to Don Giovanni in an effort to unravel the process of revision between the opera's 1787 Prague premiere and performances in Vienna in 1788. OPERA NEWS

Woodsfield's admirable analysis equips the musical director to make [a choice of versions] in full possession of such facts as are currently known. MUSICAL TIMES Professor Woodfield's scholarship is immaculate, his conclusions are well supported, and his theories about one of the most famously debated of Mozart's operas make exciting musical reading. MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

Ian Woodfield has carefully examined a variety of manuscripts of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" opera, and, on a technical level - as a detective that knows how to sort out fingerprints - makes intelligent, reasoned choices as to the probable sequence of events in Mozart's composition of some parts of the opera. And there are delightful details that are strewn throughout such an investigation. THE SCHILLER INSTITUTE

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