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  • Don Giovanni Musical Highlight: The Champagne Aria

Don Giovanni Musical Highlight: The Champagne Aria

The great seducer's tongue-twisting Act I aria reveals his irrepressible energy and love of life.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

5 June 2015 at 11.00am | 9 Comments

Don Giovanni is a man of action. He rarely pauses for thought – and Mozart writes music to match. Unlike his fellow aristocrats Don Ottavio, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira, he has no introspective aria. His two Act II arias are directed at someone else: the serenade ‘Deh vieni alla finestra’, sung to seduce Elvira’s maid; and ‘Meta di voi qua vadano’, where – in disguise as Leporello – he cunningly misleads Masetto so that he himself can escape. Giovanni’s one attempt at self-expression is the Act I aria ‘Finch’han dal vino’ (known as the Champagne Aria for the tradition of having Giovanni swig champagne before singing and throw away the glass at the end). Characteristically, the aria is in no way reflective – but it is still revelatory.

By the time Giovanni sings the Champagne Aria his life has become inordinately complicated. His abandoned lover Elvira has foiled his attempts to seduce the peasant girl Zerlina and has revealed his true character to Anna and Ottavio. Anna (unknown to Giovanni) has recognized him as her father’s murderer, and has vowed vengeance. Zerlina’s furious husband Masetto is also out to get him. Despite all this, Giovanni remains sanguine – if anything, he seems to thrive on chaos, and in the recitative that precedes the aria banters jovially with Leporello. He declares that he will devote the rest of the day to pleasure and host a grand party.

‘Finch’han dal vino’ (one of Mozart’s shortest arias, at just under two minutes) is a perfect expression of Don Giovanni’s manic excitement. The key is a gleaming B flat major, the tempo a breathless Presto. The accompaniment of fleet strings and woodwind, the constant momentum and the tongue-twisting vocal line create an ebullient, almost delirious atmosphere. Don Giovanni rattles off instructions to Leporello at top speed: he must prepare a great feast, with enough wine to make everyone drunk, he must find more girls to attend and he must organize dancing.

Giovanni orders that at his feast dances will be performed ‘in no order’: some will dance the noble minuet, others the peasant alemanna and others the follia or contredanse, a dance for the middle-classes. (Mozart has a musical joke in the following party scene, where he obeys Giovanni’s orders to the letter: onstage musicians perform the three dances, each in a different metre, simultaneously – a truly ingenious feat). Giovanni himself, always the social rebel, seems to identify with the vigorous contredanse rather than the stately minuet: the Champagne Aria is a contredanse, and Giovanni will later dance it with Zerlina.

The irrepressible energy of the Champagne Aria reflects Giovanni’s vitality, while Giovanni’s emphatic orders to perform dances ‘without order’ reveals his delight in anarchy. His threefold repetition of the phrase ‘vo’ amoreggiar’ (I will make love) conveys his thrill at the thought of passion and of new names to add to his long catalogue of conquests – he also repeats again and again the aria’s final phrase ‘Ah, la mia lista doman’ mattina d’una decina devi aumentar!’ (Ah! Tomorrow morning you will have ten names to add to my list!). Finally, the tradition of having Don Giovanni laugh exuberantly during the closing orchestral statement of the melody gives a sense of his self-destructive joie de vivre.

Giovanni is not an admirable man: he is a murderer, an opportunist, and a liar. But Mozart’s music – particularly in this aria – makes it impossible for us to dislike him and cements him as one of all theatre's great antiheroes. Whatever else you think of him, Giovanni is endowed with an enormous appetite for life and a great capacity for pleasure: both very seductive characteristics.

The production is a co-production with Houston Grand Opera and is given with generous philanthropic support from The Danish Research Foundation.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

5 June 2015 at 11.00am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged background, by Kasper Holten, Champagne Aria, don giovanni, Finch'han dal vino, highlight, Musical highlight, Production, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This article has 9 comments

  1. Colleen responded on 11 October 2017 at 2:42am Reply

    Informative and interesting. I love the frenetic nature of the aria.

  2. Ian Morter responded on 11 October 2017 at 6:16pm Reply

    The article so well informs us with the hedonistic passion that drive Giovanni and explains how in his music Mozart expresses the chaos that is the key to understanding the driving passion is expressed

  3. Bill Hand responded on 14 October 2017 at 7:30am Reply

    I agree with Kate that the Don is not admirable. In both versions, I believe that he would be tiring and obnoxious company, for his frenetic behaviour. Kate's article is a pointer to further character quirks; the "inordinately complicated" life for instance, revealing a man who cannot cut his losses, perhaps? Without knowing the preamble to that state of affairs that conclusion might be a bit of a stretch but this itself leads me to say, about the article, that it helps to enjoyably enmesh the reader in contemplation and exercise of the imagination.

  4. Jane Rolls responded on 15 October 2017 at 5:19pm Reply

    Certainly the music and singer give the desired impression of a life lived at top speed. I preferred the second version, the stillness of the singer and the speed of the music giving a greater impression.

  5. Alice Smith responded on 30 October 2017 at 8:53am Reply

    I have seen the opera before (some time ago) and wasn't that eager to see it again, but this article has definitely changed my mind, and I hope I'll have another chance.

  6. Sandra Milburn responded on 25 November 2017 at 9:07pm Reply

    I loved Don Giovanni when I saw it at Covent Garden with Ruggero Raimondi and Kiri te Kanawa I agree that in real life one would not want to encounter such a player but somehow when the opera ended I felt that life would be so much duller once Don Giovanni had gone. I think that was because I liked the joie de vivre element of his character even though it went too far (people often like a rebel/bad boy). It was this that I feel Donna Elvira liked although she wanted to tame him which would never work. I think Mozart was great at playing with these contradictions.

  7. Caroline Pickard responded on 22 January 2018 at 4:16pm Reply

    I like the way the music does the work of the aria and I would to understand better how composer and librettist work together

  8. Margarita Rodriguez-Miaja responded on 9 February 2018 at 7:31am Reply

    Never the less, in spite of Don Giovanni's fault, he is a nobleman and at the end, as a gentleman he respects his word. He invited the statue and now is his turn to accept the invitation and can not reject it.
    About repenting, why? He has followed his joie-de-vivre, realy felt in love with every woman he met, and honestly forgot them when he met another. In his ind, he was not at fault... And so, he dies for living as he liked.

  9. Thanos Assimakis responded on 1 April 2018 at 5:19pm Reply

    I agree that this is a superb aria. If you really want to watch an admirable and unforgettable performance, you have to see the video of Cesare Siepi with Wilhelm Furtwangler conducting. There is little comparison with anything else available visually.

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