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CULP: Faculty of Music - Don Giovanni

Mozart & Da Ponte

Faculty of Music - Don Giovanni

This course will not be offered this academic year.

Enrolment is through the Faculty.

Paper Pt IB, Don Giovanni

Lecturers: Nebojša Radić (Michaelmas Term), Stefano Castelvecchi (Lent Term)

Aims and Objectives
We will engage in a detailed study of one of the major works of the operatic canon from a wide variety of perspectives. In particular, exploring the nature of the interaction between the libretto’s poetic text and its musical setting is meant to encourage the study of operas in their original language.

Description of the course
Fundamental to the course, which focuses on Don Giovanni, is the premise that it is impossible to study the music and drama of this opera without a detailed examination of the poetry of Da Ponte’s libretto and its interaction with Mozart’s setting.

The course is divided into two parts. The first part (to take place during Michaelmas Term) will be devoted to a close reading of Da Ponte’s text and its possible implications for Mozart’s setting, and to ways of approaching operatic texts more generally. While the course will offer an introduction to the basic notions of the Italian language phonetics, morphology, syntax, versification, and history, students will be expected to have some familiarity with and/or formal training in the Italian language.

The second part of the course (Lent Term) will build on the material from the first half of the course, and will offer a series of lectures and supervisions that look at Don Giovanni from a variety of perspectives. These will include ways in which composer and librettist related to their time’s musical and dramaturgical conventions, stylistic registers, and genre; the transformations of the myth of Don Juan in literature and drama; how the creation and the understanding of Don Giovanni may have been influenced by aspects of its socio-cultural context; operatic life of the period (including the relationship between production systems and compositional process); and the opera’s later reception, including interpretations by philosophers, anthropologists, and stage or film directors.

Description of the examination
The paper will last three hours. Candidates will be required to answer three questions, from a broader choice.

Suggestions for preliminary study
The main preliminary study for the course is familiarising oneself with Da Ponte and Mozart’s Don Giovanni – with the poetry and the dramaturgy of the Italian libretto (using an English translation alongside), and with the music (through scores and sound recordings or videos). The most reliable orchestral score and piano-vocal reduction are those from the Neue Mozart Ausgabe, published by Bärenreiter and available in multiple copies in the Pendlebury Library, the University Library, and some college libraries. Good general introductions may be found in the relevant passages of classics of Mozart literature such as Hermann Abert, W. A. Mozart, translated by Stewart Spencer and edited by Cliff Eisen (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2007). Secondary literature on the opera is extensive, and a detailed bibliography will accompany the second half of the course.

Guidance for students, Directors of Studies and supervisors
In order to take this course, students are strongly advised to take an Italian language course and/or achieve at least a CEFR A1 level of proficiency. Students with questions about their eligibility should contact Stefano Castelvecchi ( before the beginning of the course.

Students must let Stefano Castelvecchi know by 2 October if they plan to take this course, together with a description of their level of Italian ability, in order to facilitate organisation of Michaelmas term classes.

This course consists of sixteen lectures of 90 minutes, running through Michaelmas and Lent terms (as described above), one revision session in Easter term, and one three-hour examination. There will be four supervisions during Lent Term, together with a revision supervision in Easter Term. These will be centrally organised by Stefano Castelvecchi. Supervisions will not be required in Michaelmas Term, during the language classes.

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