Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens Lyric's 2014-15 season on September 27, has a long history and an even longer legacy. Based on the Don Juan legends that date back to the early 1600s, about 150 years before Mozart's opera premiered, the opera has become an enduring cultural touchstone, perhaps because of its intoxicating mix of comedy, tragedy, and the supernatural. And did you know that famous libertine Casanova perhaps even played a small role in the composition of this piece, since he was acquainted with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte?
These tales of a serial womanizer would inspire other great works of art across the centuries, including Molière's comedy Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre (1665), Lord Bryon's epic poem Don Juan (1821), and the recent film Don Jon (2013), which placed the lover in modern New Jersey.
Since its premiere to rapturous reviews in Prague in 1787, Don Giovanni remains one of the most widely admired and most influential operas ever written. Playwright George Bernard Shaw deemed it "perfect." Novelist Gustave Flaubert called Don Giovanni one of "the three finest things God ever made." The other two? Hamlet and the sea. In addition to its literary influence, the musical themes woven throughout the work inspired other composers.
Franz Liszt wrote Réminiscences de Don Juan, an opera fantasy for piano, performed here by Lang Lang (who you can see in recital at Lyric on Saturday, May 9, 2015):
Frédéric Chopin wrote Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for Orchestra and Piano, based on the love duet from the opera:
And Ludwig van Beethoven was also inspired by this famous duo, writing his own variations:
And here are just a few examples of how music from the opera has been used in some more current adaptations! The composition of the opera is a pivotal moment in the Oscar-winning film by Miloš Forman, Amadeus:
It also provides the backdrop for an intense scene in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Guy Ritchie's take on the famed detective starring Robert Downey, Jr.
The aria that inspired Beethoven and Chopin also pops up on The Muppet Show:
And just for fun, here's a famous Don, Luciano Pavarotti, with an unusual Zerlina-singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow.
(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)