Although Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787) is the most analysed of all operas, Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto has rarely been studied as a work of poetry in its own right. The author argues that the libretto, rather than perpetuating the conservative religious morality implicit in the story of Don Juan, subjects our culture’s myth of human sexuality to a critical rewriting. Combining poetic close reading with approaches drawn from linguistics, psychoanalysis, anthropology, political theory, legal history, intellectual history, literary history, art history and theatrical performance analysis, she studies the Don Giovanni libretto as a radical political text of the Late Enlightenment, which has lost none of its ability to provoke. The questions it raises concerning the nature of compassion, seduction and violence, and the autonomy and responsibility of the individual, are still highly relevant for us today.
Felicity Baker is a Reader Emeritus in French, University College London, who has published and lectured internationally on eighteenth-century literature since the 1960s. Her main research areas are Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophy of freedom and equality, his contractual thinking in the Late Enlightenment and its significance today.
Magnus Tessing Schneider holds a PhD from Aarhus University, Denmark, and works as a researcher in theatre studies at Stockholm University. His research centres on the dramaturgy of Italian opera, including the operas of Monteverdi, Gluck, Mozart and Verdi.