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Don Giovanni’s Reasons: Thoughts on a masterpiece

Felicity Baker and Magnus Tessing Schneider

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.

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Publications by Felicity Baker


‘Tito’s burden’, in Magnus Tessing Schneider and Ruth Tatlow (eds.), Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito: A Reappraisal (Stockholm: Stockholm University Press, 2018), pp. 97–119:

‘The anthropological foresight of the Lettre sur les spectacles’, in Maria Gullstam and Michael O’Dea (eds.), Rousseau on Stage: Playwright, Musician, Spectator (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2017), pp. 25–49.

‘L’arbore di Diana: José II como el dios del amor’, in Dorothea Link and Leonardo Waisman (eds.), Actas del congreso internacional “Los siete mundos de Vicente Martín y Soler” (Congress 4–8 November 2006) (Valencia: Istituto Valenciano de la Musica / Generalitat Valenciana, 2010), pp. 265–75.

‘The figures of hell in the Don Giovanni libretto’, in Dorothea Link and Judith Nagley (eds.), Words about Mozart: Essays in Honour of Stanley Sadie (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2005), pp. 77–106.

‘La sexualité et l’exclusion chez Rousseau’, in Tanguy L’Aminot (ed.), Études Jean-Jacques Rousseau vol. 14–15 (2003–4), pp. 65–93.

‘Autobiography as non-fiction: Rousseau’s story of the death of Claude Anet’, The Eighteenth Century vol. 41, no. 2 (Summer 2000), pp. 141–59.

‘Portrait of the object of love in Rousseau’s Confessions’, in Patrick Coleman, Jayne Lewis and Jill Kowalik (eds.), Representations of the Self from the Renaissance to Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 171–99.

‘Rousseau and the colonies’, Eighteenth-Century Life vol. 22, no. 1 (February 1998)...

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