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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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General bibliography

Extract



Abbate, Carolyn, Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991).

Ackermann, Hans Christoph, Seidengewebe des 18. Jahrhunderts, I: Bizarre Seiden (Riggisberg: Abegg-Stiftung, 2000).

Allanbrook, Wye Jamison, Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983).

Althaus, Frank and Mark Sutcliffe (eds.), The Triumph of Eros: Art and Seduction in 18th-Century France (London: Fontanka, 2006).

Aridjis, Homero, ‘Une visite chez Leonora Carrington’, in Homero Aridjis, Delmari Romero Keith and Annie Le Brun (eds.), Leonora Carrington: La mariée du vent (Paris: Gallimard, 2008), pp. 55–67.

Attali, Jacques, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, trans. by Brian Massumi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985).

Bachelard, Gaston, The Formation of the Scientific Mind, trans. by Mary McAllester Jones (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2002).

Baltrusaitis, Jurgis, Les Perspectives dépravées, 3 vols. (Paris: Flammarion, 1995).

Barthes, Roland, Image Music Text, trans. and ed. by Stephen Heath (London: Fontana Press, 1977).

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