Don Giovanni Captured: Performance, Media, Myth | National Humanities Center

Work of the Fellows: Monographs

Don Giovanni Captured: Performance, Media, Myth

By Richard Will (NHC Fellow, 2009–10)

Don Giovanni Captured

Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2022

From the publisher’s description:

Don Giovanni Captured considers the life of a single opera, engaging with the entire history of its recorded performance.

Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni has long inspired myths about eros and masculinity. Over time, its performance history has revealed a growing trend toward critique—an increasing effort on the part of performers and directors to highlight the violence and predatoriness of the libertine central character, alongside the suffering and resilience of his female victims.

In Don Giovanni Captured, Richard Will sets out to analyze more than a century’s worth of recorded performances of the opera, tracing the ways it has changed from one performance to another and from one generation to the next. Will consults audio recordings, starting with wax cylinders and 78s, as well as video recordings, including DVDs, films, and streaming videos. As Will argues, recordings and other media shape our experience of opera as much as live performance does. Seen as a historical record, opera recordings are also a potent reminder of the refusal of works such as Don Giovanni to sit still. By choosing a work with such a rich and complex tradition of interpretation, Will helps us see Don Giovanni as a standard-bearer for evolving ideas about desire and power, both on and off the stage.

Music / Film and Media / Opera / Sound Recording and Reproduction / History of Music / Don Giovanni / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart /

Will, Richard (NHC Fellow, 2009–10). Don Giovanni Captured: Performance, Media, Myth. Opera Lab: Explorations in History, Technology, and Performance. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2022.