Giovanni Pacini: Don Giovanni, o Il Convitato di Pietra (1832)

Farce in two acts. Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes.

Special Thank You to Lorenzo Moog for suggesting this entry.

tranquillo-cremona-attrazione-1874

Tranquillo Cremona’s Attrazione, 1874.

I had no idea that this opera existed until it was suggested. It is basically a shortened Mozart’s Don Giovanni without Donna Elvira, Leporello is renamed “Ficcanaso”, and with Donna Anna performed rather logically by a contralto. Oh, and the Don himself is performed by a tenor, which I think is just awesome!

It was composed, or rather assembled, by Pacini from existing music at the request of his own family and intended for private performance at the Pacini home. The original cast mostly consisted of soloists from la famiglia Pacini. There is a chorus, but the score is orchestrated for a chamber orchestra consisting of strings and two flutes. Each act consists of six musical numbers separated by spoken dialogue.

The Naxos label release (upon which this review is based), is apparently both the first recording and the first public performance ever at the Wildbad Festival in July 2008, although it has since been performed in 2015 and 2018.

SETTING: Basically the same as Mozart’s Don Giovanni but without Donna Elvira (Zerlina’s character is expanded upon to include much of the former female character), Ottavio is undersized, and the opera ends with the original conclusion of Don Juan being dragged down to hell without any moralizing epilogue. Oh, and Ficcanaso always uses the informal when speaking to Juan which is obviously a linguistic joke.

LOOK OUT FOR:

ACT 1:  (45 minutes)

Scene 1: A street in front of the home of the Commendatore.

0: La gran bestia è il mio padrone There is no overture, instead we almost immediately are in Ficcanaso complaining about how wicked his master is * to an almost lighthearted accompaniment and then Donna Anna runs on trying to escape Don Giovanni’s assault on her maidenhood. This is when we finally get some angst from the chamber orchestra, the Commendatore arrives and challenges Giovanni, Anna flees the scene for help, they two men duel, Commendatore dies. Giovanni and Ficcanaso run off, Donna Anna returns to the scene with Duke Ottavio and discover the body of her father.

6: Care sponde che pietose Anna mourns her father **.

Scene 2: A location in the countryside.

14: Bella cosa per una ragazza Jovial chorusing ** from peasants and Zerlina and Masetto as they come on after Giovanni and Ficcanaso discuss how rotten he is. Zerlina’s coloratura gives it the second star.

18: La man tu mi darai A remarkably good duet as the Don goes to work on Zerlina ***. Although the tune is not a bewitching as Mozart’s in this seem scene, it has an undeniably delightful charm to it. Donna Anna arrives with Duke Ottavio and knows that Don Giovanni is her father’s killer.

Scene 3: The Garden of Don Giovanni’s palace, a balcony above.

24: Di tutte le sue belle Zerlina encounters Ficcanaso and she is the one who gets to learn about Giovanni’s thousands of female conquests.  Although it isn’t Mozart’s Catalogue Aria, there is nevertheless a charm to it ** (especially in the duetting with Zerlina at the end).

29, 31, 37, 41: Esso vien, io qui celato/Su da Bravi, Ragazzi miei cari/Voi proteggete, oh Dei/Sul capo tuo già piomba The nearly sixteen minute long act finale starts off with the confrontation duet for Zerlina and Masetto **, followed by Don Giovanni’s party song set to flute and piccato strings (also choral backing) * which turns into a cheery trio with Zerlina and Masetto.  Eventually Donna Anna and Duke Ottavio arrive ** and are invited in by Ficcanaso. Giovanni comes out on the balcony with Zerlina as Ficcanaso tries to distract Masetto but Zerlina escapes the Don who tires to pin the attempted molestation on Ficcanaso. The stretta (in which the others accuse Don Giovanni) includes traces that appear to have been used later in the first act finale of Carlo di Borgogna **. 

ACT 2: (48 minutes)

Scene 1: A street scene, as in act 1.

1: Luna, conforto al cor de’ naviganti Don Giovanni’s serenade ** of Zerlina (whom he has apparently not given up on, or at least, he plans on passing her off on Ficcanaso who will be disguised as him). The instrumental accompaniment is minimal (the violins doubling for a lute) but the vocal line has its own charm.

6: Senza il caro sposo amato Somehow, Ficcanaso fools everyone into thinking he is Don Giovanni. The highlight of the quintet ** that follows mostly falls to Zerlina’s soprano line.

16: Mio dolce pensiero Zerlina and Masetto promise to remain faithful to each other forever *.

Scene 2: The cemetery, statue of the Commendatore centre.

23, 26: Ah! Che bella notte!/Signor Commendatore A rather well composed scene this ***. Although starting off with a placid flute, it rapidly gives us a spooky atmosphere. Don Giovanni and Ficcanaso come on and are terrified by the Statue which apparently can speak. The Don invites the statue to supper, Ficcanaso is terrified but Giovanni seems cocky in his fearlessness **.

Scene 3: Comic entr’acte, no specified scenery.

32: Sento brillarmi il core Zerlina expresses her joy upon her marriage to Masetto, now even Don Giovanni can not separate her from her beloved. A happy little song with a nice flute effect and some good coloratura from our prima donna *.

Scene 4: A banquet hall in Don Giovanni’s palace.

36: Preparata è già la cena The finale ** starts off with Giovanni being entertained while he takes supper. The Statue knocks at the door of the palace and Ficcanaso goes to answer but comes back in a terrible fright. The Statue arrives on scene and tells the Don he must repeat or go to Hell. Giovanni thinks he is crazy but then a chorus of demons show up which obviously proves the Statue’s point and Ficcanaso hides under the table as his master and the Statue descend into the fires. String flourish. Curtain.

COMMENTS:

As you could probably guess, this is not part of my new series, it is just for sheer entertainment.

This is an opera that is designed to be entertaining and really not much else, and the cast seems to enjoy this. There is very little to be taken seriously here; it is very much a comic parody of a far superior opera, but that does not mean that it lacks charm, effect, or even its own brand of elegance. It in fact demonstrates the striking if often overlooked connection between the bel canto and the earliest Italian operas. This is not a grand work, in fact it shows a certain amateurism, even though it was devised by one of the most successful opera composers of the day. It is homespun, a family produced it, most likely to entertain themselves and guests. Yet at the same time the roles of Zerlina, Ficcanaso, and especially Don Giovanni himself are incredibly complex with intricate coloratura features. Even though I know it’s otherwise slight, it is incredibly easy to enjoy this little work, even to cherish it. An A-.

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2 thoughts on “Giovanni Pacini: Don Giovanni, o Il Convitato di Pietra (1832)

  1. Interesting; I never knew this existed either. I’ll probably listen to Pacini when I get to the Italian bel canto; I didn’t warm to Pompei, but I know you like Carlo di Borgogna.

    Like

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