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The Center for the Core Curriculum to present lecture on "Mozart’s Don Giovanni and the Literary Imagination"

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Center for the Core Curriculum will present a lecture on “Mozart’s Don Giovanni and the Literary Imagination” at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at Miller Theater. Professor Elaine Sisman, Chair of Music Humanities, will discuss the literary tradition of the Don Juan story and its reinvention by Mozart to become an opera of unsettling moral ambiguity. The lecture, which is intended to connect the various Core courses, is geared towards students in Contemporary Civilization, Literature Humanities and Music Humanities courses, but is also open to the greater Columbia College community.   

The lecture will give students the opportunity to think about Lit Hum topics in the context of Music Hum, including reinventing stories, gender and power, and how individual desires conflict with social responsibility. Questions addressed will include: What are the ethical and political implications of Mozart’s opera? Does the opera condemn the Don for rape, murder, and blasphemy or celebrate his freedom and sensuous life force? Of what is he guilty? For which crimes is he sent to hell? How vicious and guilty are his female characters? In the end, what are we told about human freedom, desire, virtue, and responsibility?

When Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte took up the story of trickster and seducer Don Juan, it was already featured in numerous plays and operas. But Mozart and Da Ponte turned a story of moral clarity into one of unsettling ambiguity. By the end of the opera, the audience questions the motives and actions of every female character—the two women the Don pursues onstage and the revenge-seeking woman he abandoned—as well as the supposedly irresistible Don Giovanni himself. Don Giovanni will be performed at the Metropolitan Opera this winter. 

To register for the lecture, click here. For additional information, call the Center for the Core Curriculum at 212-854-2453.