Don Giovanni, or The Rake Punished, is Mozart’s beloved Italian opera, premiered in 1787 in Prague. Watching the show is like watching a train wreck unfold.
Giovanni, a nobleman, is an unrepentant murderer, rapist, a lothario who uses charm and wit—and where necessary force—to get his way with women. His conquests number over one thousand, recorded dutifully in his servant’s little black book.
The anguished story of Donna Anna, who is nearly raped in the opening scene (off stage), sounds a lot like the testimony we heard recently in Senate hearings. She has a hard time being believed, because Giovanni is a nobleman, and a gentleman wouldn’t do that sort of thing, would he? Life imitates art, as they say. Or perhaps art captures something essential about the human condition.
In Giovanni’s case, his crimes eventually catch up with him, although it is only by the intervention of the murder victim’s spirit that justice prevails in the end.
Here on earth spirits rarely intervene, and crimes against women and humanity often go unpunished, and the perpetrators sail on to other conquests.
Don Giovanni can be used to teach students about date rape and other male-female issues. See, for example, Liane Curtis, “The Sexual Politics of Teaching Mozart's Don Giovanni.” NWSA Journal 12, no. 1 (2000): 119-42. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4316712. Other operas can perform a similar role (see the use of Lady Macbeth here).