For more than two centuries, what is possibly Mozart's most enigmatic work has both enchanted and perplexed audiences. This masterpiece relating the tragi-comic adventures of the already mythologised seducer from Seville is actually a wide-screen "grand epic" embracing the entire world. On one level it is a sensational tale of adventure laced with humour and eroticism, but on another it plays out a contest of amazing power between body and soul, and between the human and the divine.
The great opera scholar Joseph Losey said of this riveting circle dance of lust and seduction that it is "a vitriolic satire of society, full of bitterness. But it is also the story of a man who is psychologically incapable of adapting to his own time, a personality bent on pushing boundaries and who himself provokes the fulfilment of his fate."
At night Leporello, Don Giovannis servant, grumbles in front of the Commendatores palace. Soon the masked Don appears, followed by Donna Anna, the Commendatores daughter, whom he has tried to seduce. When the Commendatore appears to help her daughter, Anna runs away, and Don Giovanni kills the father. Anna now returns with her fiancé, Don Ottavio. Finding her father dead, she makes Ottavio swear vengeance on the assassin. At dawn, Donna Elvira appears, whom Don Giovanni once seduced. Giovanni escapes from the scene, while Leporello distracts her by reciting his masters long catalogue of conquests. Peasants arrive, celebrating the nuptials of their friends, Zerlina and Masetto. When Don Giovanni enters again, he pursues the bride, angering the groom, who is removed by Leporello. The Don tries to seduce Zerlina, but Elvira interrupts him, and brings Zerlina away. Elvira returns again to denounce Giovanni as a seducer, and Anna now in mourning and Ottavio also enter. Declaring Elvira mad, Giovanni leads her off. Anna realizes that Giovanni is her fathers murderer. Outside the palace, Zerlina successfully begs Masetto to forgive her apparent infidelity. Masetto hides when Don Giovanni appears, and emerges from the shadows as Giovanni corners again Zerlina. The three enter the palace together. Elvira, Anna and Ottavio arrive wearing masks and are invited to the feast by Leporello. During the festivities, Leporello entices Masetto into the dance as Giovanni draws Zerlina out of the room. When the girl cries for help, Giovanni tries to blame Leporello. But no one is convinced; Elvira, Anna and Ottavio unmask and confront Giovanni, who eventually escapes.
Giovanni exchanges cloaks with Leporello to make the servant woo Elvira instead of him. The Don serenades Elviras maid. When Masetto passes with a band of armed peasants to take revenge on Giovanni, the disguised rake beats up Masetto. Zerlina tenderly consoles her betrothed. In a passageway, Elvira and Leporello are surprised by Anna, Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto, who threaten Leporello mistaking him for the master. Frightened, he unmasks and escapes. When Anna departs, Ottavio affirms his confidence in their love. Zerlina wants to take revenge on Leporello. Elvira, frustrated at her second betrayal by the Don, voices her rage. Leporello meets his master in a cemetery, where a voice warns Giovanni of his doom. This is the statue of the Commendatore. The Don makes Leporello invite the statue for dinner. When the servant reluctantly stammers an invitation, the statue accepts. In her home, Anna, still in mourning, puts off Ottavios offer of marriage until her father is avenged. Leporello is serving Giovannis dinner when Elvira rushes in, begging the Don to reform. But he waves her out contemptuously. The Commendatores statue arrive. Giovanni refuses his warnings to repent, even in the face of death. Flames engulf him, and the sinner is dragged to hell. The other figures plan their future and recite the moral: such is the fate of a wrongdoer.