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'Don Giovanni':
Mozart's 'American' Weapon vs. the Oligarchy

by Susan W. Bowen

November 1998

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In light of the recent work on Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni" by leading members of the LaRouche movement, and the urgency which Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. has placed on studying this particular opera, we reprint this article from New Federalist newspaper, published In November 1998.   Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a true genius, and together with his librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, they deployed this work as a strategic, political intervention into the world of 1787. If performed correctly, from the standpoint of facing, and defeating, the evil that Don Giovanni and the tragic society represent, it is a powerful strategic flank today. A very important corrective made by Mr. LaRouche, is that Leporello's Catalogue Aria ("Madamina"), is not at all funny- it is absolutely sardonic and disgusting,  and must be performed with that idea in mind.  

Science & Drama! What Is Sense-Perception? by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

In the field of opera, again, a notable butchery of Mozart's intention in typical performances of Don Giovanni, is shown by the disgusting, but often staged, humorous rendering of Leporello's "Catalog" aria. The subject is comparable to the Iago of both the original and later versions of Verdi's Otello.[9] The entire opera Don Giovanni is Mozart's attack on the systemic evil of not only the satanic Don Giovanni himself, but, rather, an intrinsically decadent culture as a whole, a decadent culture, that of Hapsburg Austro-Hungary which, as Mozart shows, asserts its habitually corrupt grip on society even after Don Giovanni had been then recently thrown into Hell.

That opera is a true tragedy in which there are no actual heroes or heroines, but only predators and other criminals, from the beginning to the end of the performance, and, as Mozart himself emphasizes, in the conclusion, beyond. It is a true representation of the principle of tragedy in real-life history, as was to be shown in Mozart's foresight into the outcome of a Habsburg Emperor Joseph's folly for all of Europe, even as echoed in two so-called "World Wars," and still, yet, today.[10]

The only hero of the tragedy which is named "Don Giovanni," is to be searched for among the audience, hopefully with one or two cases which are willing to become the hero which is not to be found among the roster of characters presented on stage.

As the onrushing global financial and strategic crises intensify, and as waves of political and economic shocks begin to stun your neighbors, many will become fearful as they are forced to face the reality they have chosen to ignore up to now.

The oligarchy ("rule by the few") intends to destroy the nation-state, and replace it with a British-dominated feudal system; they are terrified by the prospect of an American citizenry aroused from its slumber in defense of our republic.

To keep their feudal-like power intact, they deploy their lackeys in the media, the legal system, and in government, such as Henry Kissinger, Patrick Moynihan, and Kenneth "Porno" Starr, in an attempt to crush the fundamental concept at the core of our republican tradtion: that all people are created equal, and in the living image of God.

The oligarchy knows it must eliminate the power of the United States as a great republic, if it is to survive this crisis, to "rule" over a New Dark Age.

The outcome of this battle will be determined by the ordinary citizen rising above his day-to-day concerns, and recognizing that a war is being waged for the mind and soul of the population, just as it was in the period of the American Revolution, when we almost rid the world of the disease of oligarchism.

We have a beautiful opportunity now, to finish off this aristocratic rabble and their lackeys, once and forever, by building the mass movement led by LaRouche for a New Bretton Woods system.

But, to defeat this enemy, you must first understand how he operates. Here is how Lyndon LaRouche described this in a discussion in Oberwesel, Germany last July [1998]:

"The enemy is a group of people, who say, 'We are the landlords, we are the rulers, we are the people of power, we are the monarchs, we are the ruling class, we are the accepted people, we are the bankers, we are the financiers, we control the institutions.... We, we, we.' Now these people are very stupid people.... Their thinking is to keep most of the people as cattle, human cattle, and themselves as the landlords, as the overlords.

"And they have people work for them, the 'Leporellos' of history. Don Juan, you know what he does. Who enabled Don Juan to get into all those bedrooms? Leporello! Without Leporello, Don Juan would die. No one would feed him. So we have the Leporellos, the people who administer the bureaucracy, administers government, administers banking institutions.

"These fellows have now got to the point, where they believe they can keep their system of oligarchy going forever."

Who is Leporello?

Just who is the Leporello that LaRouche is referring to? To discover the answer, we turn to the opera masterpiece "Il Punito Dissoluto, o sia Don Giovanni," ("The Rake Punished, or Don Juan") composed by W.A. Mozart, in collaboration with the poet and librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, in 1787.[1]

"Don Giovanni" is one of the most explicit attacks on the Venetian oligarchy and the British empire ever composed. Mozart and Da Ponte spare no one in exposing the relationships and the mindset of the characters which enable the system to of feudalism to perpetuate itself.

Brett Coomer, Houston Grand Opera, 2006.

Leporello, Don Giovanni’s obsequious servant, confronts an outraged Donna Elvira with evidence of his master’s infidelity

In "Giovanni," the character Leporello (bass), is the servant, advance man, and confidante of the lustful aristocrat Don Giovanni/Don Juan (baritone). Leporello continually complains about his role, although it is clear that he also revels in sharing the sadistic pleasures of his master, especially when there's a chance for Leporello to have some fun for himself. More often than not, however, the tables are turned on him, and he becomes the fall guy![2]

Unlike his "fearless" employer, Leporello openly sings of his cowardice throughout the opera. He aspires to be a nobleman, with all the benefits, but he would never consider doing anything that would change the conditions defined by feudal society. And although Leporello often takes risks, albeit usually at the point of his master's sword, he would never risk the dangers associated with a shift in the underlying axioms, which created his miserable situation to begin with.

At each point that Leporello sees the correct pathway, he chooses to "stay the course," rather than act to shift the situation. He always threatens to leave his master, but never does.

Leporello is portrayed as a comic figure, a buffoon character typical of the role assigned to servants in the time of Mozart. Unlike the rebellious, anti-aristocratic servants in Mozart's earlier opera, "The Marriage of Figaro,"[3] who would have been fresh in the minds of the opera-going public, Leporello never breaks out of his existing mode of behavior. Indeed, in the Vienna of 1787, when this opera was first presented, the story of "Don Juan" was well known, as it had been told in dramas, puppet shows, ballets, operas, and other literature since the 1630s: A heartless aristocrat seduces many women, commits terrible injustices, even murder, and then laughs at natural law. He ridicules the very idea that there might be consequences to his behavior.

In the end, he is confronted and invited to supper by the ghost of one of his latest victims, in the form of a stone statue. The cocky aristocrat refuses to give up his evil ways, even after the statue warns him, and so the demons take him down to Hell.

Mozart and Da Ponte utilize the storyline, but the similarities end there. The characters, the concept, and the message far surpassed any previous rendition ever performed.

In Mozart's "Don Giovanni," Leporello is the very first character we meet. He enters just as the overture concludes, pacing to and fro in the garden of the Commendatore's (Commander) palace. He appears, clearly a kind of comic figure, wrapped in a cloak.

In a voice as light as his deep bass voice can manage, Leporello begins to sing of his plight:

"Night and day slaving away For someone who is never satisfied,

Rain and wind to put up with,

Eating badly and sleeping badly.

I want to be the gentleman

And I don't want to be a servant anymore....

No, no, no, no, no, I don't want to serve anymore! "

[He faces the palace]

"O what a gallant gentleman!!!

You want to stay inside with the beauty

And I am the lookout!

I want to be the gentleman

And I don't want to be a servant anymore....

No, no, no, no, no, no

I don't want to serve anymore.

-But it seems to me-some people are coming;-I don't want to be heard."

And even before he is finished singing, Leporello hides himself in the bushes, sensing trouble. The orchestral music suggests something is about to happen. Leporello, from his hiding place, hears Donna Anna, the Commedatore's daughter, and sees her rush out of the house gripping Don Giovanni by the arm, struggling with him and trying to unmask him.

Don Giovanni, who had tried to seduce her without disclosing his identity, conceals his face behind his cloak, and tells her that she is screaming in vain-she will never discover who he is.[4]

Leporello, still hidden, sings in fear about all this screaming, and worries that his master is in another fix. Leporello's bass voice, which is heard "under" the other two, creates a trio with the soprano (Donna Anna) and baritone (Don Giovanni), and this is heard in various transformed ways repeatedly throughout the opera.

In this trio, as in many of the ensembles, Mozart is able to create a dramatic irony by having the characters sing musical lines which are apparently similar, or sung in harmony, when the meaning of the lines are actually completely antithetical! Also, the apparently similar musical lines and words often reflect completely contrasting emotions or states of mind.[5]

As Don Giovanni frees himself from Donna Anna's grip, she calls out for everyone in the palace to come and help her catch and stop the traitor. Giovanni grabs her, trying to silence her, singing of her unexpected "desperate fury."

There is a foreboding of the tragedy to come, when Leporello sings, at a faster tempo, of his fear that that Don Giovanni's crimes may also destroy him.

Indeed, the fate of the lackey is wholly determined by the oligarch's.

Donna Anna wrests herself free from Don Giovanni's grip, and runs for help, but before the would-be seducer can escape, Donna Anna's elderly father, the honorable Commendatore of Seville, storms out of the house to defend his daughter's honor.

With all three men on stage, a new trio is heard, with the deep bass voice of the Commendatore joining the voices of Leporello and Don Giovanni. (This trio is mirrored in the final scenes.)

The old man challenges the "noble" Don Giovanni to draw his sword and defend himself: "Leave her alone, you scoundrel, and fight me instead!" Giovanni (still masked) at first refuses, saying that it's beneath him to do battle with an old man. But when the Commendatore accuses the masked seducer of cowardice, the macho, Giovanni, rises to the bait, and draws his sword, daring the old man: "Draw, if you want to die."

Leporello, still safely concealed in the bushes, sings that he wouldn't mind being the coward-he'd like to flee this battle!

They duel, and the Commendatore falls, mortally wounded. As the moon rises slowly, its rays shine on the Comdendatore, another trio is heard. The dying man sings of the life-spirit leaving his beating breast; Don Giovanni also sings about watching the old man's life depart his beating breast, while a horrified Leporello sings of the absolute terror in his own beating breast: "What a misdeed! what excess! Within my breast so full of terror I feel my heart beating. I don't know what to do or say."

Here, in this trio, at the very beginning of the opera, is the germ of the tragedy which is elaborated as the drama unfolds: The beloved Commendatore is dying, as his murderer, Don Giovanni contentedly stands by and watches. Leporello is frozen with fear, and cannot act. He doesn't "know what to do or say."

Mozart presents us with a paradox, not simply in the character of the oligarch who, later, mockingly sings "Long live liberty," but more directly through the character of Leporello, who has the choice of being human, if only he can break out of his old axiom of servitude. And what does Leporello do?

He stays behind the bushes, hidden, and comments. (Just like many of your neighbors might do, under similar circumstances.)

Unlike Don Giovanni, whose character is pure evil, and therefore, cannot even choose to do good, the audience can see Leporello's ability to distinguish between good and evil, and this forces the audience to reflect.

Although Leporello is often very witty, it is his actions, and inaction, which enable evil to prevail! Good intentions alone do not suffice to break the chains of the feudal mindset, as Mozart develop later.

After the trio, with the bloody deed accomplished, his master calls for Leporello, and the servant responds. Emerging from the bushes, Leporello asks, "Who died, you or the old man?" ("What an idiotic question! The old man of course.") Leporello "congratulates" his master on his "two graceful undertakings-forcing the daughter and killing the father."

Don Giovanni protests that it was the old man's own fault: "he wanted it." But Leporello persists: "But Donna Anna, what did she want?"

Giovanni: "Shut up! Don't bore me! Come with me-if you don't want the same thing to happen to you..."

Leporello responds obediently, "I want nothing, Master! I won't say another word."

And they exit together.

The next morning, as they are walking and talking, Leporello is anxious to discuss an urgent matter with his master. But, being a sly servant, he makes Don Giovanni swear, beforehand, that there will be no repercussions from the discourse. Don Giovanni agrees, as long as the subject is not the Commendatore.

Leporello sings softly: "I'll tell you the way it is, dear Master, Sir: The life you live," (then singing loudly, almost shouting) "is that of a bum!!"

Of course, Don Giovanni is outraged, and ignoring his oath not to get angry, he hits and threatens Leporello.

"I won't speak, or breathe, my lord," promises the lackey.

With that, Don Giovanni is pleased, and says they can be friends again. They discuss plans for the Don's next seduction, just as if the heinous crime committed had not taken place.

As they are leaving, they meet Donna Elvira, who has been searching for the man who vowed to her his eternal love before God, and then left her. Before Giovanni is able to fully offer his comfort to the distraught woman, Donna Elvira recognizes him as her missing betrothed!

She has found him at last, but since the young Don has no intention of settling down to a life of wedded bliss, he gives to Leporello the task of telling Donna Elvira the truth, to get her off his back so he so he can slip away. Don Giovanni is proud that he is such a rogue.

A "Catalogue" of Conquests

Leporello sings to her the many victims of his master's seductions. This is Venetian oligarchy through and through-first you commit the crime, and then you codify it!

Leporello's famous "Catalogue" aria, "Madamina" is one of Mozart's gems; he sings of Don Giovanni's outrageous abuse, but, when it is sung well, there is tremendous humor in the absurdity of it all.

"My lady, this is the list

Of the beauties that my master has loved;

A list that I made myself Look here, and read it with me.

In Italy, 640, in Germany, 231, 100 in France, in Turkey 91;

But is Spain, there are already 1003!

There are among these, peasant girls, servants, townspeople.

There are countesses, baronesses, Marquesses, princesses.

Of every shape, of every age.

With the blondes he usually praises their manners,

With the brunettes their faithfulness,

With the gray haired ones their sweetness.

In the winter he wants the heavy ones,

In the summer he wants the slim ones;

The big ones are majestic,

The little ones are charming,

He goes after the old ones-

For the pleasure of putting them on the list!!

His overriding passion Are the young adolescents.

He doesn't care if she's rich

If she's ugly, if she's pretty;

As long as she's wearing a skirt,

You know what he does.

Leporello, who, after all, "made the list himself," ought to know what a scoundrel Don Giovanni is. He repeats the last line, (or hums it, in some performances) for emphasis, and then makes a hasty retreat. Donna Elvira, in a state of shock, demands revenge.

Kissinger as 'Leporello'

Now, certainly, when you think of a Henry Kissinger, you do not usually think of this type of "comic" character, as Mozart's Leporello is portrayed. Is it the case that most representations of Leporello are wrong? Not at all.

"Don Juan is obviously a typical oligarch of simple-minded motives. Leporello typifies such a Don Juan's indispensible 'establishment.' Oligarchs, by and large, tend to be stupid, as we see from studying the behavior of the typical oligarchical playboys and playgirls of Europe, or that degenerate class of parasites known as the USA's own surrogate aristocracy, its popular entertainers. With all that stupidity running rampant within the larger body of the oligarchical class, some virtual Leporello must exist to supply the vacant-headed oligarchical class in general with a tricky lackey's advice and counsel.... To fill the intellectual void of the oligarchy as a class, a surrogate, a pack of sly Venetian-style stiletto-wielding lackeys is required, a lackeydom which serves as an intelligentsia, a Roman-imperial style of permanent bureaucracy."[6]

— Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

Herein lies the beauty of it! The oligarchy and their lackeys are obviously nothing more than ridiculous buffoons, and worse, but, only when viewed "from the mountaintop."

Since the oligarchy cannot exist without this servant class, and the power of the servants depends on manipulating the average person, the game can end when the people wake up to it, and act. This is Mozart's strategy, with "Don Giovanni."

Although this particular opera is often described as a "comic opera," or "dramma giocosa," a comic opera with some serious characters, Mozart composed "Don Giovanni" as a Classical tragedy, with comic elements brilliantly woven through it, in the tradition of William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller, and later, Giuseppe Verdi.

In Classical tragedy, the idea does not lie merely in "the moral of the story" (e.g., Don Giovanni is punished and sent to Hell), nor does it stem from the action of the plot.

As Lyndon LaRouche has pointed out, the importance of classical drama and opera on stage, is that it is a form of art crafted to the purpose of providing living audiences the impassioned intellectual sources of insight and renewed moral strength needed to deal successfully with the relevant political shocks.

Lorenzo Da Ponte
portrait by Samuel Morse

As Da Ponte and Mozart composed in 1787, the population faced the shock of the American Revolution, which threatened to crush feudalism throughout the world.

A Warning to the Emperor

Not only was Mozart using "Don Giovanni" to warn the Emperor Joseph about certain of his advisors who were not to be trusted, but he was addressing the minds of the audience, on the deepest level, to break the chains of the feudal mentality, and orient toward creating a society based on the idea of Man created in the image of God.

Today we can reach back to "Don Giovanni," look forward to the near death and defeat of the oligarchic system, and from that standpoint, only, can we look back and laugh at the pathetic Leporellos of today.

Our own present-day "Leoprellos" are too often mistakenly identified as being the "all powerful" cabal behind the evil doings in the world. The importance of these lackeys, is, simply, that without them, the oligarchy could not survive!

Mozart reminds us of this again in the grand finale. There, each character sings in turn of his future plans, now that Giovanni is gone.

Enjoying and understanding this opera, will aid in defeating the oligarchy and its hangers-on, like Kissinger and Starr. Aside from the specific historical context, the audience discovers, through the solo lines sung by each character in the finale, how each one reflects on the future, given the demise of the evil Don Giovanni.

Leporello, now free of the terrible situation he faced as the servant of the oligarchy, doesn't ponder very long over his fate. What will he do, without the oppressive yoke of his evil feudal lord? He will simply "go to the inn-to find a better master!"

And so, the Leporellos of today, disgusting and pathetic lackeys that they may be, will be crushed along with their oligarchic masters, if we, the citizens, do not cower before them or their dying system, but instead master and deploy these weapons of cultural warfare which Mozart and others have bequeathed to us, and learn the lessons of statecraft, these lackeys can be laughed at, and crushed, rather than feared. And with those same weapons, you need not fear the oligarchs, either.

Look at Don Giovanni, the suave sex maniac, as the model. In truth, he's totally impotent! Of all the exploits he attempts in the course of the opera itself, this pathetic nobleman is unable to seduce a single one of the women he covets! These attempts, after Donna Anna, include the peasant-girl Zerlina, Donna Elvira's maid, and Leporello's sweetheart-but, he is foiled every time!

Friedrich Schiller said: "The most beautiful works of art is the construction of true political freedom." Mozart, like Schiller created these works of art to teach the lessons of statecraft, and the art of self-government.

Listen to the opera "Don Giovanni" with some of these ideas in mind, and you will see why these masterpieces have been kept out of the domain of "regular folks" for many years.

By studying and embracing great classical music, art and drama, the final curtain will be brought down on the oligarchy that much faster.


[1]. Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), a Dante scholar, also wrote the librettos to Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro," and "Cosė fan tutte."

[2]. The scene where Don Giovanni gets caught trying to seduce the peasant girl, Zerlina, has become classic in literature-Don Giovanni angrily drags Leporello from behind a curtain, draws his sword, blames his servant for the deed, and then offers him up to the angry crowd!

[3]. The servants, Figaro and Susanna used Reason and Love to outwit the Count in "Figaro." This was seen at the time as being very "American."

[4]. The use of masks was the height of fashion in Venice, especially during Carnival, where respectable folks could maintain the public dignity their station, but could also "let their hair down" to party safely, when protected by the mask.

[5]. This is why it is best to hear and see the opera performed, since everything that is described here is sung, in beautiful bel canto, which the written word cannot possibly reproduce,

[6]. Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., "The Eagle Star Syndrome," EIR, Aug. 7, 1998. The essence of the matter here is not to be found in the plot. Think of how the British-American-Canadian establishment functions today to shape policy and culture in the USA.


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