Opera Today Music has the capability to bring forth many emotions and feelings in a person. Depending on the tone and the melody of the music, emotions such as anger, joy, and grief may arise. For example, rap music, in general, brings forth emotions such as anger, frustration, and rage to a person’s mind. Melodies such as Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On and Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing often arouse emotions of love, sadness, and hope; lovey-dovey feelings which remind a person of a past or current love. In Mozart’s Opera Don Giovanni, many emotions and feelings, such as hatred, distress, and sorrow are portrayed and felt through the characters. Opera is a unique genre of spoken word and song accompanied by music. The music takes one through ascending and descending ranges of emotions. Mozart’s Don Giovanni is a perfect example of how this genre emits a wide variety of feelings and attitudes.
This dark comedy seems to convey Mozart’s feeling that events have both comical and serious dimensions (Kerman, 205). The opera, as a whole, is neither exclusively comedic nor entirely tragic. The character I have chosen to focus on specifically is Donna Elvira. Her character is one that portrays many different roles and expresses many different feelings and emotions. Elvira’s main purpose as a character is the role of the avenger, seeking revenge upon Don Giovanni for his false promises and promiscuous manner.
However, as much as she wants to hate Don Giovanni, ruin his name, and make sure that everyone knows that he is a liar and a player, one also senses reluctance and fear in not just her voice, but also through the music which accompanies her. Her tone is often shaken and at times seems to portray her want for sympathy. One finds themselves feeling sorry for this character and sympathizes with what she has gone through due to Don Giovanni. Although her words are brash and unkind (regardless of how just she is in her accusations), the music carries a distinctive rhythm that provokes the feeling of sorrow and pain; thus one finds oneself feeling sympathy for Elvira. The character of Elvira makes a clear distinction between her sorrow, and her anger.
In Act I when Elvira is first introduced as a character, she sings of wanting to kill Don Giovanni because he had lied to her. Falsely promising her his hand in marriage, this only leads to heartache and distress for Elvira because she truly believed that he loved her. Leporello described it, in the Peter Sellars’ updated version of Don Giovanni, as a bad soap opera. Elvira expresses her pain and suffering in these few lines: Ah, who can tell me where that wretch has gone? I loved him, to my shame, and he broke his faith to me. If I find him again, and he tries to escape, I’ll make a horrible scandal; I’ll tear his heart from his breast! (Act I, 143). During this scene, Elvira vows to kill Don Giovanni for causing her this grief.
She states that the scoundrel (Don Giovanni) has deceived and betrayed (Act I, 145) her! She was powerless to his love and gained nothing in return except pain and anguish. One can hear the mixed tone of Elvira’s voice; it is strong and full of fury, yet weak and almost tearful. To accompany her words, Mozart has added a unique blend of classical music, which he mixes to create an opera buff. The music in this specific scene is slightly fast-paced, yet its tone is one of soft melody. This combination, as I see it, serves the purpose of allowing an audience to understand Elvira’s rage and pain, and therefore, becomes compassionate and sympathetic to what the character is feeling emotionally.
The swift-like pace of the music which accompanies Elvira’s words reveals her anger and furry towards Don Giovanni. Most rapidly paced music often has the result of whipping people into an emotional, and sometimes physical, frenzy. Examine Eminem’s rap music: his spitfire words and rapid rhythm get listeners emotionally riled up (mostly geared towards anger and rage). Mozart purposely makes the rhythm of music in this scene upbeat because he wants the audience to feel her rage and the emotions Elvira is experiencing. Thus, the result of this is sympathy towards Elvira, and Don Giovanni is perceived as the villain (which of course he was).
On the flip side, the tone of the music is also slow and melancholy, which expresses Elvira’s hurt and sorrow. Although the fast-paced rhythm gives one a feel for Elvira’s anger, mixing it with a slower tone allows the audience to feel her pain and sympathize with the character even further. The sorrow and softness of the music adds an emotional element of heartache and tears, allowing one to reflect on a tainted love from the past. Having been reminded of past heartache and pain through the music, one now is able to relate with Elvira’s situation and sympathize with her on a new and deeper level than before. By no means am I a musical genius, I can not even carry a tune if one paid me to; therefore, distinguishing the difference between the tone, rhythm, and pitch of music is personal difficulty for me.
However, relating to a character and feeling emotionally what he/she does is not a task that takes great skill. It is in our nature, as humans, to be emotionally moved by music. The sound, melody, rhythm, tone, even words in a song provoke emotions based on past experiences and current problems. Many people, most for that matter, use music as an outlet for emotion. Some compose, like Mozart, some write lyrics, others simply listen to the sounds and let their emotions as a result of the music.