Key stage 3

How does Mozart use his music to bring to life the personalities of the characters in Don Giovanni?

Play the opening section of the overture to engage pupils and initiate a discussion on the sort of story that might follow. What impressions and emotions are implied by the overture?



As a class, compile a list of musical tools available to a composer when writing music to represent a character or emotion. Based on existing knowledge, review instrumentation, dynamics, tempo etc, touching on modality (major or minor) and harmony.

 

Divide the class into groups and ask each group to look at the character descriptions: Don Giovanni, Leporello, Don Ottavio, etc. Ask each group to discuss what musical characteristics they would choose to represent their given character.

In turn, each group should share their thoughts with the class, providing a crib sheet pairing musical characteristics to personality. Play a recording of the character in question and undertake a simple aural analysis comparing Mozart's musical decisions with their own ideas. How close did the group come to Mozart's ideas? Do they agree with Mozart's choices?

You may wish to follow up by:

Comparing the arias of The Queen of the Night and Sarastro from Mozart's The Magic Flute, using music clearly to show maddened rage and noble wisdom, respectively


Playing a selection of Elgar's Enigma Variations and asking pupils to write short descriptions of the characters whilst listening


Playing a selection of Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals and asking pupils to guess the animals being represented and musical reasons why

Key stage 4

How does Mozart use his music to bring to life the personalities of the characters in Don Giovanni?

As with key stage 3, ask the class to create a database connecting musical elements with characters and personalities.

Play a section of the extracts provided for each character, preferably more than once, and ask the pupils to describe what sort of people are being represented by the music. Using musical terminology where possible and, with structure and guidance as necessary, analyse what it is about the composer's musical choices that lead the listener to draw certain conclusions about the character, even when sung in another language.

Drawing pupils' ideas together in a class discussion, put the characters in brief context of the plot. (Here there is opportunity for research and extension work as desired, see the extensions suggested below.)

Look at Deh, vieni alla finestra in more depth. Using an English translation, discuss the meaning of the text and how Mozart's music relates to this. Discuss whether the context is still relevant today.

As a composition and performance task, in groups, ask pupils to modernise the text. Using any available instruments groups should reimagine the song in a different, modern, genre (pop, rap, country etc) and perform it to the class.

You may wish to follow up by:

Researching the origins of the Don Juan myth and its various versions and adaptations throughout the centuries.

Listening to different performances and, through a discussion of subjective and objective criticisms, discuss and evaluate the differences and similarities. This could be extended to writing reviews as a homework task.

Researching the life and times of Mozart, biographically and historically, perhaps going as far as to explore class divisions and how these affected the characters in Don Giovanni.

Homework tasks

Performance and composition

Key stage 3

Performance and composition

 Key stage 4

Key stage 3

Using information gained from study of Mozart's characterisation, write a short character description for a modern-day character. In a subsequent lesson, ask pupils to write a short piece based on their own descriptions and perform to the class. You may choose to set this as a group task.

Key stage 4

Ask pupils to write a short modern character description and also a text that would be sung by their character. In groups, set this text to music using any available instruments and based on what has been learnt from studying Mozart.

To extend the task, develop the characters together as a class, then discuss relationships and plot, so that when each group's piece is combined it comes together to form one continuous story.

Listening, reading and writing

Key stage 3

Listening, reading and writing

Key stage 4

Key Stage 4

Ask pupils to research the meanings of opera seria and opera buffa. Pupils should come to understand and describe the origins of the terms, what sort of stories they involved as well as examples of composers who wrote them. They should find an example of an aria from each genre and, using what they have discovered from their research, describe how the composer has used the music in each style to represent the characters. This task could also be executed through presentations.

Key stage 3

Give pupils 4 other arias from Don Giovanni (or further afield, perhaps: Papageno's aria Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen or The Queen of the Night's aria Der Hölle Rache, both from the Magic Flute; Escamillo's aria Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre or Don José's aria La fleur que tu m'avais jetée, both from Carmen) to listen to. Ask pupils to note who is singing and to write descriptions of the characters, giving musical reasons for their choices.