Key stage 3

How do set designers send a character to hell?

Ask students to make notes on how they would design the set. Write down at least 10 words that describe the mood, what they would add and what parts of the set move.
Students can create a tunnel book showing their own set design for the scene when Don Giovanni refuses to repent and is taken down to hell. Students could:

• Consider how they are going to depict hell (as flames or ice, how would this work on the stage)?
• Decide where Don Giovanni will exit (through the floor or could part of the stage move to hide him)?
• Experiment with the colour palette should they use (monochrome, realistic, etc.)?

How can you tell the story of Don Giovanni to other people?

Ask students to read the plot and, in small groups, make a decision on the six key dramatic points in the story (three in each act). For example, the duel between Don Giovanni and The Commendatore.

• Create thumbnail sketches of the six scenes which make a storyboard.
• Create a comic book of the opera using the storyboard as a guide; it could be a manga style comic book, made from photomontages of magazine images, or inspired by an illustrator like Chris Riddell.

How important are masks and deception in Don Giovanni?

Look at production gallery, ensuring students know the main characters, and ask them to name each character in this photo.
Introduce the main reasons for wearing masks (rituals, performance, disguise, etc.). Along with your students, look at the character descriptions in the opera.

Ask students to list the main character traits of Don Giovanni, Leporello and Donna Anna. Make clay or papier-mâché masks that show the true nature of these characters so they are not disguised anymore. Students could consider:

  • Exaggerated features, like large lips for Don Giovanni, as he tells lies
  • Animals that the character might resemble, like Donna Anna having lion or eagle-like features because she is brave.

How does our society deal with death?

Investigate what students know and understand about death and their beliefs about an afterlife. What happens when we die? Do they believe in an afterlife? Who gets to go to an afterlife? Is it on merit or does everybody go?

Compare how saints’ relics were decorated and worshipped in medieval churches with late 20th century artworks like ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ by Damien Hirst and ‘Monument’ by Susan Hiller.

Students can then create a small monument or tomb for a person or a historical event that is inspired by Susan Hiller’s work using card relief and a shoe box.

Key stage 4

Can the artist become the artwork? 

Research the work of photographer Cindy Sherman, particularly the untitled film stills and celebrity portraits series.

Students can work in pairs to list 10 words to describe the characters in Don Giovanni, then make judgements about their personalities and what type of people they are just by looking at their photo. This can lead to a fuller discussion on stereotypes and judgements we make about people's appearance

Students can be asked to bring in props or costumes to recreate their own still-style portrait based on the characters in Don Giovanni. Directional lighting helps create drama in the classroom or locations around school; reflections also work well using puddles or mirrors.

How and why do designers change our body shape?

Looking at the production photographs, ask students to choose and then sketch a costume which has the most interesting silhouette or radically alters the shape of the body.

Annotate the sketch showing where and how the body shape or silhouette has been changed.

How does your subconscious influence your drawing?

Investigate the methods of Jackson Pollock and ask students to explain the following quotes: ‘I am nature’ and ‘When I am in my painting, I am not aware of what I’m doing’.

Look closely at ‘Autumn Rhythm number 30’ by Jackson Pollock and ask students to describe the colour palette and marks.

Play clips of the arias from Don Giovanni whilst experimenting with mark making in black and white media only. Firstly ask students to listen with their eyes closed, to try and connect with the unconscious mind. Start making marks on paper with dry media like chalk, charcoal and pastel in dark tones. Then, each time the music changes tempo, from major to minor key (or changes mood) or singer, ask the students to change marks or media. Finish by using the dripping technique in grey or white liquid media like ink or poster paint.

Don Giovanni arias and duets

Là ci darem la mano

Deh, vieni alla finestra

Là ci darem la mano

Deh, vieni alla finestra

Madamina, il catalogo è questo

Madamina, il catalogo è questo

What made 1950s British designers world leaders?

Students could make a moodboard of found images and patterned fabrics and paper inspired by 1950s fashion shapes and interior fabrics.

Include information about a key 1950s designer working in Britain. For example: Lucienne Day, Robin Day, Marian Mahler, Jacqueline Groag.

Homework tasks

KS3 extension

KS4 extension

KS3 extension

Research and find examples of masks from other cultures and popular culture. Cut the pictures in half and draw the other half in a variety of media and create a mask poster.

KS4 extenstion

Design a dress or suit that combines the exaggerated shapes and silhouettes of 1950s fashion and the colours and mark making of the abstract expressionist painters of the time (e.g. Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning).