Don Giovanni Teaching Resources

Music 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?

Extension

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.

Homework: Performance and composition

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.

 

Homework: Listening, reading and writing

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.

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