In my past life, I was a theatre historian. I have a MA degree from Ohio State University in Theatre History and completed 1 1/2 years of a PhD in a similar program at University of California Santa Barbara. At that time, I realized that I wanted a little more in life than pouring over esoteric texts in libraries, constantly going tooth and nail with my peers to establish myself, having no control over where I lived, and never quite feeling adequate in any shape or form, aka I opted out of academia.

When I left California, I never looked back.

I don’t miss the world of academia in any sense, but I do miss the arts scene. In graduate school, I saw several plays a month, dance shows, operas, pretty much anything that was being performed, I got tickets.

I tried to keep this up when I first moved back to Madison and now I am ashamed to admit that life has gotten in the way. I was thrilled when Madison Opera announced a Blog It! Tweet It! night for area bloggers and social media enthusiasts. Multiply that by 10 when I found out that I was selected. Manatee was equally thrilled: I would stop grumbling about getting out to the opera and he didn’t have to go with me (we tried going and he is not a fan).

Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni, courtesy of Virginia Opera

Don Giovanni, courtesy of Virginia Opera

Tomorrow night I will be seeing a dress rehearsal of Madison Opera’s Don Giovanni. Here are some quick facts about the opera:

– The music was written by Mozart.

– It was first performed in Prague in 1787.

– George Bernard Shaw wrote a comedy of manners, Man and Superman, based on the opera.

– It’s in the top ten of most produced operas.

Badger Girl Synopsis

From what I have read, it seems to me that this sums up the story:

Don Giovanni is a womanizer who seduces women who are either not interested or committed to someone else. He begins the opera by seducing a woman who is engaged to another man. When she cries out, her father rushes in to save her. In a dual, Don Giovanni kills him. She and her fiance vow to avenge her father’s death.

Don Giovanni continues to seduce women who are not interested throughout the play who are only saved when they cry for help. Later in the play, he seduces a woman under a statue of the man he killed earlier. The statue comes to life and gives Don Giovannia a piece of his mind. Unfazed, Don Giovanni invites him to dinner.

There is one woman who is interested in him, but because he already seduced her, Don Giovanni is not interested.

In the end, the earth opens up and Don Giovanni goes to Hell.

Don Giovanni, courtesy of Virginia Opera

Don Giovanni, courtesy of Virginia Opera


Most of the characters are happy about this except the one woman who liked him. She flees to a nunnery.


Consider this synopsis below the level of the Idiot’s Guide to Don Giovanni. I left out most major characters and several plot twists, but it’s all I need to know going into the show.

Madison Opera’s Production

Here is the blurb from the Madison Opera:

Murder, seduction, eternal damnation,
and other secrets of the night.

According to his (not-so-little) black book, Don Giovanni has seduced 1,003 women in Spain alone. Over the course of a scandalously sinful day, his misadventures come back to literally haunt him, as Mozart’s brilliant score whirls people in and out of the Don’s midst. One of the greatest operas ever written, Don Giovanni simply does not age. If you’ve never seen it, come discover the glory of a piece that has been thrilling audiences (and shocking a few of them) for over 225 years. If you’ve seen it less than 1,003 times, come see it brought to life afresh, with a young, vibrant cast.

This is what I love about opera. It’s seen as a “high art,” but really it has the makings of any good soap opera: love, sex, betrayal, and then throw in some supernatural magic and eternal damnation to keep things lively.

What I will be looking for

Over and over, I have read that this opera is a masterpiece and in general, people seem to like Don Giovanni. Yet when I read the synopsis, he seems like a jerk. As Lindsay Christians points out in a recent article on the fight choreography, he starts the play by raping a girl and then killing her father.  How can they make Don Giovanni a likeable guy? Or, do they even bother?

And the age old question, what makes this opera a masterpiece?

Check back on Thursday for my review of the opera and follow me at @Bdgergrl to hear my real-time tweets and reactions to the show.

Facts, Synopsis and other trivia from: Wikipedia,, Seattle Opera, and Madison Opera.


Fun trivia fact, this blog began as a way to record my adventures in England and Scotland during a trip I took during my MA. Here is a snapshot of my posts back then.

Have you ever seen Don Giovanni? Anything I should look for?



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