Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

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[+] Chong, Nicholas Junkai. “Music for the Last Supper: The Dramatic Significance of Mozart’s Musical Quotations in the Tafelmusik of Don Giovanni.” Current Musicology (September 2011). 7-52.

Mozart’s quotations of three opera buffa melodies in the Tafelmusik scene of Don Giovanni are generally understood to be jokes for his audience and colleagues. However, if the quotations are treated seriously as sources of intertextual meaning, they might serve a greater dramatic purpose than simply giving listeners the delight of recognition. The first quotation comes from Vincente Martin y Soler’s Una cosa rara, an opera with superficial plot similarities to Don Giovanni. Specifically, Mozart quotes the chorus from the Act I finale of Cosa rara, which depicts a falsely joyful conclusion, mirroring Don Giovanni’s premature dinner celebration. The next quotation comes from Giuseppe Sarti’s Fra i due litiganti il terzo gode, a farcical story of three men vying for the affection of a serving-maid. The quoted aria, “Come un agnello,” comes from one of the suitors (prematurely) boasting about winning the hand of his beloved, much like the ever-cocky Don Giovanni. The opening line of the quoted aria, “Like a lamb which goes to the slaughter,” has been interpreted by previous scholars as referring to Don Giovanni’s conquests, Don Giovanni himself, or (as Steffen Lösel argues) as an allusion to the Last Supper. The final quotation, from Mozart’s own The Marriage of Figaro, comes from Figaro’s aria “Non più andrai,” in which Figaro tells Cherubino his days as an “amorous philanderer” are over, foreshadowing Don Giovanni’s fate. Mozart’s choice to quote his own opera—and to have Leporello recognize the tune—creates what John Kirby describes as a “double rhetorical situation,” inserting Mozart’s compositional persona (if not the man himself) into readings of the opera text. As a unit, the quick transitions between the Tafelmusik quotations reflect Don Giovanni’s shifting musical (and social) identity. They also ironically affirm the opera buffa conventionality before Mozart subverts convention in the next scene. One final function of the Tafelmusik quotations is to blur the line between the world of the opera and the world of the audience, welcoming the audience to engage with the characters and lessons of Don Giovanni on a more personal level.

Works: Mozart: Don Giovanni (8-29)

Sources: Vincente Martin y Soler: Una cosa rara (8-16, 16-19, 25-29); Giuseppe Sarti: Fra i due litiganti il terzo gode (8-16, 19-21 25-29); Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro (8-16, 21-25, 25-29)

Index Classifications: 1700s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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