Was Don Giovanni a Jew? Discuss.

Was Don Giovanni a Jew? Discuss.


norman lebrecht

November 01, 2011

The classical music critic of Tablet magazine, David P. Goldman, has published a fascinating theological subtext to the Mozart/da Ponte opera, arguing that it foretells the doom of Christianity and the European social order.

Da Ponte was an Italian Jew who was converted as a youth to Christianity, reverting to his original faith once he reached the United States.

One might also wonder whether da Ponte did not use the Don as a personal surrogate, wreaking vengeance on Christian women and families for the persecution of the Jews by church and society, and the expulsion of his ancestors from Spain.


  • Don Giovanni’s bad character and his exploitation of the disadvantaged is a fairly strong statement about social ills of feudalism. Mozart was viewed by the court with some trepidation as part of the rising power of the bourgeoisie. The beginning of the French revolution followed the premiere by only two years. The work hardly foretold the collapse of the European social order, since it was already underway.

    Don’t know about the Jewish question. The sexual exploitation of “Christian” women would fit into some of the worst anti-Semitic tropes.

  • ariel says:

    Garbage is what comes to mind – were it only a stupid premise one could dismiss it to a degree , as it
    reads one can only shake ones’ head in amazement at what passes for thought .

  • I’m pleased that Mr. Lebrecht is interested in my essay for Tablet. I should add that Don Giovanni is never construed to be a Jew, but is rather a “metaphysical construct,” as I put it, illustrating the classical rabbinic critique of Catholic salvation theory. The irony is that in Tirso de Molina’s 1630 play Don Juan is in fact a devout Catholic.

  • Sorry, but I completely fail to see how a statue come to life with it’s stone grip demanding repentance has anything to do with Christian love, unless you want to make a poltergeist out to be a manifestation of heaven. I only mention Christianity because this is the target; you could take any religion and those corrupting its teachings combined with those looking for something to criticize about it’s teachings and end up with the same poltergeist, or whatever is supposed to be policing such ideology on whatever side. I think it’s exactly this threat of repent or be damned that steals from society the very nature that would tend to the human condition. And thus, you have what you have and what you end up with and what is exposed when the first harsh chords of Don Giovanni melt into an inner world, which when taken in, can transcend this harshness hovering around it by seeing the humanity in all the characters; and how it isn’t tended to by doctrine, whether that be social, religious, intellectual or what have you. Beyond this, there is the warmth of each character and what makes them human and divine, even in spite of the actions in what is perceived as the plot of the very opera they appear in. That only explain the facade NOT the humanity underneath it.