The unknown and the mystery: The freedom of Don Juan


‘The figure of Don Juan first came to light in the Spanish Comedy of Art in the early 15th century: more than identifying a social character however – the arrogant and unscrupulous noble – almost from the start, it came to represent human passion, an unending quest for pleasure, in an attempt to satisfy personal desires. Precisely because this figure was not tied to a social dimension, restricted to a specific age and culture (think of Goldoni’s characters, still enjoyable today), Don Juan was never set aside but always retrieved and reconsidered, becoming the expression, the artistic compendium of human experience and of the conscience of various artists. The fact that this character took on concrete shape, personifying his inner anguish, resulted in a greater awareness or understanding of one’s own humanness, contemplated and grasped as it was fully implemented and unfolded. An important example of this is the relationship between Da Ponte’s libretto and Mozart’s music. The notes of the Salzburg genius manage to develop the terrible power and tragedy of the seducer’s story, giving weight to Da Ponte’s words, in themselves limited to a naive lightness and playfulness: it is as if the music revealed the meaning of a story that the protagonist is unable to understand, busy as he is with his love affairs (the point of view given by the words). It was subsequently Pushkin who portrayed this dual point of view in the work “The Stone Guest”, where, though faithfully keeping to the abbots plot, the figure of Don Juan takes on a much more dramatic and profound meaning. Here the tragic aspect of the seducer’s quest is grasped for the first time in literature, incapable as he is of finding the object able to totally satisfy his desires. The verses of Lenau admirably express the anguish deep in the seducer’s soul: the conclusion is mournful, as if reality had disappeared, lost all sense, due to the lack of long-desired love. And it was precisely through the work of the German poet that Don Juan took on the aspect of a journey towards the unknown, towards something which, though long awaited and sought, appears out of reach and perhaps non-existent: this is the aspect that distinguishes Byron’s Don Juan. In the English poet’s work, the journey takes on an almost cyclic repetitiveness: the efforts of the seducer strongly increase but, finding no total satisfaction, it is as if they turned on themselves and were made vain, as if Don Juan made no progress and remained always at the point of departure: Kierkegaard, in an essay on Mozart’s work, emphasised its inconclusiveness, the uselessness of the libertine’s reiterating his efforts, reducing all his affairs to a repetition of the same thing (as he intelligently exemplifies by analysing the aria sung by Leporello). The more his feats are multiplied, the more his soul is tortured by anguish due to the failure of his efforts and to his fear for the imminent inexorable end. A way out is created by Milosz, where Don Juan appears to find, for the first time, only now, a woman, someone else. Until now, we had witnessed only the continuous passion of the Self, of the seducer who, in the end showed all his failings and limits. The figure of Girolama is different, a concrete, but at the same time mysterious presence. It is precisely this difference that amazed Miguel, being so alien to his way of thinking and conceiving. And it is here that the protagonist changes. Only now does he appear able to move, progress, without turning back on himself, but opening out to other things: no more anguish and grieving, but rather wonder and gratitude, feelings that become deeper and strengthen after the death of Girolama, the talks with the abbot and the final decision of Miguel.’


22 Agosto 1999 - 28 Agosto 1999


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions