Don Giovanni (1979 film)

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Don Giovanni
Promotional poster
Directed by Joseph Losey
Produced by Robert Nador
Michel Seydoux
Screenplay by Rolf Liebermann
Joseph Losey
Patricia Losey
Renzo Rossellini
Frantz Salieri
Based on Don Giovanni 
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte (libretto)
Starring Ruggero Raimondi
John Macurdy
Edda Moser
Kiri Te Kanawa
Kenneth Riegel
José van Dam
Teresa Berganza
Malcolm King
Eric Adjani
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Cinematography Angelo Filippini
Gerry Fisher
Edited by Reginald Beck
Emma Menenti
Distributed by Artificial Eye (United Kingdom)
New Yorker Films (United States)
Gaumont (France)
Release dates
  • 1979 (1979)
Running time
185 min. (France)
Country France
United Kingdom
Language Italian
Budget $7,000,000 US dollars (estimated)

Don Giovanni is a 1979 French-Italian film directed by Joseph Losey. It is an adaptation of Mozart's classic opera Don Giovanni, based on the Don Juan legend of a seducer, destroyed by his excesses. The film stars Ruggero Raimondi in the title role, and the conductor is Lorin Maazel. It was re-released on DVD in 2008.


After an unsuccessful attempt to seduce Donna Anna (soprano Edda Moser), Don Giovanni (baritone Ruggero Raimondi) kills her father Il Commendatore (bass John Macurdy). The next morning, Giovanni meets Donna Elvira (soprano Kiri Te Kanawa), a woman he previously seduced and abandoned. Later, Giovanni happens upon the preparations for a peasant wedding and tries to seduce the bride-to-be Zerlina (mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza), but his ambition is frustrated by Donna Elvira.

Donna Anna soon realizes that Giovanni killed her father, and she pursues the seducer along with her fiance Don Ottavio (tenor Kenneth Riegel). Ever ready to attempt a seduction, Giovanni woos Elvira's maid. As part of his plans, he switches clothes with his servant Leporello (bass-baritone José van Dam), who rapidly finds himself in trouble with people who mistake him for his master. Leporello flees and eventually meets Giovanni at the cemetery where Il Commendatore is buried. They jokingly invite the statue at his grave to dinner. While they are dining, the supernaturally animated statue arrives, and the horrified Giovanni is drawn into an open-pit fire.


In the opera, the action supposedly takes place in Spain, but Mozart's librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte wrote in Italian, and this film uses locations in Venice and the Veneto. In particular, the film features buildings by Palladio in and around the city of Vicenza (Basilica Palladiana, Villa Rotonda and Teatro Olimpico).

The total budget for the film was about $7,000,000.

Criticism and evaluation

Reginald Beck won the César Award for Best Editing, and Alexandre Trauner won for Production Design. The cinematography is lush with many scenes set in visually appealing locations, such as the Villa Rotonda or gondolas gliding through the canals of Venice.

The film casts some of the best opera singers of its day. Notable set-pieces of the opera, including the catalogue aria and the duet of Giovanni and Zerlina (Là ci darem la mano), are handled well. However, the sound has been criticised for being recorded in an over-reverberant acoustic. There has also been criticism of the operatic scale of acting by some of the performers, which does not always translate convincingly to the movie screen.[1]


  1. Redwine, Ivana. "Review of Don Giovanni".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links