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Dissecting “Il Catalogo e Questo”

This is a brief reaction paper on the aria "Il Catalogo e Questo" from Mozart's Don Giovanni.  One of my favorite operas and probably my favorite male aria.  Not sure what exactly we were supposed to accomplish with this paper, being freshmen as we were, but any excuse to listen to opera, I say.
Doug Van Hollen

USEM 
Keillor

Dissecting “Il Catalogo e Questo”
The aria “Il Catalogo e Questo” is sung by Leporello to Donna Elvira in Act I.  Leporello was instructed by Don Giovanni to “tell her everything,” and this aria explains to both Donna Elvira and the audience the nature and scale of Don Giovanni’s quest
At the beginning, as Leporello first shows Elvira the list, the winds and low strings start a fast eighth-note accompaniment to high string arpeggios.  This combination gives the piece a very classical style as Leporello states his melodic introduction.  Then, the high strings state a motif repeated numerous times throughout the aria: a descending eighth-note scale.  This motif gives the piece musical movement, and it provides a simple contrapuntal structure to the melody that Leporello is singing.  The strings repeat this line as Leporello recites the statistics from around Europe, suggesting Don Giovanni’s traveling.  One might imagine that each eighth note played by the strings represents a contrast.  Such a melody might be running through Donna Elvira’s head as she attempts to fathom the shear numbers of women that the Don has loved.  Mozart makes a big deal, musically, out of the phrase “Ma in Ispagna son gia mille e tre,” placing a ritardando and a fermata at the start of the line, then changing the musical style to a grand chordal cadence as Leporello boasts this great number in his master’s stead.  As Leporello recites the variety of types of women preferred by Don Giovanni, his melody is transposed a step each time he sings a line, and the string harmony does likewise.  The progression upwards leads to Leporello’s encompassing remark “E v’han donne d’ogni grado...” that caps off what the preceding stanza was attempting to articulate.  He then reiterates the figures from the list with variation and augmentation.  The nature of the aria changes dramatically at this point, and Leporello sings a slower and more romantic melody, attempting to demonstrate his master’s manner in winning women as well as describing in detail his master’s techniques for each type of woman.  The listener should notice the quite appropriate musical accompaniment chosen for each of Leporello’s descriptive terms.  When Leporello sings words such as “gentilezza,” dolcezza,” “grande maestosa,” and “piccina,” his melody and the overall musical mood matches his words precisely and artistically.  Leporello’s last and climax stanza includes and dramatic anticipation of the humorous line “Purche porti la gonnella,” which showcases Mozart’s careful and intelligent composing.  From that point, as Leporello sums up his point to Zerlina, Mozart rounds the aria off with insistent quarter- and eighth-notes leading to very dramatic, very classical ending chords.
This aria shows the close bond that Mozart wove between the lyrics and the music.  “Il Catalogo e Questo” proves to be not only a very important dramatic addition to Don Giovanni, but also an impressive piece of music in its own right.

The aria “Il Catalogo e Questo” is sung by Leporello to Donna Elvira in Act I.  Leporello was instructed by Don Giovanni to “tell her everything,” and this aria explains to both Donna Elvira and the audience the nature and scale of Don Giovanni’s quest.

At the beginning, as Leporello first shows Elvira the list, the winds and low strings start a fast eighth-note accompaniment to high string arpeggios.  This combination gives the piece a very classical style as Leporello states his melodic introduction.  Then, the high strings state a motif repeated numerous times throughout the aria: a descending eighth-note scale.  This motif gives the piece musical movement, and it provides a simple contrapuntal structure to the melody that Leporello is singing.  

The strings repeat this line as Leporello recites the statistics from around Europe, suggesting Don Giovanni’s traveling.  One might imagine that each eighth note played by the strings represents a contrast.  Such a melody might be running through Donna Elvira’s head as she attempts to fathom the shear numbers of women that the Don has loved.  

Mozart makes a big deal, musically, out of the phrase “Ma in Ispagna son gia mille e tre,” placing a ritardando and a fermata at the start of the line, then changing the musical style to a grand chordal cadence as Leporello boasts this great number in his master’s stead.  As Leporello recites the variety of types of women preferred by Don Giovanni, his melody is transposed a step each time he sings a line, and the string harmony does likewise.  The progression upwards leads to Leporello’s encompassing remark “E v’han donne d’ogni grado...” that caps off what the preceding stanza was attempting to articulate. He then reiterates the figures from the list with variation and augmentation.  

The nature of the aria changes dramatically at this point, and Leporello sings a slower and more romantic melody, attempting to demonstrate his master’s manner in winning women as well as describing in detail his master’s techniques for each type of woman.  The listener should notice the quite appropriate musical accompaniment chosen for each of Leporello’s descriptive terms.  When Leporello sings words such as “gentilezza,” dolcezza,” “grande maestosa,” and “piccina,” his melody and the overall musical mood matches his words precisely and artistically.  

Leporello’s last and climax stanza includes and dramatic anticipation of the humorous line “Purche porti la gonnella,” which showcases Mozart’s careful and intelligent composing.  From that point, as Leporello sums up his point to Zerlina, Mozart rounds the aria off with insistent quarter- and eighth-notes leading to very dramatic, very classical ending chords.

This aria shows the close bond that Mozart wove between the lyrics and the music.  “Il Catalogo e Questo” proves to be not only a very important dramatic addition to Don Giovanni, but also an impressive piece of music in its own right.

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