Madamina, il catalogo e questo is an aria from scene 2 of Act I of the opera Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The aria is sung by Leporello, Don Giovanni's manservant. The aria, as well as the character of Leporello, exhibit solid examples of Opera Buffa techniques. This represents a style of libretto that was becoming very popular at the time, dramma giocoso. Dramma giocoso sought to blend the comedy with the serious or tragic. Don Giovanni, written in 1787, serves as a mixture of raucous comedy, melodramatic tragedy, and an observation on morality. Madamina, il catalogo e questo represents one of the most comedic moments in the entire opera.
At the opening of Scene 2, Giovanni and Leporello arrive in a courtyard near Giovanni’s palace and hear the scornful tune of a young woman (Donna Elvira) who seeks revenge against her unfaithful lover. Don Giovanni, seeing an opportunity, begins to flirt with the young woman, only to have her realize that he is the absent lover and object of her hatred. Giovanni quickly exits after ordering Leporello to explain to Elvira the kind of man with whom she is dealing.
The text of Madamina, il catalogo e questo begins by describing the number of Don Giovanni’s lovers organized by country and occupation. The numbers from each country are in the hundreds or thousands. The second section of the aria expounds upon how or why he seduces a particular type of woman. These two sections are separated musically as well.
The opening section of the aria is marked by short rhythms and brief phrases. This lends itself well to the libretto as Leporello is listing the Don’s accomplishments. Most arias of this nature at this time would incorporate a cavatina (a simple melodious air) followed by a cabaletta (usually a faster more virtuosic section), however, Madamina, il catalogo e questo reverses this typical order. Mozart chooses to place the cabaletta first and then follow with the cavatina.
Deh viene alla finestra is another aria from Don Giovanni, this time sung by the Don himself albeit disguised as Leporello. The aria occurs as Giovanni is attempting to serenade and seduce Donna Elvira’s maid. This aria is more closely related to the cavatina from Madamina, il catalogo e questo. It is a simple, but beautiful song accompanied, supposedly, by the Don playing the mandolin. As the text begs the maid to approach the window, Giovanni sings a slow relatively reserved melody designed to feature the beauty and sensuous power of his voice. This is in contrast to the beginning of Leporello’s aria which begins in a much more virtuosic way. Deh viene alla finestra is also much sorter than Madamina, il catalogo e questo, highlighting the idea that it takes Leporello much longer to list and describe Don Giovanni’s exploits than it does for Giovanni to add another encounter to his list.
I chose this aria because it exemplifies many of the opera buffa characteristics, but appears in a work of ambiguous qualifications. While Mozart catalogued Don Giovanni as opera buffa, it clearly represents something more complex in meaning. Most likely the most virtuosic of all of Mozart’s operas, Don Giovanni, represents Mozart’s culmination of existing operatic styles. While Die Zaberflote and Cosi Fan Tutti would follow Don Giovanni chronologically, they each remain much more grounded within the opera buffa category. Don Giovanni represents something very different. I believe this is why so many musicians, writers, and philosophers have continue to study and debate the meaning of the work even today.
Madamina, il catalogo è questo (Leporello, Ferruccio Furlanetto). Don Giovanni de Mozart. YouTube Video, 5:32. Posted by vesterico. Upload date: March 14, 2009. http://youtu.be/INF9r5jju0A
Noske, F.R. "Don Giovanni: Musical Affinities and Dramatic Structure." Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae . no. 12 (1970): 167-203. http://www.jstor.org/stable/901357 (accessed April 5, 2014).
Johnson, James. "Sincerity and Seduction in Don Giovanni ." expositions. no. 2 (2007). http://expositions.journals.villanova.edu/article/view/50/33 (accessed April 5, 2014).
Link to Full Score . Aria begins on Page 62.