I, Don Giovanni (‘Io, Don Giovanni’)

DRAMA; 2hr 7min (Italian with subtitles)

STARRING: Lorenzo Balducci, Lino Guanciale, Tobias Moretti, Ennio Fantastichini

Frozen in time: Balducci

If the factually based life of Lorenzo da Ponte (Balducci) in I, Don Giovanni is anything to go by, Italy in the 1700s was a racy old scene. Born Jewish and reluctantly re-baptised Catholic as a boy, da Ponte grew up to be a dreamy-eyed, womanising priest — and buddy-buddy with Moretti’s Casanova, say no more…


Sentenced to 15 years’ exile from Venice for his sins, da Ponte seeks refuge in Vienna where in short order he encounters one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Guanciale) and court composer Antonio Salieri (Fantastichini). At the suggestion of the ever-scheming Salieri, the greenhorn outsider becomes Mozart’s librettist. Their collaboration on the revelatory opera Don Giovanni, about “the world’s greatest seducer,” is set to rock both their worlds.


Director Carlos Saura is a light-fingered storyteller, flipping through swatches of history with a maestro’s ease while keeping the mood playfully theatrical. As the opera comes together and da Ponte’s love-life comes apart, the fallout won’t shine a blinding light into anyone’s mind. But this Don does manage to bring opera down to earth.