History, Literature, Poetry, Creative Writing, Music, Critical Thinking, Social-Emotional Learning
- The reproducible handouts for this activity
- A pen or pencil
- Scratch paper
- Access to a video- or musicstreaming service
Optional Materials (for cardboard guitar)
- Rubber bands
- Old pencils
Common Core Standards
This activity directly supports the following ELA-Literacy Common Core Strands:
Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
Create a presentation, art work, or text in response to a literary work with a commentary that identifies connections. Make deliberate, personal, cultural, textual, and thematic connections
Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.
A tireless womanizer, Don Giovanni uses a vast array of techniques to woo his lovers and convince them to let down their guard. During his Act II aria, “Deh, vieni alla finestra,” Giovanni even goes so far as to convince his servant Leporello to lip-sync for him as he serenades a young woman (the maid of one of his former lovers, no less!) from the shadows.
In this activity, students will explore the motivation and meaning behind this aria by comparing it to modern love scenes and brainstorming what makes the serenade unique. They will then either perform their own serenade or take part in a lip-synced serenade contest with their peers.
STEP 1. BRAINSTORM
Begin by inviting students to think of famous scenes in books, movies, or TV shows in which one character attempts to romance another by appearing below
their bedroom window and singing or calling to them. (Some popular examples
include Cyrano de Bergerac, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, and Say Anything.)
- Do students have any questions about the plot?
- Do they recognize the plot?
- If so, did anything about the synopsis surprise them?
STEP 2. READ AND LISTEN
Distribute the text and translation of “Deh, vieni alla finestra” (Track 3) to students. The reproducible also includes the following description of the scene.
In this scene, Don Giovanni’s manservant, Leporello, has just tried to convince Giovanni to abandon his constant pursuit of women. But Giovanni is having none of it—in fact, insists that he needs women more than he needs air or food! Now he has his eye on Elvira’s servant girl, but getting past Elvira will take some serious trickery. So Giovanni convinces Leporello to switch clothes with him. Giovanni then calls out to Elvira through her window. When she comes down to the street, she thinks that the disguised Leporello is Giovanni, and she agrees to go for a walk with him. This leaves Giovanni, disguised as his own servant, free to serenade Elvira’s maid.
- Ask students to think about how they might stage this scene, and explain that in some productions, Leporello (dressed as Giovanni) lip-syncs where Elvira can see him, while Giovanni sings and plays the guitar in the shadows.
- It may be helpful to share the following definition: A serenade is a simple song of greeting, usually performed outside. In dramatic settings, we often see characters standing on a street, serenading their beloved through an open window.
- Next play the aria for your students. As they listen, students should jot down observations on the mood of the piece (“It sounds nostalgic,” “He sounds happy,” etc.).
- Share out. Invite students to compare their descriptions of the aria to your previous discussions of similar scenes in Step 1. What do these scenes have in common? How might they differ?
STEP 3. LIP-SYNC
- Now it’s time for students to devise their own versions of this scene. They’ll start by thinking like Don Giovanni, picking a serenade to sing. Then they’ll take on the role of Leporello, lip-syncing his heart out where Elvira (and the audience) can see him.
- Ask students to select a snippet (approximately 30–60 seconds long) from a favorite song that they think would work well as a serenade. (Make sure to select a song with a school-appropriate text!)
- Next, invite them to spend some time (possibly as homework) rehearsing their snippet. Also make sure they know the exact timings of their performance (ex: “I will be singing from 1:23–2:01 on the track”). Finally, invite them to perform their lip-sync for the class.
- Sing through the SATB arrangement of “Deh vieni alla finestra” available on the
- Check out “Ecco, ridente in cielo” from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, another famous operatic serenade. How does it compare to “Deh, vieni alla finestra”?
- Guide students through a discussion about consent, and how using someone else to serenade on your behalf might be problematic.
The libretto specifies that Don Giovanni should play a guitar or mandolin as he performs this scene. As an homage to this musical prop, have students make their own cardboard guitars.
Use the template included in the reproducibles to trace the shape of the guitar onto your cardboard. Cut out four copies of the cardboard guitars. Select one of the four copies to be the face of the instrument. Cut a circle into the center of the face piece of the guitar to create your sound hole.
Use your glue to stick all four of the guitar copies together in a stack, making sure that the piece with the sound hole is on top. This will create a firm base for the bottom part of your instrument.
Now draw a two-and-three-quarters-inch-long line one inch below the sound hole. Then draw four dots one-third of an inch below the line. Your dots should be about one half-inch apart. Repeat the same process at the top of the neck of the guitar (about one inch from the top edge). These will be for the toothpicks that will serve as pegheads for your guitar strings.
Select two of the two-inch broken pencils and glue them directly onto the lines below the sound hole and near the top of the neck. Allow to dry completely.
Next, push toothpicks into the dots you drew below the sound hole and on the neck. Push each toothpick firmly into place leaving enough of the toothpick exposed that your rubber bands can tie around them. Glue for extra hold.
Carefully tie your cut rubber bands around the end of each toothpick and stretch them to the corresponding toothpick at the other end of the guitar: These are your strings. Make sure that each rubber band-string rests on top of the pencils at the base of the sound hole and top of the neck. Use scissors to snip off the pointy ends of the toothpicks.
You are ready to serenade!