The Thrill of the Chase
English Language Arts, Visual-Spatial Skills, collaboration, social-emotional learning
- The reproducible handouts for this activity
- Writing utensils in multiple colors (colored pencils, markers, etc.)
- Scratch paper
Common Core Standards
This activity directly supports the following ELA-Literacy Common Core Strands:
Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6–8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.
Mozart’s masterful creation of Don Giovanni’s wily character is no better seen than in the Act 1 Scene III duet, “Là ci darem la mano.” Here, both the instrumentation and the vocal lines depict the smooth manipulation Giovanni uses to become whomever he needs to be in order to seduce his prey. In this activity, students will use movement and an improv game to explore this famous duet.
STEP 1. WARM UP
Kick off this activity with an improv game, “Honey, I love you, but I just can’t smile.”
- Begin by gathering the whole class into one large circle. Select one person to be the “Honey” and stand in the middle of the circle. The game begins with the “Honey” going up to one individual in the circle, facing them and saying “Honey, I love you. Can you give me a smile?” while looking their selected individual directly in the eyes.
- The person being spoken to by the “Honey” must respond with “Honey, I love you, but I just can’t smile” without breaking eye contact or smiling. If they are successful, then the “Honey” will repeat the process with another member of the circle until they fi nd someone who smiles.
- Whoever smiles or breaks eye contact with the “Honey” while saying “Honey, I love you, but I just can’t smile” then must switch places with the “Honey” and start the game again.
STEP 2. LISTEN AND ANALYZE
Now it’s time to turn to the duet from Don Giovanni. Have students sit back down, distribute the reproducible handout, and introduce the aria (Track 5).
In Act I scene III, Don Giovanni has just met Zerlina, a beautiful peasant girl, and Masetto, her fiancé. Giovanni offers to host the couple’s wedding celebration as a ploy to get Masetto to leaves to prepare for the ceremony. As soon as Masetto exits, Don Giovanni begins to seduce Zerlina with this beguiling duet, describing how happy they’ll be when they return to his palace together.
The music of the duet tells us much about the intentions of the two characters. Play the aria for your students and ask them to follow along with text and translation.
Once you’ve played the whole duet, ask for initial impressions. Then go back and play it piece by piece. Invite students to respond to what they hear; some notes on what to listen for are included in the following page.
Là ci darem la mano, There, you’ll give me your hand.
Là mi dirai di sì. There, you’ll tell me “yes.”
Vedi, non è lontano; Look, my home isn’t far—
Partiam, ben mio, da qui. Come, let’s go, my love
What to listen for: The duet opens with a simple, yet seductive vocal line sung by Giovanni. Knowing that Zerlina is a peasant, he speaks simply to her. The orchestra tenderly supports him with a framework of gentle strings and the occasional woodwind echo.
Vorrei e non vorrei, I want to, and I don’t want to
Mi trema un poco il cor. My heart is racing.
Felice, è ver, sarei, It’s true: I could be happy.
Ma può burlarmi ancor. But he could yet deceive me
What to listen for: Initially, Zerlina is doubtful of Giovanni’s promises, and her short, choppy melodies mimic her breathless uncertainty. Initially, she brushes him off, openly giving voice to her apprehensions. Yet in the background the gentle strings continue from Giovanni’s opening lines, suggesting that Giovanni is the true puppeteer of this moment.
Vieni, mio bel diletto! Come, my beautiful darling!
What to listen for: The brass herald the increasing intensity of Giovanni’s longing and usher in a new melodic motive. He is closing in on her, both musically and physically. The elegant vocal line and supporting brass are hard to resist!
Mi fa pietà Masetto. But I feel sorry for Masetto
What to listen for: Growing desperate to break free of the temptations Giovanni offers her, Zerlina reminds herself of her fiancé with a broken and angular vocal line.
Io cangerò tua sorte. I’ll change your fate
What to listen for: Gaining ground by the second, Giovanni dares her to trust him while simultaneously making it clear that he will not take no for an answer. The brass apply pressure.
Presto ... non son più forte. Come on … I can no longer resist!
What to listen for: Zerlina falters, half-hearted, aware now that she is defenseless in the face of Giovanni’s desire. He has her trapped, and they both know it.
Vieni! Vieni! Come, come!
What to listen for: Knowing that he has cornered his prey, Giovanni exclaims “Vieni! Vieni!” with both force and celebration. This is the loudest moment of the aria thus far, and it represents his impending “ownership” of Zerlina.
DON GIOVANNI ZERLINA
Là ci darem la mano, Vorrei e non vorrei,
Là mi dirai di sì. Mi trema un poco il cor.
Partiam, ben mio, da qui. Ma può burlarmi ancor
VIeni, mio bel diletto. Mi fa pietà Masetto.
Io cangierò tue sorte Presto ... non son più forte
What to listen for: The vocal lines intertwine, as Zerlina’s resistance dwindles. Although both the text and melodies are repeated from earlier in the aria, they now dance together. At the statement of her final “Andiam!,” Zerlina gives in completely, and the music changes texture, tempo and meter.
Andiam, andiam, mio bene. Let’s go together, my beloved,
a ristorar le pene To enjoy the pains and pleasures
D’un innocente amor. Of an innocent love.
What to listen for: With Zerlina’s capitulation, the song transforms to a lively country dance. Giovanni has won the battle for Zerlina, and now he celebrates in a language she understands. The vocal lines finally line up completely and they sing together. The chase is complete, and Giovanni has captured his prey.
STEP 3. COLOR
After listening to the duet, it is time to create a visual representation of the characters’ intentions. Decide if it will be more effective for your students to work alone or in small groups, and direct them accordingly.
A. (Working Alone) Select three colors you like. Use one color to represent Don Giovanni’s desire for Zerlina, one color to represent Zerlina’s opposition to Giovanni’s desire, and one color for when both characters are desiring the same thing. Using a blank sheet of paper, create an abstract expression of the duet as you listen, alternating between the three colors as you hear their desires more clearly. Try and fill the whole paper with color.
B. (Working in a Group) Brainstorm distinct styles of movement for Zerlina and Giovanni’s characters. For example: Giovanni stomps, chest raised, muscles tensed; or Zerlina dances lightly, shifting from place to place. Create an expressive physical presentation to the duet. Don’t forget to include the orchestra!
The issue of consent is central to Don Giovanni as a whole, but it is especially fraught in this duet. Given the relative social standings of Giovanni and Zerlina (he’s a gentleman, she’s a peasant), it is difficult for her to say “no.” This improv activity is designed to think through the issue of consent in a safe way. Divide students into small groups. Give each group one small object to hold. Now invite students to perform an improved scene using the same two lines of dialogue over and over:
Partner A (not holding the object) must only say “Give it to me.”
Partner B responds only with “No.”
Partners should experiment with using different vocal intonations and physical gestures each time they say these lines. After a few minutes, reconvene students and ask them to reflect on their experiences. When was it easy to say “no”? When was it hard? What might they take away from this activity?