Don Giovanni’s motto is: A new day, a new woman. He takes any girl he likes, then simply discards the »used goods«. Donna Elvira is history, Donna Anna is ambushed in her room, and Zerlina is to be seduced away from her own wedding. The fact that he thereby gains the wrath of his jilted lovers, as well as their husbands and fathers, is just water off a duck’s back. When those he has duped join forces, Giovanni and his servant Leporello are able to escape by the skin of their teeth. Undaunted and unreformed, the carefree daredevil invites the ghost of Donna Anna’s father, whom he murdered, to dinner. Yet it is this ghost who sends Don Giovanni on his very last journey … In their interpretation of the legend of Don Juan, Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte created a new, archetypal perspective on the subject and its eponymous hero, which has been much debated by artists and philosophers over subsequent centuries. Mozart adopted an unusually sombre, at times demonic, style running through the entire opera, which, along with the subtle characterization, contradicts the previously hackneyed view of Don Giovanni as a cheerful youth, cocking a snook at fate.
Leporello is railing against his lot working for Don Giovanni: he would much rather be in the position of the rich man about town himself, instead of covering his back for various love affairs. Don Giovanni storms in, trying to hide from Donna Anna, who is pursuing him in a mad rage. Donna Anna’s father, the Commander, tries to apprehend Don Giovanni and is killed by him in the heat of the moment. Donna Anna returns to the scene of the murder with Don Ottavio. She makes her friend swear vengeance for her father over the dead body. Unimpressed by Leporello’s reproaches for his moral conduct after the deed, Don Giovanni is still on the lookout for more women. He espies a promising conquest in a lady who has been jilted by her lover. But as he tries to comfort her in his usual manner, it dawns upon him who she is: Donna Elvira, whom he himself had abandoned after a passionate three-day romance. Giovanni leaves the piquant situation to Leporello, who presents an aghast Elvira with his considerable list conscientiously recording all of Giovanni’s love affairs: the latest tally is 2064 names. This leaves Elvira thirsting for revenge. At the same time, Zerlina and Masetto are exuberantly celebrating their wedding. Don Giovanni invites the party to his home and sends them there to be alone with Zerlina. Just as his assurances are about to make her yield, Donna Elvira enters and denounces Giovanni as a traitor. Elvira also intervenes when Donna Anna and Don Ottavio visit Giovanni to ask for his help. Her suspicions aroused, Donna Anna recognizes Giovanni as her assailant and her father’s murderer. She angrily tells Don Ottavio about the rape in the night of the murder. Giovanni and Leporello are getting everything ready for a boisterous celebration. Zerlina is meanwhile trying to calm down the jealous Masetto. Donna Anna, Donna Elvira and Don Ottavio also come to the dance. When Giovanni ultimately besieges Zerlina, they unmask the rapist, who manages a narrow escape.
Leporello threatens to leave Giovanni, but the latter appeases him and lets him in on his next plan: he wants to swap clothes and seduce Donna Elvira’s maid while Leporello diverts Donna Elvira by posing as a rueful Don Giovanni. The ruse appears to work: Donna Elvira is responding to the supposed Giovanni’s vows to be faithful, while the real Giovanni serenades his latest love interest. This is interrupted by Masetto, who wants to find and kill Don Giovanni. Giovanni, pretending to be Leporello, offers his help at first, but then brutally strikes down Masetto. Zerlina finds Masetto and consoles him with a very special ‘medicine’. In his attempt to escape from Donna Elvira, Leporello runs into Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto, who mistake him for Giovanni and want to slay him. He unmasks himself and gets away. Don Ottavio, who had doubted Giovanni’s guilt so far, now announces his intention to report him to the authorities. Leporello has meanwhile fallen into Zerlina’s hands, who threatens him with great relish. Donna Elvira, the only one to have asked for Giovanni’s life to be spared, vents her conflicting emotions: even though he has hurt her so much, she still worries about him. Giovanni is meanwhile enjoying the night and relating another escapade to a much worse-for-wear Leporello. A sudden otherworldly voice interrupts them: the statue of the murdered commander warns Giovanni that his laughter will not last. Amused, Giovanni invites the statue for dinner. To alleviate her suffering, Don Ottavio proposes to Donna Anna, but she puts him off because of her mourning. Don Ottavio proclaims to stand by her nonetheless. The banquet is prepared at Giovanni’s when Donna Elvira implores him to change his ways for the very last time. Yet Don Giovanni will have none of it. Then the statue of the commander appears and asks Giovanni to repent. He refuses and is carried down to hell.