But I love the “il catalogo e questo” when the servant Leporello comforts Donna Elvira by listing Don Juan’s feminine conquests. “In Italy, six hundred and forty; In Germany, two hundred and thirty-one; A hundred in France; in Turkey, ninety-one; But in Spain already one thousand and three.”
An hour behind the scouts in the gathering dusk came an equally weary infantry battalion. The cavalrymen, well drunk by this time, decided the infantry were after their booze. They constructed a makeshift fort from the gypsy wagons and, as the infantry approached, fired a warning shot or two. The infantry officers, unsure what was going on, shouted for their men to halt, pronounced in German as “halfte, halfte”. What the Slavic infantry heard was “utisit, utisit”, which is Czech for “Allah”. They thought their own officers were warning them the shooting was coming from Turkish Muslims.
Some returned fire. When the infantry fired back, more of the drunken cavalry fired. This exchange of gunfire, first, convinced the officers it was Turks to their front, and second, stampeded the tzigani’s horses, which convinced the officers they were about to be attacked by Turkish cavalry. The Austrian officers ordered a retreat, wondering why their scouts had not warned them the enemy was so near. The retreat immediately turned into a rout.
Amadeus Mozart lost his cushy court job. He never wrote another opera, and spent the next two years spending more time writing letters begging for money than he spent writing music. He died in 1791, famously buried in a pauper’s grave. Realizing this makes watching the the final scene in “Don Giovanni” all the more poignant. The aging reprobate hero is challenged to either repent or burn in eternal damnation. Don Juan has the chutzpa to sing, “To none will I succumb! For me there's no repentance.” How refreshing to meet an honest liar, if only in on the stage.
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