An Operatic Mating Dance Analysis of La Ci Darem la Mano by Mozart In the duet, La Ci Darem La Mano, Mozart showed his mastery of musical style. He used a 2/4 time signature, creating a quick little dance rhythm. Just as birds do a mating dance, Don Giovanni uses music and poetry to seduce Zerlina (and the audience). This duet is the highlight of the opera, Don Giovanni. Don Giovanis part begins with two perfectly balanced phrases, and they are answered in kind, except that Zerlinas reply, the melody rises up a pitch at the end, creating an imbalance and signaling that she does not trust him. He replies with a louder and more forceful phrase, quite insistent. The rhythm of this duet is very much like a sophisticated minuet, and in listening, we can imagine the coquettish movements of the female dancers.
Mozart established a mood of gaiety and tryst with the accelerating tempo of the duet, even though this scene follows directly on the off stage rape of another young woman by Don Giovanni (Don Juan). The music requires a strong baritone for the male part and a female voice of strong timbre without losing the light quality required by the part of Zerlina, who may be strong and certainly quite excitable, but not “girlish”, as Zerlina, though somewhat innocent, is certainly a woman.
The melody begins on a lower register and rises in pitch to add excitement. It is structured like a finely choreographed mating dance. The strong baritone opens with a gentle invitation. Zerlina’s reply is finished off with a lovely broken chord to the higher register and then tempered with a gentle melodic finish. The bridge is a quickening exchange that picks up the tempo and includes a triple reputation for punctuation. As the tempo accelerates the singers overlap each other until they reach a climax in the music together. Once Zerlina becomes interested in Don Giovanni’s proposition, she almost turns the tables on him, quite insistent, and each phrase near the end falls in pitch and gathers strength. The trills repeat and become a melodic harmony, followed by short phrases in accelerating tempo. The vocal trills get faster and the final phrase rises and falls quickly in a musical orgasm of wonder harmony.
This is definitely one of the finest duets ever written. It almost defies classification, due to the mixture of styles and the catchy tunefulness of the melody. Some critics point out the differences in class among the characters and cite this as the reason for Mozart’s almost fusion opera.
“When we moved to the lower class characters, especially Zerlina and Masetto, we noted some very different musical characteristics. The music seemed much more evocative of dance-rhythms (much more “oom-pah” than what we heard from the nobles), and the melodies themselves, especially by Zerlina, are much more step-wise (and easier to hum along with!) than the often angular melodies of Donna Anna and Donna Elvira. The duet between Don Giovanni and Zerlina (“Là ci darem la mano”) was clearly part of this “lower class” music, yet Don Giovanni is obviously a nobleman. what’s he doing? Mozart gives Don Giovanni a remarkable aptitude in appropriating the music of those around him, including the melody of Donna Anna after he kills her father, and the peasant style of Zerlina, who can’t help but be effectually moved by his singing.” (Zbikowski, 2004)
1. Brown, Stephen, January 25, 2006, What Mozart and Sid Vicious have in common, Times Online, http://lifestyle.timesofmalta.com/article.php?id=3370
2. Zbikowski, Lawrence, Music 10400, Introduction to Music Analysis and Criticism. University of Chicago Department of Music, Autumn Quarter 2004, http://humanities.uchicago.edu/classes/zbikowski/10400.html