16 Pages

Donna Elvira: The Colossal Feminine Character, from donna abbandonata to the Embodiment of Modern Sorrow

BySara Ellen Eckerson

Donna Elvira is one of the leading characters in the Wolfgang Amadeus MozartLorenzo Da Ponte opera, Don Giovanni (Il dissoluto punito ossia il Don Giovanni), K 527 (which premiered in Prague in 1787). Her character is introduced initially in Da Ponte’s libretto as dama di Burgos, abbandonata da Don Giovanni (Donna Elvira, a Lady from Burgos, Abandoned by Don Giovanni).1 According to this story, she has been deceived by Don Giovanni and is on a mission of revenge. Donna Elvira has been represented in the play by Molière entitled Dom Juan ou le Festin de Pierre (which premiered in Paris in 1665) as Don Juan’s wife, and a nun when she was seduced. In the Danish translation by Laurids Kruse (Copenhagen, 1807), Søren Kierkegaard’s primary source text, Donna Elvira sings about having been a nun and living in a convent. The description and use Kierkegaard makes of Donna Elvira is then a combination of both her role in the different sources of the Don Juan myths, and more importantly, her representation or the actual stage performances by different actresses playing Donna Elvira in the Mozart opera, Don Giovanni. One of the primary characterizations made by A in “Silhouettes” is that Elvira represents the figure of a donna abbandonata, with a turbulent psychological state characterized as an oscillation between feelings of a passionate love for Don Giovanni and a wrathful hatred towards him. Throughout the texts, Søren Kierkegaard speaks of “Donna Elvira” and “Elvira” interchangeably. Nevertheless, it is important that she maintains her aristocratic status throughout, even if “Donna” is omitted when her name is mentioned.