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date: 20 November 2018

Sex, Politics, and Censorship in Mozart’s Don Giovanni/Don Juan

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines sex, politics, and censorship in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni/Don Juan, published in Vienna in the spring or summer of 1787. More specifically, it considers the so-called dialogic aspects of censorship by citing the example of institutional supervision over the content of Mozart’s work. It first discusses the issues surrounding the libretto and the role of censorship in several performances of a German adaptation at the Vienna court theater. It then describes how Franz Karl Hägelin, head of the office of the theater censor in Vienna, and other court theater personnel at the time approached the content of German-language works presented to them in the early 1780s.

Keywords: sex, politics, censorship, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, opera, Don Giovanni, Don Juan, Vienna, court theater, Franz Karl Hägelin

Numerous studies of Mozart’s operas touch on the relationship between Mozart, his librettists, and the notoriously strict Viennese censors. Censorship figures prominently in discussions of the earliest printed libretto of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, published in Vienna in the spring or summer of 1787 (before the premiere of the opera in Prague in the fall of that year). According to the theory first articulated by Alfred Einstein (1956, 220), the libretto was published for inspection by the censors, and in order to avoid a censorial ban, Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte left out the most risqué numbers in the first act, including the famous “Champagne” aria and the whole first-act finale containing Don Giovanni’s attempted rape of the peasant girl Zerlina.1 Similarly, several scholars have suggested that various aspects of Mozart’s other operas, such as The Magic Flute, also reflect the restrictive Viennese censorship of the period.2 These theories and studies are often based on the assumption that composers and librettists in Mozart’s Vienna had to curb their creative desires in order to avoid a censorial ban, and that even then their authorial vision was frequently altered during the process of inspection. Moreover, many scholars search for traces of various methods through which the opera authors attempted to circumvent the censors.3

These perspectives certainly reflect important aspects of Viennese theater from the late eighteenth century onward. Vienna was one of the first cities in the German-speaking world with an official system of theater censorship, established in 1770. As a result, large portions of theatrical pieces were excised, entire works were prohibited from performance, and various Viennese intellectuals expressed frustration with censorship. But, as more detailed studies of theater and opera censorship have shown (Holquist 1994; Giger 1999; Höyng 2003; Izzo 2007), late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century systems of theatrical control were complex and often arbitrary; they did not (p. 176) necessarily incorporate a unidirectional chain of command emanating from the censor in order to restrict the creative urges of the author, the rules according to which the censors judged their works were not permanently fixed, and the process of approval or banning was far from straightforward. Michael Holquist (1994) and Peter Höyng (2003) have proposed instead that censorship be viewed as a bundle of multidirectional and often contradictory negotiations stretching beyond censors and authors. In this essay I explore what Holquist (1994, 21) calls the “dialogic aspects of censorship” with the example of institutional supervision over the content of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. First, I reevaluate the issues surrounding the 1787 Vienna libretto, and second, I discuss the role of censorship in several performances from around 1800 of a German adaptation of Mozart’s opera, titled Don Juan, at the Vienna court theater.

As mentioned earlier, the office of the theater censor was established in Vienna in 1770. That same year, Empress Maria Theresia appointed Franz Karl Hägelin to that office, which he held for the next thirty-four years, retiring in December of 1804.4 Hägelin was officially responsible for supervising the content of any German-language opera and spoken play to be performed in any Viennese theater. Throughout most of his tenure, Hägelin was especially strict with the works presented at the Viennese court theater (consisting throughout this period of the Burgtheater and Kärntnertortheater) due to its association with the imperial government and its representative function as an exemplary institution of German national culture.

The strictness with which Hägelin and other court theater personnel approached the content of German-language works to be presented at the institution in the early 1780s becomes obvious when we compare Viennese versions of plays and libretti written for foreign stages to the originals. The opening of the first-act aria of Prince Alwin, the main hero of the 1782 opera Das Irrlicht, provides a concise example. The libretto by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner was originally published in 1779 in North Germany and set to music by several local composers. In 1782, Gottlieb Stephanie the Younger adapted it for the Viennese court theater where it appeared in a musical setting by Ignaz Umlauf. Stephanie’s revision of the opening of Alwin’s aria aims at reducing sexual innuendo in the prince’s account of his first encounter with his future bride Blanka. Bretzner’s Alwin sings (Bretzner 1776, 12):

  • Solch ein Mädgen sah ich nirgends,
  • so voll himmlischer Gefühle,
  • so gemacht zu Amors Spiele,
  • so voll holder Zärtlichkeit.

  • I have never seen a maiden like this,
  • so full of heavenly sentiments,
  • so ready for amorous games,
  • so full of charming tenderness.

The Viennese Alwin sings (Stephanie 1781, 9):

  • Solch ein Mädchen sah’ ich nirgends,
  • so voll unschuldvoller Sitte,
  • so voll Reiz und so voll Güte,
  • so voll sanfter Zärtlichkeit.

  • I have never seen a maiden like this,
  • so full of innocent morals,
  • so full of beauty and kindness,
  • so full of gentle tenderness.

(p. 177) It is likely that Stephanie understood Bretzner’s image of “Amors Spiele” as signifying Alwin’s erotic fantasies and feared that the passage might incite similar fantasies in the audience. The Viennese Alwin, then, expresses non-sexual interest in Blanka and her unspoiled personal character. The excision or revision of suggestive passages was, as I show below, an important aspect of Hägelin’s approach to theatrical works, and the censor would certainly have to approve the libretto of Das Irrlicht for publication and performance. Although it is difficult to say with any certainty whether Stephanie changed the aria due to his own aesthetic sensibilities or because he anticipated objections by Hägelin, the aria’s revision exemplifies the uptight transformations commonly executed in Singspiel libretti adapted for presentations at the Viennese court theater around 1780.5

Due at least partially to Hägelin’s supervision, most of the strictly censored German-language repertoire of the Viennese court theater from the early 1780s avoided any depictions of behavior that could be considered offensive to the moral sensibilities of audiences. Had the Italian comic operas (such as Don Giovanni) that Mozart produced in Vienna during his last decade originated as German Singspiele, they would have hardly been admitted for performance alongside the German-language works presented at the court theater. This is in fact what happened during Mozart’s lifetime in Munich, where the censors forbid a German version of Don Giovanni, purportedly (that is, according to the official report) due to Don Giovanni’s attempted abduction of Zerlina in the first-act finale (see Weidinger 2002, 832–833). Besides the attempted rape, numerous other elements in Don Giovanni also would have contradicted censorial and editorial principles applied to German works throughout the 1780s. Weidinger (2002, 876) lists some of these: hedonism, adultery, the willingness of female characters to engage in sexual relations with men outside of marriage, celebrations of orgiastic excess, hints at sexual acts that occur behind the scene, and the generalized criticism of nobility.

The original Mozart/Da Ponte operas, however, were in Italian, and their language might account for why they were allowed to appear on the stages of the court theater. Throughout the late eighteenth century, German and non-German theatrical works were censored separately by different personnel, and non-German works were most likely approached with greater leniency presumably because only the educated elites could understand Italian or French and any potential immoral content was therefore incomprehensible for the uneducated masses.6

Little is known about the censorship of Italian opera in Vienna during the 1780s beyond the possibility that it was not as strict as German censorship.7 It might have been this lack of information that led to the assumptions, mentioned earlier, that Mozart and Da Ponte feared the censors so much that they deleted crucial scenes from the 1787 libretto of Don Giovanni. But even the few scattered sources show that Italian opera censorship was indeed much less organized and rigorous than the German institution, led by Hägelin. Notably, the person who had the final say in the approval of a libretto was not a special censor but most likely Emperor Joseph II himself (Beales 2009, 2: 465–469). In letters from his travels to Italy in 1784, the emperor talks about the libretti of operas he heard there—he even sent some of those libretti to Vienna, accompanied by his personal evaluations—but nowhere does he show much concern for moral or (p. 178) political issues (Thurn 1920, 44, 47, 48). The only instance when he mentions censorship is in connection with the German translation of Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro: in a letter from January 31, 1785, the emperor points out that there are many offensive passages in it but delegates the censor (Hägelin) to do the necessary corrections or prohibit the piece altogether (Thurn 1920, 60). According to Da Ponte, when it came to evaluating the appropriateness of his Italian adaptation of Beaumarchais’ play, it was the emperor himself who was the arbiter and let the opera pass into performance (Da Ponte 2000, 128–130). One can imagine that the emperor and his officials were not as prudish in their theatrical tastes as the German censor, especially considering the widely rooted understanding of Italian theater as an exclusive form of entertainment for the nobility. As a result, it is likely that the 1787 Vienna libretto was not published for the censors but for some other reason. Tomislav Volek (1987, 55) has proposed that the libretto might have served as promotion material for potential sponsors, whereas Ian Woodfield (2010, 35) has treated the libretto simply as a working draft without speculating on its purpose. The most extensive discussion of the libretto to date is in Hans Ernst Weidinger’s sixteen-volume dissertation (2002, esp. 833–839), in which the author largely rejects the censorship hypothesis and suggests that the opera might have been originally commissioned in Vienna (not Prague) to celebrate dynastic marriages in the Habsburg family, and thus the 1787 Vienna libretto was published in connection to that Viennese commission.

That the Don Giovanni libretto was probably not under as much moralistic scrutiny as Das Irrlicht does not mean, however, that there was absolutely no supervision of content in Italian operas during the Josephine period. In his creation of the Don Giovanni libretto, Da Ponte did make certain choices that parallel principles embraced by the censors of German theater. One such principle seems to have been at work in the conception of scene 10 in the first act, which immediately follows the love duet “Là ci darem la mano” and ends with Donna Elvira’s aria “Ah fuggi il traditor.” As Weidinger has pointed out (2012, 876–877), the aria and the whole scene in which Elvira prevents Don Giovanni and Zerlina from departing the stage to consummate their passion for one another did not exist in Giovanni Bertati and Giuseppe Gazzaniga’s 1787 opera Don Giovanni, o sia Il convitato di pietra that Da Ponte used as a model. In the earlier opera, Don Giovanni seduces the peasant girl Maturina, she sings an aria, and eventually the two depart for Maturina’s house. In having Donna Elvira prevent the couple’s departure, Da Ponte might be following the principle—later articulated and enforced in German works by Hägelin—that no two lovers be allowed to depart the stage together for an enclosed space, since such a departure would prompt the spectators to imagine that they will engage in sexual activity once off the stage.8

To interpret the addition of Elvira’s aria as a result of some censorial sensibilities would be simplistic, however, because we do not know the exact reasons behind Da Ponte’s decision to include the scene. There could have been some morally conscious censor of Italian operas during the late 1780s in Vienna (though there is no indication as to who, and there is also no indication that Hägelin was reading works in languages other than German). Or Da Ponte might have anticipated that the censor (or the emperor himself) (p. 179) would object to Don Giovanni and Zerlina’s departure and therefore introduced the Elvira scene. It is equally possible, nevertheless, that Da Ponte, who was the official poet of the Italian company at the court theater at the time and whose task it was to supervise the adaptation of any outside libretto for the Viennese stage, sought to censor certain aspects of the adapted texts himself due to his own views on what standards of propriety should be upheld in works performed at the imperial theater.9 Yet another possibility is that Da Ponte’s addition of Elvira’s interruption had nothing to do with censorship or moralistic standards but resulted from the need to expand Bertati’s one-act work into a much larger form.

The ambiguous encounters between Don Giovanni and the nebulous institution of Viennese theater censorship continued after Mozart’s death. Following the opera’s initial run at the court theater in 1788, Don Giovanni disappeared from that stage for a whole decade. It was revived in 1798 under the title Don Juan in a four-act German adaptation with interpolated scenes and spoken dialogue instead of recitative. The author of the adaptation was Friedrich Karl Lippert, a baritone actor-singer who also performed the role of Don Juan until his death in May of 1803. After Lippert’s death, the opera was shortened and converted back to two acts in December of 1803. The new version received two more performances in late December of 1803 (afterwards the opera would not be revived until 1817—in a slightly revised version; see Hadamowsky 1966, 28). It would seem that the court theater adaptation of Don Giovanni into Don Juan would take into consideration the stricter censorial supervision of the German theater and mainly focus on revisions of the original operas’ political and moral content. Yet the adaptation process was in fact more convoluted than that, and censorship played a significant but not a decisive or strictly suppressive or prohibitive role in it.

Handwritten copies of the German texts and scores associated with the 1798 and 1803 performances of Don Juan survive in the Austrian National Library. One of these manuscripts (Don Juan, A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 32702) contains black-ink entries in Hägelin’s hand as well as his permit allowing the publication and performance of the work with the suggested changes. The manuscript was written in 1798, and Hägelin most likely first read the libretto that year, executing a few changes and giving his written permission for performance and publication on the penultimate page. The permission is not dated—as Lisa de Alwis (2012, 94) has explained, “Hägelin . . . only began adding dates in 1801.” The manuscript was later used to record the revision of the four-act version into the two-act version, and after that revision, Hägelin read it once again in December of 1803.10 After his initial inspection on December 16, 1803, Hägelin returned the libretto to the theater directorship with an explanatory note in which he asks for changes in scenes 16 and 18:

Im Folge hoher Weißung vom / heutigen Dato wird gegenwärtiges / Oper der Direction / mit der Erinnerung / zurückgestellt, daß die roth / angestrichene im 16. Auftritte, / dann die Scene zwischen Don / Juan und Zerlina im 18. Auf- / tritte des ersten Aktes als höchst- / unanständig umzuarbeiten, / sodann nachmahls vorzulegen sey. / Den 16. Xber 1803 / Hägelin

(p. 180)

Following a high request [i.e., by a higher instance] from today’s date, the present opera is being returned to the directorship [of the court theater] with the reminder, that the [passages] marked in red in Scene 16, then the encounter between Don Juan and Zerlina in Scene 18 of the first act are highly indecent and need to be revised and submitted once again. On December 16, 1803, Hägelin.

The corrections Hägelin asked for were executed within two days, and so, on December 18, 1803, the censor gave the permission for the opera’s performance and publication (Figure 8.1).11 Upon initial examination, the libretto suggests a straightforward process of gradually tightening control, so dutiful as to prompt the musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch (1993, 69), who examined the libretto in the early twentieth century, to imagine that Mozart would have turned in his grave and cursed in an indecent manner had he known what Hägelin and other censors did to his opera.

Many of the black-ink changes entered into the libretto by Hägelin and other reviewers (the comments and rewrites are in multiple hands) either in 1798 or 1803 conform to the principles that Hägelin himself spelled out earlier in his career. In 1795 Hägelin wrote a collection of guidelines on the matters of theater censorship for his colleagues in Hungary, in which he listed specific elements of theatrical works that other censors should be particularly vigilant about.12 He divides the sources of problematic content into three areas—religion, politics, and morals. All three appear in the Don Juan libretto.

In a section from the 1795 guidelines discussing content impermissible in a theatrical piece out of religious considerations (Glossy 1897, 320), Hägelin warns against using any words or phrases that are related to Biblical passages or catechism, and thus many such passages are rewritten in the Don Juan libretto. Throughout the opera, for example, various characters exhort others to “confess” (beitchten) their crimes, and the verb is always changed into a form of “to admit” (bekennen), so that it no longer alludes explicitly to religious practices and texts.

Another group of problematic expressions discussed by Hägelin in his guidelines are those connected to social and political issues. An element that the censor specifically warns about and is then corrected numerous times throughout the Don Juan libretto is the criticism of nobility (Glossy 1897, 325). Throughout the Don Juan manuscript, we find corrections in statements where various characters make a connection between Don Juan’s evil deeds and his noble status. In the second-act conversation (within the four acts of 1798) between Zerlina and Don Juan, the peasant girl at first refuses to trust Don Juan’s marriage proposal since her parents have warned her not to trust “highborn gentlemen” (vornehmen Herren) and their intentions. Don Juan responds that when a “highborn gentleman” is in love he always has good intentions. The phrase “highborn gentleman” appears a few more times throughout the manuscript, and every time it is rewritten to omit references to social class; for example, Zerlina ends up talking about “such gentlemen as you” (solche Herren wie Sie sind) and Don Juan about “a man like me” (Herr meines gleichen).

Hägelin devotes the most substantial portion of his guidelines to a description of various ways in which a theatrical text can be immoral (Glossy 1897, 317–320, 326–328), (p. 181) and, conspicuously, most of the rewrites within the Don Juan manuscript can be interpreted as having to do with moral issues. For example, whenever the word “seducer” (Verführer) appears in the manuscript, it is changed into “Betrüger” (deceiver), and the verb “to seduce” (verführen) transforms into “to abduct” (entführen). These revisions change the meaning of the speeches to which they are applied. The fact that in the censored document Donna Elvira accuses Don Juan of “abducting” not “seducing” her, makes less explicit the possibility that the two had sexual relations. Squeamishness also (p. 182) dominates the censors’ approach to the ending of the first act (within the original Italian opera and the revised two-act version of 1803), where Hägelin and his superiors were especially concerned about the few lines that follow Zerlina’s cries for help after Don Juan drags her out of the dancing hall. In his note from December 16, Hägelin mentions that the most problematic passages in scene 18 of the first-act finale have been marked with red crayon, and a section of that scene is indeed highlighted with a red line on the left (Figure 8.2). Numerous passages within that section are crossed out and rewritten in brown ink, and the following illustration shows the most substantial changes (the revisions are shown in boldface):

Sex, Politics, and Censorship in Mozart’s Don Giovanni/Don JuanClick to view larger

Figure 8.1 The final page of the censor’s copy of Lippert’s Don Juan adaptation with two notes by Hägelin from December of 1803.

(Don Juan führt Zerlina sträubend in ein Seiten Kabinet ab.)

(Don Juan leads the struggling Zerlina into a side chamber away.)



O Himmel! Ich bin verrathen.

O heavens! I am lost.



Sie riecht merkt schon den Braten die Posse.

She can smell the roast. She now has figured out the joke.

. . .



Laß uns schnell ins Zimmer in den Vorsaal dringen,

Let us hurry and break into the room hallway.

Sie entreißen seinen Schlingen hierher zurück bringen.

Let us tear her away from his snares bring her back here.



Ach Zerlina. Möchts gelingen Ja sie schnell zurücke bringen.

Ach, Zerlina. What if he succeeds Yes bring her back here.

By requesting such systematically aligned revisions, Hägelin clearly sought to avoid explicit references to Don Juan’s sexual assault on Zerlina and followed the aforementioned principle, articulated in the 1795 guidelines, that no two characters of the opposite sex should be allowed to depart the stage to an enclosed space (see also De Alwis 2012, 99–100).

As restrictive and straightforward as the revisions in the Don Juan manuscript seem, it is difficult to ascertain to what extent the censor himself was in control of the opera’s content. Although the handwriting of numerous comments in the manuscript is similar to that of Hägelin’s concluding note and can therefore safely be ascribed to the censor, other, often more substantial revisions have clearly been entered or influenced by other reviewers. At the beginning of his December 16 note, Hägelin talks about following a “high request,” which indicates that a superior censorial institution evaluated theatrical pieces independently from him. This might have been the Polizeihofstelle (police court office), a division of the Ministry of Police, which was appointed in 1801 by Emperor (p. 183) Francis II to review theatrical works independent from Hägelin (see De Alwis 2012, 59). The opening of the note also makes it seem as if Hägelin were trying to distance himself from the ruling of the higher institution (presumably the Polizeihofstelle), which suggests that the decisions and rules about what was permissible and what was considered indecent were adjustable and not always completely clear, and that opinions of different censors and state officials could conflict with each other.13

Sex, Politics, and Censorship in Mozart’s Don Giovanni/Don JuanClick to view larger

Figure 8.2 The beginning of the section in the first-act finale of Don Juan deemed indecent by Hägelin (in his note from December 16, 1803) and highlighted in red crayon. Visible are also the subsequent cut in stage direction and the revision of Leporello’s line.

Another set of 1803 revisions must have come from the court theater personnel, as we can see in the series of scenes involving the Hermit and the murder of Don Octavio.14 (p. 184) These scenes do not exist in the original Italian opera and were interpolated only into the 1798 adaptation where they opened the fourth act (the third act in this version concludes with the famous sextet). Don Juan and Leporello reconvene in front of a statue of the murdered Komthur (Commendatore) that happens to stand next to a hermit’s abode. Suddenly Don Octavio arrives to pray in front of the statue. Don Juan murders the hermit, dons his clothes, assumes his identity, persuades Octavio to lay aside his weapons, and murders him as well. The vile actions outrage the Komthur’s spirit, who reproofs Don Juan, at which point the 1798 plot returns to that of the Italian opera. Hägelin passed the scene into performance in 1798 with minor alterations.15 The scene became popular with audiences, mainly due to the humorous episodes associated with Leporello—this becomes obvious from a review of the court theater production published in the May 25, 1803, issue of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (translated and annotated in Albrecht 2008, 145).

In December 1803, the scene was cut and replaced with a conversation in which Leporello recounts previous events to Don Juan. That this cut must have occurred only in December 1803 is clear from the theater posters that list the Hermit as one of the characters up until March 1803 (the last performances before the revision) but drop him in December (Theaterzettel Burgtheater 1798, 1799, 1803). The replacement dialogue was written in between the lines of the 1798 Hermit scene that were crossed out in brown ink. Afterwards further changes were added by several reviewers, one of whom must have been Hägelin, judging by the handwriting.16 The revised replacement text was later written on separate sheets that were inserted into the manuscript, probably to make it easier for copyists to decipher the final form of the new scene. Although the chronology of the revision is more or less clear (the 1798 scene with the Hermit was censored, then crossed out and replaced with the 1803 version without the Hermit that was censored and written on a separate sheet), the reasons for its execution are not. It is tempting to interpret the excision and replacement of the Hermit scenes as an act of censorial strictness and the tightening of restrictions between 1798 and 1803: perhaps by late 1803 the double murder (including that of a religious person) became problematic for the authorities supervising Viennese theaters or for someone from the court theater staff anticipating objections from the censors (scholars usually refer to such an act of anticipation as self-censorship). But it is also quite possible that the revision had nothing to do with censorship and simply aimed at shortening the opera (the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung critic did complain about excessive length of Lippert’s adaptation prior to revision).

Even in those revisions within the Don Juan libretto that were clearly executed at the censors’ request, it is problematic and simplistic to think, as Deutsch (1993) did, of Hägelin or the Viennese authorities as destroying the spirit of the original Mozartian work. Many of the scenes that were heavily revised by the censors usually differ quite a bit from the Italian original. The scenes depicting the murders of the Hermit and Don Octavio do not exist in Da Ponte’s original story; instead they closely copy the Don Juan traditions of the Viennese popular theater, especially the 1783 play Dom Juan written by Karl Marinelli for the Leopoldstadt Theater.17

(p. 185) The censoring of scenes that have parallels in Da Ponte’s libretto did not necessarily impinge on the content of the original Don Giovanni either, as becomes clear in the two sections that Hägelin specifically mentions in his 1803 report. The mollification of the language and stage directions associated with Don Juan’s abduction of Zerlina that Hägelin requested and that was entered into the manuscript afterwards would not have been necessary in the Italian original (Table 8.1). Only one of the rewrites within Lippert’s adaptation of scene 18 changes a phrase, a form of which was already present in Da Ponte’s original Italian libretto. Da Ponte had Zerlina defend herself from Don Giovanni with the word “scoundrel” (Scellerato), and Lippert translated it as “no, traitor” (Nein, Verräther). In 1803 the phrase was changed (most likely at Hägelin’s or the Polizeihofstelle’s urging) to “Help, Masetto” (Hilf, Masetto)—perhaps to make Zerlina’s references to Don Juan’s sexual advances less direct. All the other changes in Lippert’s translation of the scene, however, were executed in sentences through which the German adaptation had brought an element of crass sexual humor into Da Ponte’s libretto. Lippert, for example, transformed the admonishing remark “This will lead to ruin” with which the Italian Leporello reacts to Zerlina’s abduction into the raucous “[Zerlina] can smell the roast.” Lippert also expanded Masetto’s exclamations “Oh Zerlina” into the more suggestive “Oh, Zerlina. What if [Don Juan] succeeds.” After the censor’s 1803 call for revision, Leporello’s remark was changed to the more neutral “[Zerlina] now has figured out the joke,” and Masetto’s exclamation into “Bring [Zerlina] quickly back.” Both revisions, therefore, curtail not the content of Da Ponte and Mozart’s original but rather that of Lippert’s translation. Another rewrite in fact brings the German adaptation closer to Da Ponte’s original. According to the stage directions in Lippert’s adaptation, Don Juan was to lead Zerlina into a “side chamber” (Seiten Kabinet); after the 1803 revision, he simply “leads her away,” which is closer to Da Ponte’s “leads Zerlina to a door” (conduce Zerlina presso una porta).

The German text of the second scene that Hägelin wanted changed in 1803 also differs significantly from Da Ponte’s original. The scene roughly corresponds to act 1, scene 15 of Don Giovanni: it ends with the famous “Champagne” aria but opens with a newly devised monologue for Don Juan in which he threatens the absent Elvira for interrupting his tryst with Zerlina and declares his resolve to possess the peasant girl at any cost. The censorial manuscript contains three distinct versions of the aria and the preceding monologue, two on the original pages and one on inserted sheets (Table 8.2). Alongside the two aria texts on the original pages runs a double line in red crayon that Hägelin mentions in his note from December 16, 1803; one of these two texts therefore must have been used during the earlier performances of the opera, whereas the third text was likely the one added at the censors’ request (Figure 8.3).18 The two earlier versions of the aria significantly alter the meaning of the Italian original. In the first version, Lippert replaces the list of dances that Don Giovanni envisions for the party with a list of anonymous women he will encounter: instead of “Let the dance be without any order, a minuet, a folia, and an allemande you shall lead” (Senza alcun ordine / la danza sia, / chi ‘l minuetto / chi la follia / chi l’ alemanna / farai ballar), we find “Quite nameless [i.e., so numerous that their names cannot all be made known] are the damsels here, English (p. 186) (p. 187) ones and Styrian ones, Schwabian ones and Bavarian ones, Everything according to one’s taste, that is beautiful” (Ganz ohne Nahmen sind hier die Damen / Englisch und steurisch, / Schwäbisch und bäurisch, / Alle nach Gusto, das ist nur schön). The insistent rhythms and sforzandi setting the list of dances in Mozart’s musical setting of Da Ponte’s Italian text (mm. 33–42) now accompany a list of anonymous women and thus acquire a more explicitly sexual undertone.19

Table 8.1 A comparison of Da Ponte’s Italian text for Zerlina’s abduction scene from the 1788 Vienna Don Giovanni libretto to the censored passages from Lippert’s 1798 translation




Vieni con me mia vita . . .


Come with me my life . . .


Komm liebes, süßes Täubchen,

Sey mein Weibchen.

. . .


Come my dear, sweet dove,

Be my little wife.

. . .

(Ballando conduce Zerlina presso una porta e la fa entrare quasi per forza.

(Dancing, he leads

Zerlina to a door and makes her enter, almost

with force.)

(Don Juan führt Zerlina sträubend in ein Seiten

Kabinet ab.)

(Don Juan leads

Zerlina struggling into a side chamber away.)


Oh Numi! son tradita!

. . .


O gods! I am lost!

. . .


O Himmel! Ich bin verrathen.


O heavens! I am lost.


Qui nasce una ruina

. . .


This will lead to ruin

. . .


Sie riecht merkt schon den Braten die Posse.

. . .


She can smell has figured out the roast the joke now.

. . .


Gente ajuto, ajuto gente:

. . .


Help people, help people:

. . .

ZERLINA (inwendig.)

Hülfe! Hülfe! Hülfe!

ZERLINA (from the inside.)

Help! Help! Help!

D. AN., D. ELV., D. OTT.

Soccorriamo l’innocente!

. . .


Let’s help the innocent!

. . .


Laß uns schnell ins Zimmer in den Vorsaal dringen,

Sie entreißen seinen Schlingen hierher zurück bringen.


Let us hurry and break into the room hallway.

Let us tear her away from his snares bring her back here.


Ah Zerlina!

. . .


Oh Zerlina!

. . .


Ach Zerlina. Möchts gelingen Ja, sie schnell zurücke bringen.


Oh, Zerlina. What if he succeeds Yes bring her quickly back.






Nein Verräther Hilf Masetto!


No, you traitor! Help Masetto!

D. AN., D. ELV., D. OTT.

Ora grida da quel lato:

(si sente il grido e lo strepito dalla parte opposta.)

Ah gittiamo giù la porta:

(gettano giù la porta!)

D. AN., D. ELV., D. OTT.

Now cries come from that side:

(the cries and noise are coming from the opposite side.)

Let’s break down the door:

(they break through the door.)


Ja, das war Sprengt die Thür auf jener Seite.


Yes that was break down the door on that side.

The second version of the aria text, written in between the crossed-out lines of the first (Figure 8.3), would be even more problematic from a censor’s point of view since it replaces the stanza in which Don Juan enumerates women of various nationalities with a list of physical attributes: “One can take the blonde one or the brunette, the slim one or the fat one—every one of them is mine!” (Faßt man die Blonde / Wie die Brunette / Schlanke und fette—jede ist mein!). In connection with these new stanzas, Mozart’s pounding music must have sounded even more violently sexual. This second version also introduces the image of a violent assisted rape into the aria: “Friend Leporello covers my back, shares my delight, and stops the screams, and calms them down” (Freund Leporello deckt mir den Rücken, / Theilt mein Entzücken, / Und hindert das Schreyn, / Und schläfert sie ein).

It is not clear which of the first two versions Hägelin and the other officials read in December 1803 and which text Hägelin was speaking against in his note from December 16. The second version of the monologue and aria contains some small-scale revisions some of which bear resemblance to Hägelin’s handwriting: for example, someone (likely Hägelin) rewrote the phrase in which Don Juan refers to Zerlina as a “tasty treat” (Leckerbissen) into one that refers to her as a “treasure” (Schatz), thus probably attempting to downplay the monologue’s sensuality.20 It is possible that these revisions already originated in 1798 and that Hägelin passed the more risqué (second) version of the monologue and aria by then. By the 1803 censoring, Hägelin either became stricter or he was ordered to become stricter (by the higher censorial instance mentioned in the December 16 note), and demanded that the second version be cut. This course of events would indicate that around 1800 censorial rules were being renegotiated, it was not clear (p. 188) what exactly should be deemed problematic in a theatrical piece, and various officials often arrived at conflicting conclusions.

Sex, Politics, and Censorship in Mozart’s Don Giovanni/Don JuanClick to view larger

Figure 8.3 The opening of the “Champagne” aria in the manuscript of Don Juan. The first version of the preceding monologue and aria text is crossed out in brown ink and replaced with the second version (also in brown ink). Both versions are also crossed out in brown ink. The remark “Vi=0” in the left-hand corner points to the inserted sheet that contains the third version. On the left side of the aria text, there is a double line in red crayon that Hägelin mentions in his note from December 16, 1803.

Another possibility is that the second version of the aria was written into the libretto after Hägelin’s 1798 review, but before the December 1803 censoring. Perhaps Lippert (p. 189) invented the second version at some point during the opera’s runs in the previous years to make the role more burlesque, or it was written by the person revising the opera in December 1803. This would suggest that either Lippert got away with an unsanctioned, more explicitly sexual version of the aria that he performed at some point between 1798 and his death in the spring of 1803, or that the person revising the opera in December of 1803 thought the second version could pass the censors. Again, all of these scenarios show the censorial process as unclear and ambiguous.

In any case, a final (third) version of the aria was inserted into the libretto after the 1803 censorial intervention, and this final version was probably supposed to be used during the performances in late December 1803. Instead of impinging on the spirit of Da Ponte’s Don Giovanni, however, the third version in fact restored some elements of Da Ponte’s text back into Don Juan. The revision returns to the third stanza a list of dances to be presented at the party: “Now as I dance, the English and the Styrian one, the Schwabian and the Bavarian one, I am whirling around, I can see it already, how beautiful!” (Jetzo im Tanze, / Englisch und steyrisch, / Schwäbisch und bayrisch, / Dreh’ ich mich wirbelnd schon seh’ ichs, wie schön!). The new aria also does not talk about any specific physical interactions between Don Juan and the females—like Da Ponte’s Italian text and unlike Lippert’s translation, it is suggestive but no longer crude. It is hard to imagine that Mozart would turn and curse in his grave had he come across this eventual outcome of the censorial intervention against Lippert’s text; if anything, he would probably have been more surprised by the new monologue and the crude second version of the aria. As in the first-act finale, Hägelin’s intervention in the “Champagne” aria certainly involved a great deal of prudishness, yet far from going against the spirit of the original Mozartian work, it in fact partially washed away the farce and crudeness that the opera accrued throughout the multiple German adaptations.

Complicating matters further is the fact that the censorial copy of the Don Juan libretto is only one out of several documents associated with the court theater production of the opera between 1798 and 1803, and the other documents feature additional variants of the “Champagne” aria. One of the documents that must have been used in the theater during the opera’s performances is the prompter’s book dated 1798 that survives in the Austrian National Library (Don Juan, A-Wn., Mus. Hs. 32706).21 The prompter’s book contains Lippert’s original translation and the 1803 revisions entered into the censorial libretto. Yet, the prompter’s book at times deviates from the censorial manuscript. For example, in the “Champagne” scene, we find only the first version of the monologue and aria together with an inserted sheet containing the third version of the monologue and a completely new version of the aria (see Table 8.2). The new aria text is clearly related to the third version from the censor’s book (it also returns to a list of dances) but many lines differ from it—apparently the text continued to be revised after the final censorial endorsement.

Also the rendition of Zerlina’s abduction scene as it appears in the prompter’s book deviates from the censorial manuscript. While some of the revisions from the censorial manuscript are entered into the prompter’s book in red crayon, others are not (Figure 8.4). The stage direction about Don Juan leading Zerlina “into (p. 190) (p. 191) (p. 192) a side chamber” is not cut, and understandably so: stage directions in a libretto are often only tentatively associated with what actually happens in a production and they have no significance for a prompter. Another line that remains uncorrected in the prompter’s book is a little more puzzling: the prompter’s book leaves intact (p. 193) Leporello’s reaction to Zerlina’s screams “Sie riecht schon den Braten” (She can smell the roast), although the censor or some other reviewer changed it to “Sie merkt schon die Posse” (She now has figured out the joke) in the censorial manuscript. Perhaps the reason for the omission was simply an oversight. But it is also possible that the court theater personnel took a critical stance toward the change: the revised line no longer rhymes with the previous one (“Himmel ich bin verrathen”), and furthermore, it does not necessarily transform Lippert’s portrayal of Leporello taking an ironic stance to Zerlina’s distress. Whatever the reason for ignoring certain rewrites demanded by the censor, the two lines (standing in for several other unchanged ones within the prompter’s book) suggest that the theater personnel had some leeway to ignore certain censorial commands.

Table 8.2 Four versions of Don Juan’s “Champagne” aria from the manuscript materials associated with the 1798–1803 performances of Lippert’s adaptation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Viennese court theater

Original 1798 Version

Later Version (between 1798 and 1803—text written between the lines of the previous version)

December 1803 Version (on an inserted sheet)

The Prompter’s Book Version (most probably based on the December 1803 version; I have left out the repetitions of phrases)

[folio 44, recto]

[folio 44, recto]

[folio 43, verso]

[folio 33, recto]

Treibt der Schampanier alles im Kreise,

Treibt der Schampanier alles im Kreise,

Treibt der Champagner alles im Kreise,

Treibt der Champagner alles im Kreise

Dann gibts ein Leben herrlich und schön.

Dann gibts ein Leben herrlich und schön.

Dann gibt’s ein Leben herrlich und schön.

Dann giebts ein Leben herrlich und schön.

Artigen Mädchen wink ich dann leise,

Artigen Mädchen wink ich dann leise,

Artigen Mädchen wink’ ich dann leise:

Artigen Mädchen wink ich dann leise

Wer kann den Weibern wohl widerstehn.

Keine von allen darf widerstehn.

Wer kann den Schönen wohl kalt widerstehn?

Keine von allen darf widerstehn.

[folio 43, recto]

Ganz ohne Nahmen sind hier die Damen,

Hier gilt kein Wählen, ohne zu zählen,

Jetzo im Tanze,

Englisch und steyrisch,

Hier gilt kein Wählen

Ohne zu zählen.

Englisch und steurisch,

Faßt man die Blonde

Schwäbisch und bayrisch,

Tanzet wird englisch,

Schwäbisch und bäurisch,

Wie die Brunette

Dreh’ ich mich wirbelnd schon

Deutsch und französisch,

Alle nach Gusto, das ist nur schön.

Schlanke und Fette—jede ist mein!

seh’ ichs, wie schön!

Schwäbisch und steyrisch,

Alles ist schön.

[folio 44, verso]

[folio 44, verso]

Ich unterdessen nach alter Weise,

Freund Leporello deckt mir den Rücken,

Freund Leporello theilt mein Entzücken,

Man wird im rauschenden Walzer sich drehn

Führe mein Liebchen ins Seitengemach.

Theilt mein Entzücken,

Und hindert das Schreyn,

Ließt mir in Blicken,

Und die mich geflohn,

Freund Leporello dekt mir den Rüken,

Trotz Weh und Ach!

Und schläfert sie ein—

Die nahen mir schon.

Theilt mein Entzüken,

Blonde, Brunette,

Morgen, beim Teufel!

Morgen, ja morgen,

Und ordnet die Reihen.

Schwarze ich wette,

Muß mein Register

Muß mein Register

Morgen, beim Henker

Zählt mein Register Morgen noch zehn.

Wohl um ein Dutzend,

Stärker noch seyn!

Größer als heute,—

Glänzender seyn.

Muß mein Register

Um ein beträchtliches stärker noch seyn.

Sex, Politics, and Censorship in Mozart’s Don Giovanni/Don JuanClick to view larger

Figure 8.4 The abduction of Zerlina in the first-act finale of Don Juan as presented in the prompter’s book from 1798. Certain revisions from the censorial manuscript are entered into the 1798 text in red crayon, others are not.

As I have shown, certain aspects of the 1803 revision of Don Juan (especially the revisions of scenes 16 and 18) suggest that the supervision of the court theater by the authorities became stricter in the early nineteenth century despite the fact that the process was extremely convoluted. But the concept of a gradually strengthening control of Viennese theaters becomes problematic when we consider the 1798 version in connection to the supervision over the content of German operas written for the court theater in the 1780s. The example of Prince Alwin’s aria from Das Irrlicht illustrates the tendency to eliminate even the slightest hints at a sexual subtext in preparing the texts of court theater Singspiele in the early 1780s. This clearly does not happen in the 1798 Don Juan, which subsumes elements from Da Ponte’s Italian opera that would never be permitted into the German productions from the 1780s and adds new burlesque elements (such as the Hermit scene or Masetto’s and Leporello’s suggestive comments about Zerlina’s abduction).

The discrepancy between the supervision of content in operas such as Das Irrlicht and that of the 1798 Don Juan corresponds to a series of changes in the constitution of the court theater’s Singspiel company between the early 1780s and late 1790s. Between 1778 and 1783, Singspiele were produced as part of the prestigious National Theater directly supervised by Emperor Joseph II. As Oscar Teuber (1903, 37–47) has shown, the process of choosing, adapting, and approving the German works to be performed at the National Theater during Joseph II’s lifetime involved not only the censor, but also various court bureaucrats, theater personnel, and the emperor himself, all of whom wanted to ensure that the pieces performed at the national institution held up the highest artistic and also moral standards. The Singspiele ultimately proved unsuccessful, and so in 1783 the emperor disbanded the German opera troupe and replaced it with an Italian opera company. Another attempt at producing Singspiele at the court theater occurred between 1785 and 1788, when the emperor engaged another German opera company. The venture was also short-lived, due to the financial problems called forth by the Turkish War of 1788 (see Albrecht, xiv). Afterwards, Singspiele permanently returned to the court theater only in March of 1795 under the recently appointed director Baron Peter von Braun. By 1795, however, a highly popular tradition of Singspiele had been established in the theaters of the Viennese suburbs, especially in Emanuel Schikaneder’s Wiednertheater and Karl Marinelli’s Theater in der Leopoldstadt, and (p. 194) Braun’s new Singspiel company therefore entered into fierce competition with these other theaters.

Throughout the 1780s, Viennese authorities approached the content of the theatrical works produced in the suburban theaters with lesser strictness than those produced at the National Theater.22 In their recent studies of the late eighteenth-century repertoire of the Leopoldstadt Theater, Beatrix Müller-Kampel and Jennyfer Großauer-Zöbiger have noted inconsistencies between official censorial mandates and the Leopoldstadt repertoire: the Leopoldstadt performances featured a large amount of uncensored improvisation, and numerous critics from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries complained about the censor’s lax approach to the Leopoldstadt humor (Müller-Kampel 2010, 130–32; Großauer-Zöbiger 2010, 23–29, 33–35). The heroisch-komische operas based on the librettos by Emanuel Schikaneder and produced at the Wiednertheater throughout the 1790s, moreover, feature numerous elements that would have been deemed impermissible due to their immorality by the Singspiel company associated with the National Theater in the 1780s (Nedbal 2009b, 140–151).

Braun was probably aware of the fact that the less strictly supervised suburban repertoire with its reliance on crude sexual jokes, risqué plots, and vulgar language was much more popular with audiences than the high-minded Singspiele presented at the National Theater in the 1780s. In order to ensure the financial success of his Singspiel venture, Braun pursued two contradictory courses of action in that he both distanced himself from the suburban theaters and imitated them. In January of 1795, just a few months before establishing the new permanent Singspiel ensemble, Braun wrote a letter to Emperor Francis II in which he described the German-language theater he proposed to establish at the court theater as a national and didactic institution, similar to the one that the bureaucrats and theater personnel hoped to create during Joseph II’s reign in the 1780s:

Mein Plan ist, das Theater zur Schule des Patriotismus zu machen, Ruhe, Zufriedenheit, Liebe gegen Fürsten, Ehrfurcht für die Gesetze durch das Schauspiel zu erwecken und zu verbreiten. Auch nichts, was den Regeln der Sittlichkeit zuwider ist, muß auf der Bühne geduldet werden. Ohne Sittlichkeit läßt sich keine bürgerliche Gesellschaft denken und wer als Hausvater, als Gatte, als Freund, kurz als Mensch, seine Pflichten erfüllt, an diesen wird auch der Monarch einen treuen Unterthan, der Staat einen ruhigen Bürger haben. Wenn also das Theater seiner hohen Bestimmung soll näher gebracht werde, so muß es auch das moralische Gefühl berichtigen, veredeln, erhöhen.

(Irmen 1996, 145)

My plan is to transform the theater into a school of patriotism, to awaken and spread obedience, satisfaction, love for the rulers, and observance of laws through plays. Nothing that contradicts the rules of morality can be tolerated on a stage. No civil society can exist without morality and those who want to fulfill their duties as fathers, (p. 195) husbands, friends—in short, as humans—will also become faithful subject of a monarch and peaceful citizens of a state. Thus if theater shall achieve a higher purpose, it must convey, ennoble, enhance the moral sensibility [of its audience].

Braun also complained about the depravity of the suburban stages and the need for them to be supervised more closely by the government:

Was kann es helfen, daß die Hof-Direktion alle nur im geringsten zweydeutige Stelle sorgfältig wegstreicht, wenn der Schauspieler in der Vorstadt sich nicht einmahl mit einer Zweydeutigkeit befriedigt, sondern si durch Gebehrden und Extemporiren—das zwar verboten doch im Schwange ist—zur offenbaren Zote macht?

(Irmen 1996, 146)

The court-direction has been cutting out all expressions [from theatrical texts] that are even slightly ambiguous, but how can that change anything, if the actor in the suburbs not only enjoys using these double entendres, but also often presents them with improvised gestures that, albeit forbidden, are extremely popular and that transform these double entendres into explicit obscenities?

In response to Braun’s complaints, the emperor issued a note on February 5, 1795, in which he called for a stricter supervision of all theaters, including those in the suburbs. In the following decade the Austrian authorities gradually strengthened their control over the suburban stages (Schembor 2010, 231–236).

Contrary to his critique of the suburban stages, Braun also seems to have attempted to build the repertoire of his new opera company around works that would appeal to audiences frequenting the suburban opera houses. Many works written for the Singspiel company at the court theater in the late 1790s abandoned the artistic and moralistic standards that marked many court theater Singspiele of the 1780s. The reports about one of the most successful productions by Braun’s new Singspiel company, Johann Schenk’s Der Dorfbarbier (1796), illustrate the loosened approach to the content of operatic works. Ignaz Castelli’s account of Der Dorfbarbier’s early performances at the court theater might as well have referred to a performance in one of the less strictly supervised suburban theaters:

I cannot describe with precision what a sensation this Dorfbarbier and Baumann in it created in those days. It was no longer a performance; it was the crass, comical nature itself. A prompter was not needed, since both principal characters, the barber and Adam [his servant], hardly spoke any words that appeared in the script, instead they extemporized throughout the whole piece. It was a contest between two comedians, a private joke that they played upon one another, and upon which the audience took a great deal of interest. The presentation was filled with ribaldries, but the audience took them well and wanted to have a good laugh for once.

(Rice 2007, 314)

(p. 196) Schenk’s opera, moreover, was not the only one that brought extemporizing and crass, sexual humor into the Kärntnertortheater, as an 1802 complaint from Hägelin suggests:

Die Hoftheatralvizedirektion ist schon aus Kasseabsichten auf den Gedanken verfallen, Stücke von minderem Geschmacke oder Werte manchmal aufführen zu lassen, vermutlich im Kärntnertortheater, um auch das mindere Publikum an sich zu ziehen. . . . Sie hat daher zwei Spaßmacher von den Vorstadttheatern an sich gezogen, nämlich den Akteur Baumann vom Leopoldstädter und den Spaßmacher Stegmayer vom Wiednertheater. . . .

(Glossy 1915, 14)

The Court-Theater directors have tried to improve their income by presenting pieces of inferior taste or value, presumably in the Kärntnertortheater, in order to attract the lower-class audiences. . . . To achieve this goal, they have also hired two comedians from the suburbs, namely the actor Baumann [Adam in Der Dorfbarbier] from the Leopoldstadttheater and the comedian Stegmeyer from the Wiednertheater. . . .

Apparently, Braun managed to circumvent the censors in the late 1790s and early 1800s and got away with improvised comedy and sexual jokes, which had largely disappeared from the imperial stages decades ago.

Several elements account for the fluctuating supervision of theatrical content in the late 1790s, both in the suburbs and eventually also at the court theater. As the Austrian scholar Carl Glossy explained, the Viennese authorities feared the spread of the French revolutionary ideals during this period and were willing to compromise on censorship in a quest to provide the audiences with apolitical entertainment in which crass, obscene humor would divert the spectators from thinking too much about pressing social and political issues. Donald Emerson (1968, 22–25) has claimed, moreover, that throughout the 1790s Pergen’s Ministry of Police attempted to increase its control of the Viennese theaters but was not successful due to the opposition from other political factions in Vienna. De Alwis and others have shown, furthermore, that “the institution of [theater] censorship was in a state of upheaval” during the early 1800s (De Alwis 2012, 105; Schembor 2010, 225–242). The 1798 Don Juan, with its farcical elements and interpolated scenes, must have been a result of this temporarily relaxed supervision and Braun’s successful evasion of that supervision. That this relaxation happened at all once again shows that the terms of Viennese censorship continued to be negotiable throughout the late 1790s.

The changing form of Da Ponte’s libretto for Mozart’s Don Giovanni as it was published in Vienna and presented at the city’s premier stage between 1787 and 1803, both in Italian and German, hints at the opera’s constant involvement with the institution of theater censorship. Yet the exact nature of this involvement was quite complicated and calls for a highly flexible approach to the study of Viennese theater censorship in the time of the French Revolution. As I have shown, the supervision of theaters in Vienna around 1800 was neither all-powerful nor merely restrictive: it was filled with constant (p. 197) negotiations and disagreements, rules and principles were ever-changing, different theaters and different repertoires were subjected to varying levels of control, and the financial interests of theater directors sometimes managed to trump the effectiveness of the state controllers. As some of the demands of Hägelin and his superiors from 1803 show, furthermore, at times a censor’s ideals in fact coincided with the creative visions of theatrical authors, such as Da Ponte and Mozart. Censorship therefore represented one of the many processes that went into a work’s intellectual and artistic conception and, far from functioning merely as a force of oppression, had a creative potential of its own.


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(1.) The idea has been widely accepted; see Heartz 1992, 163.

(2.) For example, in his discussion of the differences between the text in the first printed libretto of The Magic Flute and the text in Mozart’s autograph, Jan Assmann proposes that the composer decided to leave out certain passages out of concern for the censors (Assmann 2005, 139). Similarly, Nicolas Till (1995, 306) has suggested that the padlock placed by the three Ladies on Papageno’s mouth in the opening of The Magic Flute represented a symbol of Josephine censorship and police surveillance. Till did not specifically claim that Mozart intended for the padlock to serve as a critique of Viennese censorship, but his interpretation does operate with the notion of restrictive censors and subversive authors.

(3.) Most recently, for example, Kristina Muxfeldt (2012, 6) proposed subversive hearings for several moments in Fidelio, Don Giovanni, and Die Zauberflöte, moments in which, as she suggests, the composers and librettists created recipes “for circumnavigating the censors.”

(4.) For a recent biography and re-evaluation of Hägelin’s career see De Alwis 2012, 7–73.

(5.) For more examples of Viennese moralistic adaptations of foreign libretti in the early 1780s, see Nedbal 2009a, 64–107.

(6.) For an explanation of the Viennese distinction between opera buffa as a foreign form of unedifying entertainment and German drama and Singspiel as “intimately linked both to the encouragement of good morals and taste in significant portions of the population, and to a sense of nationhood that transcended the old feudal divisions,” see Hunter 1999, 9–13.

(7.) The materials documenting censorship of non-German works after the instituting of the German theater censor in 1770 are sparse. A special censor was responsible for the French plays and Italian operas, but little is known about his activities. At first, the office was held by Johann Theodor von Gontier, who was removed in October 1770 and replaced by August von Wöber. See Zechmeister 1971, 50; and Brosche 1962, 132.

(8.) As De Alwis (2012, 99) has explained, “enclosed spaces in which couples can hide [and engage in sexual activity] seem to be one of Hägelin’s particular concerns.”

(9.) For a discussion of Da Ponte’s appointment at the court theater see Hodges 2002, 47. Many thanks to Reinhard Eisendle for suggesting this possibility for interpreting the differences between Da Ponte’s and Bertati’s librettos. That Da Ponte might have been responsible for supervising the moral content of the Italian operas written for the court theater is indicated in his report on his own conversation with Joseph II regarding the adaptation of Figaro. There he mentions that in his preparation of the Figaro libretto, he “cut anything that might offend good taste and public decency at a performance over which the Sovereign majesty might preside.” The emperor supposedly responded that he trusted Da Ponte’s “wisdom as to morality” (Da Ponte 2000, 129–130) Although this account might be apocryphal, it once again illustrates the possibility that there was no special censor of Italian theatrical texts, that Da Ponte was the sole agent responsible for the moral content of Italian operas, and that the emperor was the ultimate arbiter.

(10.) In a note from December 22, 1803, Hägelin further comments on his own second review of the Don Juan libretto: he says that the libretto was submitted for inspection due to a revision executed in December of 1803, which reduced the number of acts and involved numerous cuts and changes (Glossy 1915, 64).

(11.) As De Alwis (2012, 104–105) has pointed out, “it is inconceivable that the piece could have been revised, resubmitted, and approved in two days” because the censor was by then living in a village outside of Vienna where he received mail only once a week. It is therefore possible that the changes in the two scenes mentioned in the December 16 note were executed by the censor himself.

(12.) Large portions of this document were published in Glossy 1897, 298–340. The original was then destroyed in the 1927 fire of the Palace of Justice in Vienna. Recently, De Alwis discovered several handwritten copies of the document containing the passages that Glossy deleted from this edition, and her own edition of the full document is forthcoming with the Don Juan Archiv in Vienna.

(13.) For extensive recent accounts of the growing disagreements between Hägelin and the other state officials responsible for theater control after 1801, see Schembor 2010, 237–242; and De Alwis 2012, 53–72.

(14.) Schembor (2010, 230) has noted that Braun would hire secretaries who reviewed the content of German theater works before these were submitted to the censor. Schembor (2010, 237) also discusses cases when Hägelin was in disagreement and criticized the editors/secretaries of the court theater. Perhaps one of these secretaries also revised the Don Juan libretto in December of 1803.

(15.) Like the other edits in Hägelin’s hand that can be traced to 1798, the ones in the Hermit scene are minimal, though they clearly follow the principles from his 1795 treatise about avoiding any explicit references to religious practices and texts; for example, Leporello originally addresses the Hermit as “venerable father” (ehrwürdiger Vater), which was changed to “venerable man” (ehrwürdiger Mann), and his exclamation “God be with me” (Gott steht mir bey) was changed to “Heaven be with me” (Himmel steht mir bey).

(16.) One of the revisions that might have come from Hägelin occurs in Leporello’s account of his earlier adventure with Donna Elvira. Disguised as his master, Leporello drew Elvira out of her house, but then tried to escape from her. His escape proved difficult, however, since Elvira “klebte [ihm] am Leibe” (was glued to [his] body). The reviewer (likely Hägelin himself) changed that phrase into “hing sich an [ihn]” (she hung on to [him]), probably to reduce the sexual innuendo. The change corresponds to revisions in the earlier scenes, in which the reviewer(s) sought to diminish the possibility that Elvira and Leporello had sex during their escapade.

(17.) According to Otto Rommel, the Hermit scene originated in the Italian theater and commedia dell’arte in the seventeenth century and eventually made its way into Viennese popular theater, such as a Don Juan puppet play and a Haus- und Staatsaktion by Gottfried Prehauser (Rommel 1936, 47–48).

(18.) Out of the two texts on the original page, only the earlier one appears in the conducting score used in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century productions of the German version of the opera as well as in the prompter’s book containing the text of 1798 and the revisions of 1803. The prompter’s book does not contain the aria’s second version and provides a separate (fourth) version on an inserted sheet—this increases the possibility that the second version was written into the censorial manuscript sometime between 1798 and 1803 and the versions on inserted sheets originated in response to the 1803 censorial request.

(19.) There is also a significant difference between the texts that are brought back with the heavily accentuated music later in the aria. In Mozart’s Italian original, mm. 86–93 set “Se trovi in piazza qualche ragazza, teco ancor quella cerca menar” (If in the piazza you find some girl, try to make her come here with you), whereas in the setting of Lippert’s text as given by the 1798 conducting score the pounding rhythms accompany a repeat of the list of women “Englisch und steurisch, schwäbisch und bäurisch, alles nach Gusto, das ist ja schön.

(20.) De Alwis (2012, 103) suggests that this small revision is the only one that comes from Hägelin, though she does not discuss whether it might have been entered in 1798 or 1803.

(21.) Other surviving materials probably created for the 1798 production (because they contain the original Lippert text) are the conducting score (Don Juan, A-Wn, OA.361/2) and the prompter’s score (Don Juan, A-Wn, OA.361/4). Dexter Edge (2001, 1754) also thinks it is quite likely the conducting score is connected to the 1798 production because its watermarks and copyists place it in the late 1790s or early 1800s. The text in the conducting score does not incorporate any of the later revisions, whereas the prompter’s score incorporates revisions, cuts, and changes associated with later nineteenth-century productions of Don Juan at the court theater. Edge (2001, 1755) dates the prompter’s score to the nineteenth century.

(22.) See, for example, the discussion of the double standards in evaluating works by Goethe, Schiller, and Shakespeare at the National Theater and the other Viennese stages in the 1780s in Teuber and Weilen 1903, 89.