D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard

Second Period: Indirect Communication (1843-46)

A Cursory Observation

  • A Cursory Observation Concerning a Detail in Don Giovanni
  • En flygtig Bemærkning betræffende en Enkelthed i Don Juan
  • A
  • May 19-20, 1845
  • KW13, SKS13, SV13, Fædrelandet 1890-91

In this article Kierkegaard pursues his interest in Mozart's masterpiece, which he first treated in Either/Or, under the title "The Immediate Erotic Stages, Or The Musical-Erotic". Don Giovanni is such a compelling work for analysis since it exceeds its genre. It is a comedy in that there are manifestly comic scenes, such as the opening aria of Don Giovanni's servant Leporello who sings of the misfortunes of serving his master. The enumeration of Don Giovanni's lovers is also comic exaggeration, perhaps ultimately spoofing the catalogue of ships in the Iliad. The opera is also comic in the classical sense because, unlike a tragedy, it ends well. However, it ends well for everyone but the hero, Don Giovanni, who is really an anti-hero.

The occasion for the writing of this article was a performance in Copenhagen of the opera after a five year interval. The "Cursory Observation" concerns the duet with Zerlina in Act One in which Zerlina alleges that she does not understand how she was seduced. Kierkegaard begins by noting the qualities of a good opera singer, which includes the ability to act, which by the way, is a still a point often overlooked.

The first requirement for a singer is voice, then delivery, which is a unity of voice and mood and is different from vocal flexibility in coloratura and runs, since as possibility it is the mutual compatibility of the two and as actuality the harmony of voice and mood in the delivery. The final requirement for a singer is that the mood suit the situation and the poetic character. If the singer has voice and joins it with mood, he has artistic passion. If he is also an actor, by means of miming he will even be able to encompass contrast at the same time (p. 29).

(More notes forthcoming.)