New York City Opera Project: Don Giovanni

Donna Elvira: Mi tradi [Act II, Scene 2]


Don Giovanni and Leporello have exchanged clothes, so that DG can pursue Donna Elvira's maid. Leporello is to lead Donna Elvira herself away, while DG carries out his seduction.

(Meanwhile, the aggrieved Masetto turns up with a band of other peasants, in search of DG. The actual DG (whom they take to be Leporello, since he is wearing Leporello's clothes) sends the peasants off in futile search, and then beats the daylights out of Masetto.)

Later, Elvira and Leporello (dressed as DG, remember!) encounter Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, and are then confronted by Masetto and Zerlina, all of whom denounce DG, demanding his death. At this point the six characters express their various individual feelings in a sextet (i.e. an ensemble in which six characters sing their own very different words and music simultaneously). Leporello then identifies himself, in order to save his life. Donna Anna leaves, Leporello escapes, and Don Ottavio sings an aria encouraging the others to comfort Anna and swearing vengeance on DG.

The aria that Donna Elvira now sings, "Mi tradi," was not part of the opera at its first performance in Prague. It was added for the Vienna performance expressly at the request of the singer of Elvira's part, Caterina Cavallieri, who wanted something with which to show off the qualities of her voice. Mozart composed this for her, which turned out to be one of the great jewels of the opera.


Left alone, and having been betrayed yet again, Elvira struggles with the realization that Don Giovanni is going to be punished by heaven (presumably still through the agency of Don Ottavio and the others trying to kill him, as far as she knows). The recitative and aria shows how torn she is by feelings of betrayal and pity, how worry about him intrudes on her desire for vengeance. This is a coloratura aria -- i.e. one with rapid scales and arpeggios in the voice, which in this case convey the intensity of her feelings. The orchestra plays a important part, too: listen for the exquisite short solos by flute, clarinet, and bassoon.

The aria is in the form:

A (tonic major) - B (dominant major) - A - C (tonic minor) - A

The differing keys and mode, and the alternation of the main themes, vividly express Elvira's conflicting emotions, which will culminate in her final appeal to DG in the Banquet Scene, and his dragging down to hell.


Performance of "Mi tradi"

English Italian
Recitativo: "In quali eccessi..."  
Donna Elvira:
Into what excesses, oh Lord, into what
horrible misdeeds the scoundrel has
fallen! Ah no, the wrath and the justice
of Heaven cannot delay any longer.
I already seem to see the fatal thunderbolt
striking his head! I see the grave opening
at his feet! Wretched Elvira! What
contrasting emotions rend me apart
Why those sighs? Why this anguish?
Donna Elvira:
In qulai eccessi, o Nui, in quai misfatti
orribili tremendi è avvolto il sciagurato!
Ah no! non puote tardar i'ira del cielo,
la giustizia tardar. Sentir già parmi la
fatale saetta, che gli piomba sul capo!
Aperto veggio il baratro mortal!
Misera Elvira! Che contrasto d'affetti,
in sen ti nasce! Perchè questi sospiri?
E queste ambascie?
& Aria: "Mi tradì quell' alma ingrata"  
That ungrateful wretch betrayed me,
Made me miserable, oh Lord.
He betrayed and abandoned me,
But I still would forgive him.
When I feel my dreadful anguish,
My heart cries out for vengeance,
But if I gaze upon his features,
My heart still beats with excitement.
Mi tradì, quell' alma ingrata,
Infelice, o Dio, mi fa.
Ma tradita e abbandonata,
Provo ancor per lui pietà.
Quando sento il mio tormento,
Di vendetta il cor favella,
Ma se guardo il suo cimento,
Palpitando il cor mi va.