It is sung in scene 5 of the first act of the opera, by Leporello, to Donna Elvira. It consists of a description and count of his master's lovers but is sung (for the most part) to a light-hearted or laid-back tune. It is one of Mozart's most famous and popular arias.
In Italia seicento e quaranta; In Alemagna duecento e trentuna; Cento in Francia, in Turchia novantuna; Ma in Ispagna son già mille e tre.
V'han fra queste contadine, Cameriere, cittadine, V'han contesse, baronesse, Marchesine, principesse. E v'han donne d'ogni grado, D'ogni forma, d'ogni età.
Nella bionda egli ha l'usanza Di lodar la gentilezza, Nella bruna la costanza, Nella bianca la dolcezza.
Vuol d'inverno la grassotta, Vuol d'estate la magrotta; È la grande maestosa, La piccina è ognor vezzosa.
Delle vecchie fa conquista Pel piacer di porle in lista; Sua passion predominante È la giovin principiante.
Non si picca — se sia ricca, Se sia brutta, se sia bella; Purché porti la gonnella, Voi sapete quel che fa.
In Italy, six hundred and forty; In Germany, two hundred and thirty-one; A hundred in France; in Turkey, ninety-one; But in Spain already one thousand and three.
Among these are peasant girls, Maidservants, city girls, Countesses, baronesses, Marchionesses, princesses, Women of every rank, Every shape, every age.
With blondes it is his habit To praise their kindness; In brunettes, their faithfulness; In the white-haired, their sweetness.
In winter he likes fat ones. In summer he likes thin ones. He calls the tall ones majestic. The little ones are always charming.
He seduces the old ones For the pleasure of adding to the list. His greatest favourite Is the young beginner.
It doesn't matter if she's rich, Ugly or beautiful; If she wears a skirt, You know what he does.
A corresponding scene in which Don Giovanni's servant expounds the catalogue of his master's lovers was already present in several versions of Don Juan's story, in opera, theatre and Commedia dell'arte: probably the initiator was a version of Il convitato di pietra ("The Stone Guest") attributed to Andrea Cicognini. The most immediate forerunner (premiering in 1787, a few months before Mozart's Don Giovanni) was the opera Don Giovanni, o sia Il convitato di pietra composed by Giuseppe Gazzaniga to a libretto by Giovanni Bertati. In Gazzaniga's opera, the aria in which Don Giovanni's servant, Pasquariello, describes his master's catalogue of lovers to Donna Elvira begins:
|Original Italian||English translation|
Some commenters found that several devices in the text and the music manage to convey a universal meaning, something removed from a simple, humorous list of women: for instance, Luigi Dallapiccola remarks that the line "Cento in Francia, in Turchia novantuna", breaks the rhythm of octosyllables and so illuminates the whole aria. According to Massimo Mila, "this Commedia dell'arte gag (which used to be accompanied by the gesture of unrolling the catalogue's scroll towards the audience) had incalculable consequences in determining the romantic interpretation of Don Giovanni's character". Romanticism interpreted the obsession expressed in the catalogue as a longing for the absolute.
The aria is the basis of Michael Nyman's In Re Don Giovanni (1977), his first work for the Michael Nyman Band. It is a canon built upon, and then varying, the first fifteen bars. This work, in turn, became a duet between Wolfgang and Leopold Mozart in Nyman's opera Letters, Riddles and Writs titled "Profit and Loss."