The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! (2 Peter 3:9-12)
Hell is a real possibility for all of us. It’s not a happy thought, but it’s an appropriate introduction to today’s Music Monday selection, our last musical offering before Ash Wednesday. It’s not really sacred music, but it is very relevant indeed to the Lenten themes of sin, repentance (or not), and damnation. This is the finale* of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (a.k.a. Don Juan), one of the most powerful scenes in the history of musical drama.
First, a little context for the scene below. Don Giovanni is a serial abuser of women. According to his servant Leporello, he has sexually exploited precisely 2,065 women in five different countries (and that’s just during the time of Leporello’s service). Earlier in the opera Giovanni had crept into the bedroom of an unsuspecting young woman, and killed her elderly father, the Commendatore, who had come to her defense. In this final scene, the spirit of the Commandatore has come in the guise of his memorial statue from the nearby cemetery to visit Don Giovanni. The ghost of the murdered father is here to offer the licentious Don one last chance of repentance before his final end.
Pentiti!– “Repent!” the ghost insistently demands.
Don Giovanni, unwilling to surrender his pride, every time answers a defiant “No!” Finally, a host of demons arrives to haul the wicked old sinner off to Hell.
In Don Giovanni’s last moments we see in dramatic form the situation that we all face. As St. Peter tells us in the passage at the top of the page, God wishes “that all should reach repentance.” St. Paul likewise assures us that our Lord “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:4) God makes His offer of salvation to all, even to so prodigious a sinner as Don Giovanni. At the same time, we need to accept God’s offer by turning away from sin, that is, we need to choose salvation by repenting. Note that St. Peter also says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” (Acts 2:38), and St.Paul reminds us that ” the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Don Giovanni makes his choice for sin and death . . . forever.
Repent and believe the Gospel!
The clip below is from one of my favorite productions of Don Giovanni, performed in Salzburg in 1991 with Samuel Ramey as Don Giovanni, Kurt Moll as the ghost of the Commandatore, and Feruccio Furlanetto as Leporello. (Please pardon the slightly fuzzy visuals – there are better reproductions on other platforms, but we don’t link to those)
*There is an additional scene after this in which the surviving characters discuss their futures, which was almost never performed in Mozart’s day.