A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes


Mozart’s opera, whose proper Italian title is Il dissoluto punito ossia il Don Giovanni (The Punishment of the Libertine or Don Giovanni), has been admired by many enthusiastic opera-goers ever since its first performance in Prague on October 29, 1787. […]

Kierkegaard offers a deep meditation on the meaning of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a splendid treatise entitled “The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical Erotic” found in his book Either/Or. […]

George Price offers this fine description of the “aesthetic” stage of life as he thinks Kierkegaard sought to depict it:

By its very nature it is the most fragile and least stable of all forms of existence. […] [The aesthetic man] is merged into the crowd, and does what they do; he reflects their tastes, their ideas, prejudices, clothing and manner of speech. The entire liturgy of his life is dictated by them. His only special quality is greater or less discrimination of what he himself shall ‘enjoy’, for his outlook is an uncomplicated, unsophisticated Hedonism: he does what pleases him, he avoids what does not. His life’s theme is a simple one, ‘one must enjoy life’. […] He is also, characteristically, a man with a minimum of reflection. […]

Kierkegaard also uses Faust as Goethe interpreted him, and Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew, as exemplars and variations of the aesthetic stage of existence. “First, Don Juan, the simple, exuberant, uncomplicated, unreflective man; then Faust, the bored, puzzled, mixed-up, wistful man; and the third, the inevitable climax, the man in despair—Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew.” Kierkegaard’s discussion of this aesthetic aspect of life “is mainly a sustained exposition of a universal level of human experience, and as such it is a story as old as man. Here is life at it simplest, most general level […] the life of easy sanctions and unimaginative indulgences. It is also a totally uncommitted and ‘choiceless’ life [Don Juan]. But, for reasons inexplicable to itself, it cannot remain there. The inner need for integration brings its contentment to an end. Boredom intervenes; and boredom followed by an abortive attempt to overcome it by more discrimination about pleasures and diversions, about friends, habits and surroundings [Faust]. But the dialectical structure of the self gives rise to a profounder disturbance than boredom; and finally the man is aware of a frustration which nothing can annul [Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew]. Were he constituted differently, says Kierkegaard, he would not suffer in this fashion. But being what he is, suffer he must— in diminishing hope and in growing staleness of existence.

{ Søren Kierkegaard’s Interpretation of Mozart’s Opera Don Giovanni | PDF }