The action, which spans twenty-four hours, takes place in Seville
Late at night, Don Giovanni’s servant Leporello is keeping watch while his master attempts to rape the daughter of the Commendatore, Donna Anna. The Commendatore rushes to her defense as Don Giovanni slays the old man and flees. Anna returns with Don Ottavio, her fiancé, and the two swear revenge. In the early morning, Giovanni’s jilted lover Donna Elvira searches for him. Servant and master spy on her and when they all meet, Giovanni talks his way out of trouble and escapes, leaving Leporello to explain his master’s philandering ways. Around midday, Giovanni and Leporello happen upon the rustic nuptial celebration of Masetto and Zerlina. The latter excites Giovanni’s fancy, but his seduction of her is interrupted by Elvira, who sweeps Zerlina away. Anna and Ottavio arrive, not yet recognizing Giovanni as the murderer. When Elvira interrupts again, Giovanni attempts to pass off her hysterics as madness and leaves to “help” Elvira in her distress. Anna soon realizes the truth and calls for vengeance. Not in the least deterred, Giovanni orders Leporello to prepare a lavish party for all the neighbors. He renews his wooing of Zerlina, but her sharp-eyed fiancé intervenes. As Giovanni leads the young couple into the villa, Anna, Ottavio, and Elvira enter wearing masks and are quickly invited by the master to join the festivities. With the party in full swing, Giovanni leads Zerlina into an adjoining room. Her cries, however, bring everyone to her aid. Giovanni tries to make Leporello seem like the offending villain, but no one is taken in. The three guests unmask and Don Giovanni’s adventures seem at an end, but by a sudden intervention he once again escapes his accusers.
Later that evening Don Giovanni soothes a disgruntled Leporello and hatches his latest plot, this one aimed at Elvira’s maid and requiring master and servant to exchange clothes. Elvira is lured away by the man she thinks is her beloved, and the real Giovanni is left to serenade the maid. Just then an armed Masetto and his followers arrive in search of the fugitive. The supposed Leporello sends them off in all directions, disarms Masetto, and beats him. Leporello, still disguised as Don Giovanni, is trying to escape when Anna, Ottavio, Masetto, and Zerlina converge upon him. Leporello reveals his identity, confusing everyone, and escapes.
Later that night, Giovanni and Leporello have sought refuge in a cemetery. Their conversation is interrupted by a ghostly voice from the statue over the Commendatore’s grave. In response to a doomful warning, Giovanni orders Leporello to invite the statue to his villa for a pre-dawn supper. The invitation is accepted, and the two return to the villa to prepare. Ottavio seeks to console Anna, suggesting marriage. Temporarily rejected, he charges Anna with cruelty. Anna protests her love and begs for patience. Giovanni eats supper while a wind band serenades him with popular tunes of the day. Elvira rushes in resolved to forgive Giovanni and tries to persuade him to change his ways. He cruelly taunts her, and she leaves in despair. Moments later, her terrified scream is heard and Leporello rushes to see what is wrong. He returns in terror, announcing the arrival of the statue of the Commendatore. In deadly jest, the Commendatore asks if Giovanni will dine with him, and the arrogant Giovanni accepts. The Commendatore demands repeatedly that Giovanni repent his sins, but he is refused. Finally, Don Giovanni meets his death.
The other characters return searching for Giovanni, and Leporello tells them what has happened. They all point out the moral of the opera: This is the evil-doer’s end, and sinners will die just as they have lived.