Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791)

Overture to Don Giovanni (1787)

Mozart's Don Giovanni was first performed on October 29 1787 in Prague under the longer title of "Il Dissoluto Punito ossia il Don Giovanni, Dramma giocoso in due atti". In many respects it was a ground breaking work. Although outwardly a comic opera in the "Opera Buffa" tradition, it freely mixes comic and serious scenes with melodrama and the supernatural, and like Mozart's other two opera buffa - Figaro and Cosi fan tutte - it is remarkable for the depth and accuracy of is character portrayals.

The overture was completed the day before the first performance. A long slow introduction forshadows the penultimate scene of the opera where the statue of the Commandatore returns to carry the unrepenting Don Giovanni down to hell. It moves forward with relentless inevitability driven by a sinister inner voice on the second violins. We even hear a distant cry of anguish leading to chilling scales on the winds and first violins evoking the supernatural. The slow introduction subsides into darkness and the allegro, in the major mode, changes the mood completely. It is full of life, drive and energy describing the brash self confidence of Don Giovanni and the many comic interchanges that will occur between him and his servant Leporello. In the opera the overture ends quietly and moves directly into the first act. However Mozart did compose a concert ending for it in which it ends with a triumphal blaze of colour for the whole orchestra.

The overture to Don Giovanni was performed by the Portobello orchestra on the 8th December 2012, conducted by David Ward.