On this day October 29, 1787

Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni receives its first performance in Prague with the composer conducting.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The opera, full title Il Dissoluto Punito ossia il Don Giovanni Dramma giocoso in due atti, was rapturously received.

The Prager Oberamtszeitung reported, “Connoisseurs and musicians say that Prague has never heard the like,” and “the opera … is extremely difficult to perform.” Provincialnachrichten of Vienna reported, “Herr Mozart conducted in person and welcomed joyously and jubilantly by the numerous gathering.”

Da Ponte’s claim in his Memoirs that the libretto was finished in June 1787 is untrustworthy. The score was completed on October 28 of the same year after Da Ponte was recalled to Vienna to work on another opera.

Reports about the last-minute completion of the overture conflict; some say it was completed the day before the premiere, some on the very day. More likely it was completed the day before, in light of the fact that Mozart recorded the completion of the opera on 28 October.

The score calls for double woodwinds, horns and trumpets, timpani, basso continuo for the recitatives, and the usual strings. The composer also specified occasional special musical effects.

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