Don Giovanni had its premiere performance in Prague on October 29th, 1787. Mozart’s vastly successful opera, based on the stories of legendary libertine Don Juan, delighted the city that had taken him to their hearts. But what brought them all – composer and audience, theatre manager and cast – to this time and place?
Acclaimed tenor Rolando Villazon presents the story of one of the best-known operas of all time. Based in Prague, Rolando explores the run-up to that candle-lit first performance, looking at the music of the opera and the social setting in which it was first performed, before recreating the finale of the opera close to how it would have looked and sounded on that autumn evening.
Rolando visits the Estates Theatre, where Mozart conducted Don Giovanni’s premiere. He works with local orchestra Collegium 1704, their conductor Václav Luks and opera singers Svatopluk Sem, Alzbeta Polackova, Fulvio Bettini and Jan Martinik, performing and dissecting the music of the opera. By singing and discussing key passages, Rolando reveals Mozart’s genius as a composer and the revolutionary musical techniques he used.
As he explores, we are able to grasp how Don Giovanni not only entertained the audience but terrified them by playing on the deepest fears of the 18th century, how different it would have sounded played on the instruments of the time, and how with this masterpiece Mozart went beyond the musical conventions of the day and created something unique. By talking with a range of experts and drawing on historical sources, Rolando brings to life the setting, costumes and audience, and presents a detailed picture of the world in which the opera was first performed.