"Il dissoluto punito, ossia Il Don Giovanni" is the full title of the opera that is widely held to be the most perfect work of its genre. Luckily, it is known today merely as "Don Giovanni," a title that far better evokes the hero in all of his seductive power, his disregard for the social order, his merry wantonness. It is this hero who fascinated Mozart, not the "dissoluto punito" – the "rake punished" – who harks back to the morals and conventions of the late 18th century. The work, again on a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte (like "Figaro" and "Così"), was written for Prague after "Figaro" had enjoyed such an overwhelming success in the Bohemian capital. It was premiered there on 29 October 1787. The opera's perfect fusion of opera buffa and opera seria is suggested by its novel designation as a dramma giocoso, or merry drama. It is a moral tale of murder, sexual exploitation and betrayal that is lightened by comedic elements that infuse the whole with warmth and humanity.
The aristocrat of conductors, the autocrat of the baton, Riccardo Muti cuts a noble figure at the head of any orchestra and ennobles every ensemble through his charismatic personality and red-blooded musicality. In many respects, including his unwillingness to compromise over artistic matters, he is reminiscent of Arturo Toscanini, who was also a demanding ruler at the podium. His rise to international fame set in with his guest conductorships at the Salzburg Festival in 1971 and at the head of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1972. Muti became principal guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra a few years later, and was named its music director in 1980. Always a conductor of both the symphonic and operatic repertoire, Muti advanced to the post of music director of La Scala in Milan in 1986. The 1990s saw Muti consolidating his reputation at the head of this venerable institution, as well as in countless other high-caliber venues around the world. Today he is one of the undisputed giants among the leading conductors of the world.