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Mozart's 'Don Giovanni'

As the legend goes, he was the quintessential rake — a womanizing scoundrel with a list of amorous conquests so long that his right-hand man needs an entire aria just to outline it! His name is Don Juan or, in Mozart's musical version of the story, Don Giovanni.

Mozart's opera has been described as a comedy, and it has any number of uproarious moments. But there's far more to Don Giovanni than just a series of big laughs, just as the notorious Don is more than just an unprincipled, single-minded ladies' man. The opera's comic element is driven by Giovanni's devious schemes and hijinks. But both Lorenzo da Ponte's libretto and Mozart's matchless music ensure that the dire consequences of those schemes are as evident as their humor.

The result is a disturbing ambiguity that's at the core of Mozart's masterpiece. The Don's personality is so beguiling that audiences actually tend to root for him, even as his dark side becomes more and more obvious. Still, when he eventually receives a personal invitation to hell, and his enemies rejoice, it's hard to blame them.

Don Giovanni has been widely regarded as the greatest opera ever composed. That's a pretty bold statement, but however you rank it, Mozart's opera is a brilliant combination of stark human tragedy and touching comedy, set to music of limitless genius. On World of Opera host Lisa Simeone presents it in a new production from Houston Grand Opera, starring baritone Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role.

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