Goethe was outraged by the suggestion that Mozart merely composed Don Giovanni "as if it were a piece of cake or biscuits stirred together out of eggs, flour and sugar!"
For this great German writer, Mozart's opera was "a spiritual creation, in which the details as well as the whole, are pervaded by one spirit and by the breath of one life".
Premiered in Prague in October 1784, Don Giovanni comes from the pens of two men; Lorenzo Da Ponte came up with the words.
Its story of a notorious rake getting his comeuppance dates back well into the 17th century; after Mozart, it inspired a long poem by Byron, a symphonic poem by Richard Strauss and a novel by Apollinaire.
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This is a tale with a moral message, spelt out in the alternative title of Mozart's opera - Il dissoluto punito or "The libertine punished". The final reckoning for this celebrated anti-hero, at the marble hands of the Commendatore's statue, has challenged directors and thrilled audiences for over two centuries.
Yet there is also humour in this work, significantly described by its composer as a "dramma giocoso".
Within minutes of the opening, Giovanni's manservant Leporello sings his celebrated Catalogue Aria, listing the amatory exploits of his master - brilliantly caught by director Joseph Losey in his 1979 film of the opera, where Jose van Dam unfurls a seemingly unending scroll of women's names to Kiri Te Kanawa's horrified Donna Elvira.
Was there ever a more tuneful song of seduction than La ci darem, in which the Don makes a play for Zerlina?
The genius of Don Giovanni lies in its perfect balance of light and dark, as it works its way from a brooding overture to an ironic, finger-wagging finale in which the cast warns potential sinners that "This is how evil-doers end!"
But is it as simple as that? Not if we believe American bass Samuel Ramey, who sees Giovanni as a villain to admire, standing his ground at the end even as the ground gives way beneath him.
"I think Mozart must have admired him," Ramey suggests. "Perhaps he wished there was a little more of the Don in him. Maybe we all do." William Dart