While in Prague from January to February 1787, attending and conducting performances of his most recently completed opera Le nozze di Figaro and concerts of several of his instrumental works, Mozart received a commission from Prague impresario Pasquale Bondini for a new opera, which was to be produced in Prague during October 1787. Mozart returned to Vienna and asked Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist for Figaro, for another opera libretto. Don Giovanni became the second of three opere buffe Mozart would compose to a libretto by Da Ponte, the third of which, Così fan tutte, Mozart would complete in early 1790. Da Ponte's libretto shows the influence of Bertati's libretto for Gazzaniga's opera Convitato di pietra. The premiere of Don Giovanni took place to great public and critical acclaim in Prague on October 29, 1787. The Prague reception of Don Giovanni was more positive than that of the opera's first Vienna performances in 1788, for which reviews suggested mild dissatisfaction with the work's extended length and unnecessary plot elaborations.
Mozart creates levels of dramatic expression through recitativo secco, recitative accompagnato, and aria styles. Through recitativo secco, Mozart reveals large amounts of plot information with utmost musical economy. Recitativo accompagnato is reserved for moments of great emotion, in which the accompanying orchestra virtually assumes a dramatic role. In Act Two, Scene Ten (d), the orchestra virtually speaks for the conflicted Donna Elvira, emphatic dotted rhythms in the orchestra conveying her rage and slurred couplets giving musical voice to her sighs. The dramatically stagnant da capo aria that was the mainstay of the operas of George Friedrich Handel is virtually absent from Don Giovanni. Leporello's so-called "catalog aria" ("Madamina, il catalogo è questo") in Act One, Scene Five, for example, suggests both through-composed and bi-partite formal elements. Some arias in Don Giovanni, however, such as Don Ottavio's Act One, Scene Fourteen aria ("Dalla sue pace"), contain traces of the ternary form idea of returning to beginning material after a section of contrasting music. Donna Elvira's aria in Act Two, Scene Ten(d) ("Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata") juxtaposes ternary and rondo form ideas, reinforcing through musical form Donna Elvira's returning to the same position of pity and longing for Don Giovanni. In keeping with the function of the opera overture to introduce the opera's important themes, the music that begins the overture, marked by alternations between the D minor tonic and its dominant, returns in the Commendatore's scene in Act Two, Scene Fifteen. The drama of this scene is set in relief by the light use popular music in the preceding party scene, where the on-stage musicians play melodies from arias by Martín y Soler, Sarti, and even Mozart's own Le nozze di Figaro during Don Giovanni's party. Don Giovanni's canzonetta ("Deh, vieni alla fenestra, o mio tesoro") in Act Two, Scene Three, an airy strophic song scored for pizzicato strings and mandolin, is a similarly witty musical juxtaposition of planes of realism.