Don Giovanni’s overture is concise, defined, strongly structured, and above all, impregnated with the essence of the whole opera.
It is powerful like a god’s idea, turbulent like a world’s life, harrowing in its earnestness, palpitating in its desire, crushing in its terrible wrath, animating in its full-blooded joy; it is hollow-toned in its judgment, shrill in its lust; it is ponderous, ceremonious in its awe-inspiring dignity; it is stirring, flaring, dancing in its delight.
And this it has not attained by sucking the blood of the opera; on the contrary, it is rather a prophecy in its relation to the opera.
In the overture, the music unfurls its total range; with a few powerful wing beats it soars above itself, as it were, floats above the place where it will descend. It is a struggle, but a struggle in the higher atmosphere.
To anyone hearing the overture after he has become more familiar with the opera, it may seem as if he had penetrated the hidden workshop where the forces he has learned to identify in the opera move with primitive power, where they wrestle with one another with all their might.
The contest, however, is too uneven; before the battle, one force is already victor. It flees and escapes, but this flight is precisely its passion, its burning restlessness in its brief joy of life, the pounding pulse in its passionate ardor. It thereby sets the other force in motion and carries it along with itself.
This, which at first seemed so unshakably firm that it was practically immovable, must now be off, and soon the movement is so swift that it seems like an actual conflict.