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Lorenzo Da Ponte

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Lorenzo Da Ponte (10 March 1749 - 17 August 1838) was a Roman Catholic Venetian opera librettist and poet of Jewish origin. He wrote the librettos for twenty-eight operas by eleven composers, including Mozart.

Life

Lorenzo Da Ponte was born Emanuele Conegliano in Ceneda, in the Republic of Venice (now Vittorio Veneto, Italy). He was a Jew by birth. His parents were Geremia Conegliano and Rachele Pincherle. He had two brothers; Baruch (born in 1752) and Anania (born in 1754). Rachele died giving birth to Anania in 1754. Geremia Conegliano, the widowed father, converted himself and his three sons to Roman Catholicism in order to marry eighteen-year-old Orsola Pasqua Paietta She was only four years older than Emanuele, then 14 years old. Emanuele took the name of Lorenzo da Ponte, the Bishop of Ceneda who administered his baptism. He studied to be a teacher and was ordained a Catholic priest. While priest of the church of San Luca in Venice, he took a mistress, Anzoletta Bellaudi, who was married. Da Ponte delivered their first child, an event which he commented was "the kind of incident that happens every day." Reprimanded by the vicar-general, Da Ponte and Anzoletta opened a brothel. Charged with "public concubinage and rapito di donna onesta" (abduction of a respectable woman), Da Ponte was banished from Venice for fifteen years.[1]

Da Ponte travelled to Austria, and applied for the post of Poet to the Theatres. Emperor Joseph II asked how many plays he had written. Da Ponte replied "None, Sire," to which the Emperor replied "Good, good! Then we shall have a virgin muse."[1]

As court librettist, he wrote texts in French, German, Spanish, and Italian, and collaborated with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Salieri, and Vicente Martín y Soler.

Sometime around 1792, da Ponte was introduced to Ann Celestine Grahl (known more commonly as Nancy), a woman twenty years younger than him, who became his wife for the latter part of his life and was mother to da Ponte's four children: Louisa (1794), Fanny (1799), Joseph (1800), and Lorenzo (1804).

With the death of Joseph II, da Ponte lost his patron, and he received little interest from the new Emperor. He moved to Prague briefly, and then to London. He started a new career there as an opera producer. However, he had little head for business, and eventually found himself in bankruptcy. To escape his creditors, he fled to the United States.

In the United States, da Ponte settled in New York first, then Philadelphia, where he briefly ran a grocery store and gave private Italian lessons. He returned to New York to open a bookstore. He became friends with Clement Clarke Moore, and, through him, gained an appointment as the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia College. He was the first faculty member to have been born a Jew, and also the first to have been ordained a priest. In New York he introduced opera and produced a performance of Don Giovanni. He also introduced Gioachino Rossini's music to the U.S., through a concert tour with his niece Giulia da Ponte.

In 1828, at the age of 79, Da Ponte became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He died in 1838 in New York; an enormous funeral ceremony was held in New York's old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street. Da Ponte is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

All of Da Ponte's works were adaptations of pre-existing plots, as was common among librettists of the time, with the exceptions of L'arbore di Diana with Vicente Martín y Soler, and Così fan tutte, which he began with Salieri, but completed with Mozart. However the quality of his elaboration gave them new life, in particular the Don Giovanni character, often seen in contrast with Giacomo Casanova as the archetypical libertine character.

Lorenzo Da Ponte's great-great-great-grandson, Durant da Ponte was Professor of American Studies at the University of Tennessee.

Works

  • Operas:
    • Ifigenia in Tauride (1783) — composer Christoph Willibald Gluck)
    • La Scuola de' gelosi (1783) — composer Antonio Salieri
    • Il Ricco d'un giorno (1784) — composer Antonio Salieri
    • Il burbero di buon cuore (1786, from the play by Carlo Goldoni) — composer Vicente Martín y Soler
    • Il Demogorgone ovvero Il filosofo confuso (1786) — composer Vincenzo Righini
    • Il finto cieco (1786) — composer Giuseppe Gazzaniga
    • Le nozze di Figaro (1786, from the play by Pierre Beaumarchais) — composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • Una cosa rara (1786, from the comedy La Luna della Sierra by Luis Vélez de Guevara) — composer Vicente Martín y Soler
    • Gli equivoci (1786) — composer Stephen Storace
    • L'arbore di Diana (1787) — composer Vicente Martín y Soler
    • Il dissoluto punito o sia Il Don Giovanni (1787, from the opera by Giuseppe Gazzaniga) — composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • Axur, re d'Ormus (1787/88, translation of the libretto Tarare by Pierre Beaumarchais) — composer Antonio Salieri
    • Il Talismano (1788, from Carlo Goldoni) — composer Antonio Salieri
    • Il Bertoldo (1788) — composer Antonio Brunetti
    • L'Ape musicale (1789) — Pasticcio of works by various composers
    • Il Pastor fido (1789, from the pastoral by Giovanni Battista Guarini) — composer Antonio Salieri
    • La Cifra (1789) — composer Antonio Salieri
    • Così fan tutte (1789/90) — composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • La Caffettiera bizzarra (1790) — composer Joseph Weigl
    • La Capricciosa corretta (1795) — composer Vicente Martín y Soler
    • Antigona (1796) — composer Giuseppe Francesco Bianchi
    • Il consiglio imprudente (1796) — composer Giuseppe Francesco Bianchi
    • Merope (1797) — composer Giuseppe Francesco Bianchi
    • Cinna (1798) — composer Giuseppe Francesco Bianchi
    • Armida (1802) — composer Giuseppe Francesco Bianchi
    • La Grotta di Calipso (1803) — composer Peter von Winter
    • Il Trionfo dell'amor fraterno (1804) — composer Peter von Winter
    • Il Ratto di Proserpina (1804) — composer Peter von Winter
  • Cantatas and Oratorios:
    • Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia (1785) — composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri (lost)
    • Davidde penitente (1785) — composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • Il Davidde (1791) — Pasticcio from works by various composers
    • Hymn to America — composer Antonio Bagioli
  • Poetry:
    • Letter of complaint in blank verse to Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor[2]
    • 18 sonnets in commemoration of his wife (1832)

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 L. de Ponty's Wagon, THE LIBERTINE LIBRETTIST (292 pp.) — April FitzLyon — Abelard-Schuman in TIME, Monday, March 11, 1957, online at time.com (accessed 22 June 2008)
  2. Anthony Holden, pp. 113–6
  • Russo, Joseph Louis. Lorenzo Da Ponte Poet and Adventurer. Columbia University studies in romance philology and literature. New York: AMS Press, 1966. googlebooks.com Accessed October 15, 2007

Bibliography

  • FitzLyon, April, The Libertine Librettist (1955)
  • Bolt, Rodney, The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte — Mozart's Poet, Casanova's Friend, and Italian Opera's Impresario in America, New York: Bloomsbury, 2006 ISBN 1596911182
  • Da Ponte, Lorenzo, Memorie, New York: 1823–27; English edition: Memoirs of Lorenzo Da Ponte, translated by Elizabeth Abbott, annotated by Arthur Livingstone. New York: The Orion Press, 1959. ISBN 0306762900
  • Hodges, Sheila, Lorenzo Da Ponte: The Life and Times of Mozart's Librettist, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002 ISBN 0299178749
  • Holden, Anthony, The Man Who Wrote Mozart: The Extraordinary Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte , London: Orion Publishing Company, 2007 ISBN 075382180X
  • Hüttler, Michael (ed.): Lorenzo Da Ponte. Vienna: Böhlau, 2007 (Maske & Kothurn, 52/4) (ISBN 978-3-205-77617-8)
  • Jewish Museum, Vienna (pub.), Lorenzo Da Ponte — Challenging the New World, exhibition catalogue from the Jewish Museum ISBN 978-3-7757-1748-9, ISBN 3-7757-1748-X
  • Russo, Joseph Louis, Lorenzo Da Ponte: Poet and Adventurer, New York: Columbia University Press, 1922 ISBN 0404506321
  • Steptoe, Anthony, Mozart–Da Ponte Operas: The Cultural and Musical Background to "Le nozze di Figaro", "Don Giovanni", and "Cosi fan tutte", New York: Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press, 1988 ISBN 019313215X
  • Da Ponte, Lorenzo, "Libretti viennesi", a cura di Lorenzo della Chà, Milano-Parma: Fondazione Bembo-Ugo Guanda Editore, 1999, due volumi. ISBN 88-8246-060-6
  • Da Ponte, Lorenzo, "Estratto delle Memorie", a cura di Lorenzo della Chà, Milano: Edizioni Il Polifilo, 1999. ISBN 88-7050-438-7
  • Da Ponte, Lorenzo, "Il Mezenzio", a cura di Lorenzo della Chà, Milano: Edizioni Il Polifilo, 2000. ISBN 88-7050-310-0
  • Da Ponte, Lorenzo, "Saggio di traduzione libera di Gil Blas", a cura di Lorenzo della Chà, Milano: Edizioni Il Polifilo, 2002. ISBN 88-7050-461-1
  • Da Ponte, Lorenzo, "Dante Alighieri", a cura di Lorenzo della Chà, Milano: Edizioni Il Polifilo, 2004. ISBN 88-7050-462-X
  • Da Ponte, Lorenzo, "Saggi poetici", a cura di Lorenzo della Chà, Milano: Edizioni Il Polifilo, 2005. ISBN 88-7050-463-8
  • Da Ponte, Lorenzo, "Libretti londinesi" a cura di Lorenzo della Chà, Milano: Edizioni Il Polifilo, 2007. ISBN 88-7050-464-6

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