Monday, February 25, 2013

Lorenzo Da Ponte: A Man of Many Words

Lorenzo who? Lorenzo Da Ponte, He was a frequent collaborator of Mozart, he also founded the first Opera house in New York City. 

Lorenzo was born originally a Jewish Emmanuelle Conegliano near Venice in 1749.  He was an Italian poet and librettist well known for his collaboration with Mozart. When his mother died his father remarried to a Catholic woman and the family was required to convert to Catholicism. He entered a seminary, learned some Hebrew, became a professor and ordained minister and also had several affairs. These affairs eventually led to him being banished from Venice and he fled to Vienna.

While in Vienna, he became a distinguished poet and librettist. He was named Poet to the court to the Emperor Joseph II. In 1738, Da Ponte and Motzart met and quickly created three works of art together, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così Fan Tutte. Unfortunately soon after these successful collaborations, Mozart and Joseph II passed away leaving Da Ponte jobless. He relocated to London where he wrote plays, librettos, and ran a bookshop. This time, instead of countless affairs, he was arrested for debt. He fled to the United States to escape trial.

He finally settled in New York City where he taught for years at Columbia University Italian language and literature. While there, he also founded the first Opera house in New York City. His death in 1838 was highly publicized and in a strange turn of events his actual remains whereabouts are still unknown. While there is a stone maker in the cemetery in Queens, there are sources that say he is actually buried in downtown Manhattan. Wherever he is, his contributions to music aren’t forgotten. 

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