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The Man Who Wrote Mozart: The Extraordinary Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte
In June 1805 a 56-year-old Italian immigrant disembarked to Philadelphia carrying only a violin. Before dying in New York 23 years later, he would find New World respectability as the first Professor of Italian at Columbia University. For now, he set up shop as a grocer. There was always an air of mystery about the Abbe Lorenzo Da Ponte. A scholarly poet,...
In June 1805 a 56-year-old Italian immigrant disembarked to Philadelphia carrying only a violin. Before dying in New York 23 years later, he would find New World respectability as the first Professor of Italian at Columbia University. For now, he set up shop as a grocer. There was always an air of mystery about the Abbe Lorenzo Da Ponte. A scholarly poet, teacher, and priest with a devoted wife, he also had a reputation as a womanizer. Da Ponte charmed all he met, pioneering the place of Italian music in American life. But his self-assurance also excited mistrust. When the first Italian opera was performed in New York in 1825, he had the nerve to claim he had written it. Like the memoirs he wrote to pay off more debts, the old man was constantly full of tall stories. The varied lives of Lorenzo Da Ponte, librettist of Mozart's three great operas—The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi Fan Tutte—begin in Venice, linger in Vienna and London, and end in New York, where today he lies buried in an unmarked grave in one of the world's largest cemeteries.
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