Monday, January 15, 2007

Don’t Hate Da Ponte, Hate Da Game

It’s time for a posting on the man without whom A Schooling in Love would certainly not be possible:

Lorenzo Da Ponte, the greatest librettist of the golden age of opera buffa, and the man who wrote the libretti to Mozart’s three greatest works: The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan Tutte. (You can HAVE The Magic Flute, I say!)

Da Ponte’s life was nothing if not exciting – some fun facts:

He was born Jewish, but became a Catholic priest.

He was kicked out of the priesthood on account of his, ahem, his flagrant regard for the ladies, and he ran around Venice (and 19th century Vegas) with his wing-man… Cassanova! (really)

Initially uneducated, he became a brilliant and highly regarded (if politically controversial) poet and scholar who could quote chapter and verse from the great Italian poets – Petrarch, Dante, Metastasio, etc.

He was appointed to be Court poet by The Emperor Joseph, and wrote libretti for all the major composers of the day, including Mozart and Antonio Salieri (yeah, the bad guy from Amadeus – Cosi was originally begun for Salieri, but finished for Mozart).

Run out of Europe an account of his debts – he moved to the United States.

Discovered by “The Night Before Christmas” author Clement Clark Moore, Da Ponte became the first Italian professor at Columbia University in New York.

Da Ponte’s personal library became the basis for the Italian collections at the major institutions of the new United States of America.

And Lorenzo brought over an Italian opera buffa troupe, becoming one of the first people to introduce the U.S. to comic opera.

… and he’s buried somewhere in Queens!

Below are to some links to some Da Ponte biographies – since he told a lot of tall tales in his memoirs, it’s hard to get the facts straight (did he lose his teeth from bad dentistry, or from poisoning by a jealous husband?), and some of these bios are more reverent than others… any way you slice it, though, he was an important writer and scholar, and a very interesting guy.

Here's a great article:,11710,1680814,00.html

And two bios - one a bit of a hagiography, the other a bit brief, but here nonetheless:


Kylie said...

question: So, then how does Wolf-gang play into all of this?

Matt Boresi said...

The libretto (the words [literally the "book"]) of the show is by Lorenzo... the score (the music) is by WOLFGANG Amadeus Mozart! (Hence the school being the Wolves and the big sign on the Act One set that says "Join the Wolf-Gang.")
And some people thought it was an Oswego Wolves joke!

Kylie said...

no, i got the wolf gang joke. Thanks for clearing that one up. I actually painted that sign, I'll have you know!

Kylie said...
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