Patrick O’Connor

The Libertine Librettist

Lorenzo Da Ponte: The Adventures of Mozart’s Librettist in the Old and New Worlds

By

Bloomsbury 428pp £20 order from our bookshop

The Man Who Wrote Mozart: The Extraordinary Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 238pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

In November 1825 there arrived in New York a company of opera singers, led by the famous Spanish tenor Manuel García and his daughter Maria. They were to give the local premiere of Rossini’s Barber of Seville. One of the first New Yorkers to greet them was the 76-year-old Lorenzo Da Ponte, at that time established as the first Professor of Italian Literature at Columbia University. When he introduced himself as the librettist of Don Giovanni, García was so delighted that he grabbed the old man and danced him around the room to the tune of Mozart’s ‘Champagne Aria’. It was soon enough agreed that not only would the company perform Rossini’s work, they would also introduce New Yorkers to an authentic Don Giovanni. Four performances were given, and although the local press did not seem to find anything out of the ordinary, historians and all of Da Ponte’s biographers have been taken with the idea of the elderly poet hearing in the New World the opera that he and Mozart had created in Prague nearly forty years earlier.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter