Lorenzo Da Ponte was an Italian librettist, mostly known for lyricising many of Mozart’s operas including Don Giovanni and Cosí Fan Tutte.
Da Ponte was born in the Republic of Venice in 1749. After Da Ponte’s mother passed away, his father converted the family from Judaism to Catholicism in order to marry a Catholic woman. As a result, Da Ponte and his brothers studied at a seminary, and Da Ponte was later ordained as a Catholic priest in 1773.
However, Da Ponte led a scandalous life after his ordainment. While serving as a priest, he had two children with a mistress and was found guilty in court for public concubinage and abduction. After his trial in 1779, Da Ponte was banished from Venice for 15 years.
Da Ponte moved to Austria, where he worked as a writer for noblemen. At the beginning of the 1780’s, Da Ponte was introduced to composer Antonio Salieri, who helped Da Ponte apply for a position as a librettist at the Italian Theatre in Vienna. Da Ponte was awarded the position, and began a collaboration with Mozart at the theater. Some of Da Ponte’s most famous librettos include The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, Don Juan, and Una cosa rara.
Da Ponte traveled to New York after suffering from debt in Europe. In New York, Da Ponte opened a book shop, and became the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia College. In 1833, Da Ponte founded America’s first opera house in New York City. Though his company only lasted two years, it prefaced the establishment of the Metropolitan Opera.
Da Ponte passed away in 1838 in New York.
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