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The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte Mozart's Poet, Casanova's Friend, and Italian Opera's Impresario in America [Hardcover]

Rodney Bolt
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (11 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596911182
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596911185
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,518,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STUNNING EXAMINATION OF A LIFE 4 Aug 2006
By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Rodgers and Hart, Lerner and Lowe, but Mozart and Da Ponte? Yes, the name is Da Ponte, and few who read Rodney Bolt's stunning examination of the librettist's life will forget it.

One would be hard pressed to find someone entering the worl in less promising circumstances than Da Ponte. The year is 1749; the place is the Venetian Republic. Born the son of a poor leather worker he spent his early years among some fifty other Jews in Ceneda's ghetto, and was named Emanuele Conegliano. Venice was markedly anti-Semitic - Jews were required to wear red headgear in public, they couldn't work for Christians, only certain trades and professions were allowed to them, and they were confined to the ghetto at night. So it was that Emanuele's father decided to improve their lot, both politically and financially, by embracing Catholicism. Then, as was the custom, the family would take the surname of the bishop who baptized them and, as the eldest son, Emanuele would also take the bishop's first name too. He became Lorenzo Da Ponte.

Lorenzo embraced his new faith with exuberance or, as the author notes, his pronouncements "may be the sincere exaltations of a fervent new convert, but they carry more of the wide-eyed wiliness of a fourteen-year-old who has realized on which side his bread is lavishly being buttered."

He was sent to seminary to study and in 1773 was ordained a priest, which did nothing to hamper his relationships with women (some say his scorecard matched that of his friend, Casanova). Venice was a pleasure palace at that time albeit a dying one. And, Lorenzo's penchant for carnal enjoyment eventually resulted in his exile from Venice.

He traveled to Vienna where Emperor Joseph II named him poet for a court opera company.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STUNNING EXAMINATION OF A LIFE 4 Aug 2006
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Rodgers and Hart, Lerner and Lowe, but Mozart and Da Ponte? Yes, the name is Da Ponte, and few who read Rodney Bolt's stunning examination of the librettist's life will forget it.

One would be hard pressed to find someone entering the worl in less promising circumstances than Da Ponte. The year is 1749; the place is the Venetian Republic. Born the son of a poor leather worker he spent his early years among some fifty other Jews in Ceneda's ghetto, and was named Emanuele Conegliano. Venice was markedly anti-Semitic - Jews were required to wear red headgear in public, they couldn't work for Christians, only certain trades and professions were allowed to them, and they were confined to the ghetto at night. So it was that Emanuele's father decided to improve their lot, both politically and financially, by embracing Catholicism. Then, as was the custom, the family would take the surname of the bishop who baptized them and, as the eldest son, Emanuele would also take the bishop's first name too. He became Lorenzo Da Ponte.

Lorenzo embraced his new faith with exuberance or, as the author notes, his pronouncements "may be the sincere exaltations of a fervent new convert, but they carry more of the wide-eyed wiliness of a fourteen-year-old who has realized on which side his bread is lavishly being buttered."

He was sent to seminary to study and in 1773 was ordained a priest, which did nothing to hamper his relationships with women (some say his scorecard matched that of his friend, Casanova). Venice was a pleasure palace at that time albeit a dying one. And, Lorenzo's penchant for carnal enjoyment eventually resulted in his exile from Venice.

He traveled to Vienna where Emperor Joseph II named him poet for a court opera company. It was here that he met Mozart and the two collaborated on some of the greatest operas the world has known: The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte. Regrettably Joseph's death brought an end to the opera company and Da Ponte sought greener pastures in London. At that time he was married to a younger woman, and was barely able to keep their bodies and souls together by selling books. America beckoned.

How fascinating it is to see our cities through the eyes of Da Ponte, especially 19th century New York, where he found work as a teacher and bookseller. He would see the Opera House open in 1833. Later, "Like his friends Mozart and Casanova, Lorenzo da Ponte was buried in an unmarked grave."

You needn't be an opera lover to enjoy this dramatic story of a life lived to the fullest. Bolt is an impressive historian and an assiduous researcher. The Librettist of Venice is a remarkable work.

- Gail Cooke
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you Wanted to Know about Lorenzo DaPonte and More 9 Nov 2006
By Jose Ruiz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
My initial interest in this book was to learn more about the person who wrote those exquisite librettos for Mozart's Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Cosi Fan Tutte. I was initially somewhat disappointed that the author did not dedicate more space to his relationship with Mozart, but this disappointment dissipated after reading about the rest of DaPonte's life and how he reinvented himself over and over again, in Venice, in Vienna, in London, and finally in New York City. He was a man born way before his time and certainly someone we should read about in admiration, despite his many flaws. The book is very well written and holds your interest from beginning to end.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something new 2 Sep 2006
By J. Steinbock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I enjoyed this book. It tells the story of a man I had never head of before, so the novelty of the subject was an attraction.

If you love stories of opera, the effect of the American revolution on Europe, and insight into the court of Joseph II

in Vienna at the time of Mozart, this is a good book. An interesting angle is that the subject was born a Jew in a village near Venice, was baptized as a child and became a Catholic Priest. His subsequent career was marked by abuse of

his priestly vows, but it seems he simply used this path out of poverty, much the same way as a poor boy might use an education in a military academy followed by brief military service.

Finally, the coda to the book finds the protaganist in New York City as Columbia University's first professor of Italian. In retrospect the entire saga, though footnoted and clearly researched with care, has the aura of an old man's memories of

his wild and exciting youth hobnobbing with princes, priests,

wild women, famous composers and poets in distant lands.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Passionate Life 25 Feb 2007
By Loves the View - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Lorenzo da Ponte defied his time, and later, his age. In his era, most people stayed put, and if they moved, they stayed in the new place. People generally had one career- that of their father(s). Having relocated and reinvented himself, several times, da Ponte lived two generations beyond his contemporaries. At his death he was more than twice Mozart's final age. He outlived his wife by a generation, and he was a generation her senior!

He was busy every moment with optimistic plans and schemes. When things worked out he had high highs. He had low lows when they didn't. Nothing deterred him - ever. He died a risk taking octogenarian. Something about his personality garnered great friends and stirred up enemies.

Bolt is wonderful in describing places da Ponte lived in their time. In Vienna, through the largesse of the Emperor Joseph, a theater could operate independent of the crown, a privilege easily rescinded. I read and re-read the different parts about how the words of Thomas Jefferson resounded in Europe. Like the descriptions of late 18th century Vienna, Prague, the Italian cities and London, the descriptions of early 19th century Philadelphia and NYC are marvelous.

Don Giovani played here in Hawaii to a sold out crowd last week. I wonder how many of those in attendance knew the librettists' name? How many this wonderful story of his life?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing. 6 Nov 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Lorenzo Da Ponte was an early Venetian librettist well known in the late 1700s: he was Mozart's poet, Casanova's friend, and would serve as librettist of three of his friend Mozart's most controversial operas. He went on to become the first professor of Italian at Columbia University: THE LIBRETTIST OF VENICE traces a varied, involving life but also provides a fine history and set of social insights of his times, recreating the politics and world of early Vienna through the changing career of a remarkable man. Engrossing.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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