Lorenzo Da Ponte
1805
Lorenzo daPonte, Mozart's librettist, begins career as language teacher at Columbia University. He opened New York’s first opera house.


Lorenzo daPonte (1749-1838) was already well known as a librettist and a poet when he came to this country in 1805. Born of Jewish parents near Venice in 1749, upon the conversion to Catholicism of his father and two brothers the family name was changed to DaPonte in honor of the local bishop. From his early days Lorenzo's life was unconventional. Thus he became a seminarian and then taught in a seminary until his dismissal for heretical teachings. Notwithstanding that dubious background he was ordained a priest in 1773 but soon fell into disapprobation with the Church over adultery. Clearly his inclination was more toward amorous escapades, poetry, and music. Forced to flee the Venetian state, he spent much fruitful time composing music in Vienna and then in London. DaPonte came to America in 1805 where he taught Italian language and literature at Columbia University. He became an American citizen and wrote Storia della Lingua Italiana in New York. However, it was the promotion of opera that was DaPonte's lifetime ambition. As the librettist for three of Mozart's operas: "Le nozze di Figaro," "Don Giovanni," and "Cosi fan tutte," he was well positioned to attempt to advance that interest, and from 1825-1830 he brought over operatic luminaries that presented grand opera in New York for the first time. He also opened New York's first opera house, the Italian Opera House. In 1832 he brought over an eminent operatic troupe that he hoped would elicit interest in his adopted land. Composed of fine talent, the troupe performed in New York and Philadelphia only to succumb to financial failure.

Columbia University





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