Lorenzo Da Ponte: Mozart’s Librettist

Aram Bakshian Jr. profiles a true Venetian, Lorenzo Da Ponte, who, like his associate Casanova, had an extravagant and boldly adventurous career.

On June 4th, 1805, the Transatlantic packet Columbia, fifty-seven days out of London, cast anchor in the harbour of Philadelphia. Included in the otherwise routine cargo of the Columbia was a distinguished if slightly threadbare Italian gentleman in his late middle years. Tall, with aquiline features and an oddly distinctive gait, half strut, half shuffle, with shoulders thrown back and chest thrust out, ‘Signor Da Ponte’ spoke fluent if heavily accented English with a slight lisp.

When not speaking, his tight-lipped, feline smile concealed the fact that he was completely toothless. Like so much else connected with this newest immigrant to America, even the loss of his teeth had come about in a novel way - the result, according to their former owner, of poison administered by a jealous rival during one of his many love affairs in Vienna where he had briefly flourished as a Habsburg court poet.

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