From Publishers Weekly
Englishman Bolt, who has written on Christopher Marlowe (History Play
), relishes the telling of the poor motherless Jewish boy from Venice's ghetto, born Emanuele Conegliano, whose father converted the family to Christianity in 1763 in an attempt to improve his fortunes. Renamed Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749– 1838), after the bishop who converted him, the boy was schooled at a seminary and became a scholarly poet whose amatory entanglements in Venice eventually got him deported. Using his legendary wit and charm, Da Ponte insinuated himself into the graces of Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II, who established an Italian opera company in Vienna, attracting such young composers as Salieri and Mozart. Although he had never written a libretto, Da Ponte was appointed theater poet, which sparked a genius collaboration with Mozart on operas such as Le Nozze di Figaro
, Don Giovanni
and Cosi Fan Tutte.
With the emperor's death in 1790, Da Ponte again fled town with his young English bride, Nancy Grahl; he eventually sailed to America, to become a New York grocer, businessman and professor of Italian at Columbia College. Reading Bolt's lively narrative of Da Ponte's life from the ghetto of Venice to the sparkling opera houses of Europe is pure pleasure. (July)
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Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), ne Emanuele Conegliano, was baptized shortly after his bar mitzvah and given the bishop's name. He conceived a passion for words, particularly poetry, ever since finding a cache of books in an attic. Sent to seminary, he was eventually ordained an abbe. As he matured, he embraced Enlightenment principles and got into trouble. Expelled from Venice, he moved to Vienna and was appointed court poet. Salieri and other composers--most famously Mozart--teamed with him to create successful operas. Next stop, London, where he married a well-off English girl and eventually followed her family to America. En route, he started or managed several opera companies but depended on selling books and printing librettos to survive. Bolt skillfully relates broader cultural history to Da Ponte's activities to provide quite a glimpse into turbulent times on both sides of the Atlantic. Da Ponte affected and was affected by many events, and those help make his the fast-paced story of a poet whose overwhelming optimism always prevailed over his many setbacks. Alan HirschCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved