Lorenza da Ponte, born on March 10, 1749, is best known for three collaborations he had with Mozart. Those operas, “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Don Giovanni” and “Così Fan Tutte” stand as some of the greatest in the repertoire, not only because of Mozart’s great music, but also as a result of Da Ponte’s brilliant dramatic skills.
But the librettist had a number of other work’s throughout his career. A look at this career in the form shows that he completed a whopping 27 texts for operas throughout his life.
His work in the operatic form started in 1783 when he wrote “La Scuola de’ gelosi” for Antonio Salieri. He would collaborate again a year later with Salieri before taking on work with a number of other composers including Martin y Soler, Righini, Gazzaniga, Weigl, Bianchi, Winter and Brunetti among others.
In total he wrote six librettos for Salieri, his most frequent collaborator. The most famous fruit of their joint labor was the very first opera “La Scuola de’ gelosi.” Like “Nozze,” this opera features love entanglements across different social divides including the aristocracy, bourgeoisie and working class. One character, the lieutenant, is similar to Don Alfonso from “Così Fan Tutte.”
Another famous Da Ponte libretto was for Vicente Martin y Soler’s “Una cosa rara.” That work, which premiered in 1786, was a massive hit with Mozart himself quoting a passage from the opera at the end of his “Don Giovanni.” This opera also has a “Giovanni” who is also on the prowl to seduce a young engaged girl. However in this work, the presiding monarch Isabella intervenes to save the day.
He also worked five times with composer Francesco Bianchi between 1796 and 1802.
His last libretto was “Il ratto di Proserpina.” Peter Winter set the text to music and the work had its premiere in 1804.
Aside from librettos, Da Ponte also composed text for oratorios and cantatas, including “Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia,” which was set to music in a joint collaboration by Mozart, Salieri and Cornetti.
He also wrote 18 sonnets and made several translations from English into Italian.
Da Ponte would live until 1836, passing away in New York, where he had been living since the start of the century.