Memoirs of Lorenzo Da Ponte cover
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Publication date:
May 31, 2000
NYRB Classics
International Literature, Visual & Performing Arts, Biography & Memoir

Plot and counterplot lie at the heart of Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, and The Marriage of Figaro, the three brilliant libretti that Lorenzo Da Ponte prepared for Mozart. They were also central to Da Ponte’s own extraordinary life. His Memoirs record a fantastic variety of romantic, political, and professional intrigues, and tell of meetings with a host of remarkable men. In a life that took him from the canals of Venice to the streets of New York, Da Ponte was at different times priest, professional gambler, proprietor of a bordello, political agitator, court poet, impresario, grocery store owner, and the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia University. His Memoirs, a minor classic of Italian literature, are the picaresque and engrossing story of a man of enormous talent and unsurpassed flair who was, above all, an indefatigable survivor.

I shall speak of things … so singular in their oddity as in some manner to instruct, or at least entertain, without wearying.” —Lorenzo da Ponte


I shall speak of things…so singular in their oddity as in some manner to instruct, or at least entertain, without wearying.
— Lorenzo Da Ponte

[Da Ponte] was in the course of his lifetime the friend of Mozart, the confidante of Casanova, and the protege of the author of The Night Before Christmas…To savor to the full the richness produced by the commingling of such exotic ingredients one must sit down with the Memoirs and follow the gifted vagabond step by step.
— Thomas G. Bergin, Yale University