Centro Risorse Territoriale di Pesaro e Urbino

Lorenzo da Ponte

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Lorenzo Da Ponte (Ceneda 1749 - New York 1838)

Emmanuel Conegliano, adventurer and man of letters, was born in Ceneda (Republic of Venice) in 1749. In 1764 he converted from Judaism to the Catholic faith with his family and was renamed after the bishop who baptized him. He was then sent to Treviso to be educated as a priest at the local seminary. After teaching for a while at Treviso Lorenzo moved first to Venice, from where he managed to get banished, then to Dresden and later on to Vienna. There he became famous as the librettist of three of Mozart's operas, "Le Nozze di Figaro", "Don Giovanni", "Cosi fan tutte". After leaving Vienna he settled in Trieste where he married the daughter of an English businessman. The couple moved to London where Lorenzo opened a bookshop. In 1805 Da Ponte emigrated to the United States where he was to live for the rest of his life. He opened a bookstore in New York and became the first teacher of Italian at Columbia University. He was the first to lecture on the "Divine Comedy" in America. Not too happy about his connection with the university, which was only nominal, he could do nothing but complain in verse (he was a witty man):

"Sum pastor sine ovibus,

Arator sine bovibus,

Sacerdos sine templo

Professor sine exemplo"

("I'm a shepherd without sheep

A plowman without oxen

A priest without a church,

A professor with no example")

Da Ponte died in New York, on 17 August, 1838. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the Catholic cemetery, East Eleventh Street. Pietro Maroncelli, the Forlivese patriot imprisoned with Silvio Pellico in the Spielberg Fortress, was one of the pallbearers at his funeral.

Lamberto Bozzi

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