[Guardian, 6 January 2006]
On June 4 1805, a 56-year-old Italian immigrant disembarked in Philadelphia from the transatlantic packet Columbia, carrying only a violin. The little money on him when he left London, fleeing his many debtors, he had gambled away on the voyage. Before dying in New York 33 years later, in his 90th year, he would find new-world respectability as the first professor of Italian in America. For now, he set up shop as a grocer.
To those who knew him in the American denouement of his long European life, there was always an air of mystery about the AbbÈ Lorenzo da Ponte. A scholarly poet and teacher, he was also an ordained Catholic priest, rumoured to have been born Jewish. Although he had a devoted wife, he also had a reputation as a womaniser. With his flirtatious eyes and mane of white hair, Da Ponte charmed all he met. But his self-assurance also excited mistrust. When one of the first Italian operas was performed in New York in 1825, he had the nerve to claim he had written it. He had, so he said, known Mozart. Not to mention Casanova.
Click here for remainder of article.
image_description=Lorenzo da Ponte