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MONDAY, OCT 06 2014, 09:00 AM - 04:40 PM


Da Ponte's Tre Drammi printed in New York 1826: FigaroDon Giovanni and Axur


In 1805, at the age of 56, Lorenzo da Ponte (1749 - 1838) left “Old Europe”, to emigrate to the United States, where he lived until his death. Born in a Jewish family in Italy (Ceneda, today: Vittorio Veneto), his original name was Emanuele Conegliano - when he was 14, his father with the whole family converted to Catholicism, and Emanuele took the name of his godfather: Lorenzo da Ponte, bishop of Ceneda, who promoted the young man’s formation. Da Ponte became professor of Rhetoric at a college in Treviso (belonging to the Republic of Venice), but was dismissed due to his unconventional views. He moved to Venice, yet because of frivolous lifestyle was expulsed from the Republic. He moved to Gorizia, Dresden, and finally to Vienna. There, he was appointed by Emperor Joseph II (1783) as poet of the Imperial theatre, writing librettos for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (The Marriage of FigaroDon Giovanni and Così fan tutte), Antonio Salieri, Vincente Martín y Soler and other composers; he soon got involved into the administration of the theatre, also organising a full season. After the death of Joseph II (1790), Da Ponte was exiled again, this time by reason of theatrical intrigues, and probably also of an “open letter” he self-confidently addressed to the new ruler, Emperor Leopold II. Da Ponte went first to Trieste where he married Nancy Grahl, an English girl of Jewish origin, and then left Austria for England. On the route he paid a visit to his friend Casanova who was living in northern Bohemia. In his first London year Da Ponte had no success, thus he went to Holland where he tried to establish an opera company, but then became appointed to the Kings Theatre as a librettist and soon, as in Vienna, got tied up in the administration of the theatre. During his London years he founded an Italian bookshop and came a last time to the continent for engaging singers and see Florence, the city of Dante and Petrarca, his favourite poets. New troubles, this time on account of promises to pay third party’s bill depths, provoked his decision to migrate with his family to the United States, also attracted by the idea to live in a democratic society.


Unlike in most capitals of Europe there were no ‘Italian islands’ in the United States. Thus, as a pioneer Da Ponte tried to establish Italian culture in New York: as private teacher, as bookseller at the Broadway, as editor and author, as co-impresario of an Italian opera enterprise, and as teacher of Italian language and literature at the Columbia College. In 1826, Da Pontes and Mozart’s Don Giovanni was performed in New York at the Park Theater. In that very year Da Ponte edited three of his libretti written in Vienna during the reign of Joseph II, a decisive selection of his theatrical work: Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni (1787) written for Mozart, as well as Axur, re d’ Ormus (1788) written for Antonio Salieri and one of the most successful operas at the end of the 18th century. The „Da Ponte Day“ will focus on the history of genesis and reception of this three exceptional operas, works which are dedicated to the topic of power and seduction in different and subtle ways: from the legendary ius primae noctis (‘right of the first night’) in Figaro up to the strategies of seduction – in Don Giovanni for gaining lust, and in Axur one step further: by abusing religion for political aims.




Opening 09:00 – 09:20

Christian-Joseph Ebner Deputy Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York

H. E. Weidinger President of Don Juan Archiv Wien,
Stvdivm fæsvlanvm and Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag

Barbara Faedda Vice-Director of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies, Columbia University

Stefan David Hummel Assistant of the Chancellor of the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg - Head of Organization Mozart Competition


09:20 – 10: 30 Session I | Da Ponte’s Beaumarchais-libretti

Chair: Reinhard Eisendle

Ian Woodfield (Queens University, Belfast) The revival of Le nozze di Figaro: Da Ponte’s influence on Mozart’s career

John Rice (Rochester, Minnesota) Da Ponte, Salieri, and Axur re d’Ormus



10:50 – 12: 30 Session II | Don Giovanni I

Chair: John Rice

H. E. Weidinger (Don Juan Archiv Wien) Was Da Ponte right, when in Tre Drammi he declared his Don Giovanni composed “da lui per le Nozze del Principe Antonio di | Sassonia––Colla Principessa M. Teresa Figlia | dell’Impr. Leopoldo”? And if so, what new light would it shed on the genesis of Da Ponte’s and Mozart’s opera?

Reinhard Eisendle (Don Juan Archiv Wien) From Il dissoluto punito. O sia il D. Giovanni to Il Don Giovanni. A Comparison of the poet’s versions created for Prague (1787), Vienna (1788) and New York (1826)

Mathew Head (Kings College, London) August Apel’s On the Musical Treatment of Ghosts (1800) – a theory of supernatural horror for Mozart and Da Ponte?



13:30 – 15:10 Session III | Don Giovanni II

Chair: H. E. Weidinger

Martin Nedbal (University of Arkansas) Between farce and melodrama: Da Ponte and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in early nineteenth-century Vienna and New York

Wolfgang Brunner (Universität Mozarteum Salzburg) Salon as opera: variations and paraphrases on themes of Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Ted Emery (The Ohio State University) Doppelgänger: Da Ponte’s Casanova



15:30 – 16:40 Session IV | Da Ponte in America

Chair: Martin Nedbal

Barbara Faedda (Columbia University) Foreigners, immigrants, and travelers in America in Da Ponte’s time

Edmund White (Columbia University) The baffled courtier


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