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Wolfgang Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte: the Winning Duo


A leading and most efficient composer of operatic music and plays, Mozart is a genius since his childhood. His mastery extended over a hundred plays and operas. He was assisted by his librettists in his success. One of the most noted librettist is Da Ponte. While Ponte’s work on poetry was alluring, so was the music of the genius, Mozart. It continues to enchant listeners even today. Loved and listened to by all the classes of people who have an ear for classical work of arts, each one of their creations has a distinct flavor. Symphonies and elegies of Mozart are the major marks of excellence that merged with the traditional poetical work of Da Ponte. Personally, they hardly shared the same frequency whenever they met one another.

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The Greatest Composer/Finest Librettist Combination

Wolfgang Mozart, born in Jan 1756, is considered one of the best composers of classical music ever. He is an Austrian and a native of Salzburg. Mozart’s parents were supportive to raise him through his career and his father gave up his job so as to make Mozart reach greater heights in his career. His father served in an orchestra in Salzburg. He, at a very young age of five created his own operas without any help. (Epand, 2008, Mar 12)

His father Leopold wanted Mozart and his sister Nanneri to nurture their talents. This eventually made him tour around Europe learning and observing music as he grew. This was a very clear breakthrough in the career of Mozart. He acquired a rich knowledge in composing and within a short span time he completely learnt how to handle and generate music in a piano and at a very small age, he composed his own music.

In the year 1773, Mozart served as a composer under the Archbishop of Salzburg. He gained a lot of knowledge and improved his intelligence in the opera composing. Though he had sharpened his composing abilities, he was not happy about the pay he was getting there. (Shinn, 2009, Feb 16). In the year 1791 he suffered very great loss both physically and economically. He was affected by plague and disorders related to it. He had been composing an elegy even when he was ill. All he wanted was to complete it with utmost fulfillment. His death was marked in the month of December and in the year 1791. (Walters, 2010, Oct 18)

On the other hand, Lorenzo da Ponte is considered one of the most important and a friendly librettist of the legend Mozart. He worked with Mozart to write and organize plays which turned out to be highly popular. The plays he wrote were welcomed by people. He wrote librettos which were comical. (Asiado, 2007, Sep 17). Born in Italy in 1749, Da Ponte was associated with the Catholic Church though he was a Jew.

Lorenzo Da Ponte, in the beginning of his career served in the church. He then decided to become a poet as he considered his creations effective. Lorenzo went to Venice and several other places like Dresden and Vienna to reveal his poetic skill. The memoirs that he penned were to put an end to the rumors and the gossips that came about him. He was not normal and had a strong desire on open minded affairs of state. He was attracted to elder women and these reasons made him suffer an exile from Venice for 15 years. Lorenzo left to Dresden and sought the help of his friend who was also a librettist. His friend Mazzola helped him in a getting a job in Vienna (Asiado, 2007, Sep17)

Da Ponte had a very close relationship with the King Joseph II but he did not stay in the good books of all the other parties of the government. They were all searching for the right reason to eliminate Da Ponte from his employed status and once the emperor died, he was fired.

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So, Da Ponte decided to seek Mozart for help and asked him to work for the play he had been writing. Mozart on the other hand was not ready to work with Da Ponte as he was busy with his own project and it seemed more serious and meaningful to him. It was called THE MAGIC FLUTE. Having nobody to help, Da Ponte stayed in Italy and was not respected by his fellowmen in his own land.

He then went to Trieste and he fell in love with a young and beautiful daughter of a Businessman named Nancy Grahl. She neglected him because he was old and did not find anything enchanting in him. Slowly Da Ponte with his smartness made her love him and they became a couple soon. Da Ponte traveled to Paris to live a happy livelihood with his partner. But soon after they reached there, Da Ponte found that his favorite King’s family had faced ruins and they were not Royal, still. He lost his hope of worKing in Italy and he went to London. In London, Da Ponte had a good job with a decent pay.

He was extravagant and found it very difficult to live in such a town. He was not able to meet the expenditure and finally left to New York. There he owned a store that sold general items and found an average profit in his business. At last his profit turned out to be losses and was not able to raise his kids in such an environment. During 1807, he enCountered Clement Clarke Moore. He assisted Da Ponte in transforming into a lecturer in Italian arts at the University of Columbia.

After that Da Ponte gained a lot of prestige in the city and was appreciated for all his lectures. He was well versed in taKing classes on play conversions from one language to the other. To show Don Giovanni in English he used his funds and made it a huge success. He rented a theatre in New York and the play was very famous amongst kids and teens.

The Year 1832 was when his wife died and he was not able to cope up with her loss. He thereby behaved frantically at times. He penned a list of poems for the remembrance of his wife Nancy. They were eighteen in number. His soul left this world in 1838. (Genevieve, 2010, Aug16)

The year of importance in his long life, is obviously 1783 because this is when Da Ponte got introduced to Mozart and there on they started worKing on plays that later became the opera hits. The plays which came out from the duo are Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte. Le Nozze di Figaro was screened in the year 1786 and Don Giovanni in 1787 and Cosi in 1790. (Asiado, 2007, Sep17)

Da ponte as a librettist of Mozart was not so interested in everything he did and always remarked that his much loved operatic creator was Martin. Y.Soler. Da Ponte and Mozart together had given three operatic hits and were not cordial enough while worKing. Mozart being the composer had arguments with Da Ponte when it came to creating operas. Da Ponte prioritized lyrics to be the most prominent element for the effectiveness of the opera. Mozart did not agree with him and wanted the lyrics of the play according to and under the power of the music. (Attea, 2006, Jul 25)

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While Don Giovanni was being written, both Da Ponte and Mozart had a lot of hitches. Mozart did not want to give up his opinion on the musical importance of the operas and at the same time Da Ponte was adamant in the fact that words in the operas played the most important role and these had the power to emphasize anything. He also made his point strong by telling that words could make even the duller music more prominent. This made Mozart angry and as a result they took rooms to stay far from each other and had a lot of fights when they met each other. (Selby, 2007, feb28)

Even though the journey of this duo had enCountered a lot of bitter incidents, it brought out a list of winning operas. The combination produced three distinct pieces which were loved by the audience and the skills that both had are just remarkable. However, there was no love lost between them. In Amadeus, Da Ponte’s name was excluded from the operatic appearance. This was considered as a pure creation of Mozart but the words and the librettos were originally written by Da Ponte!

The Main characters in the play of Beaumarchis are Figaro, Rosine and Susanne, The Count or the King. Rosine hates her life because the Count cheats her and is not honest to her. Bartholo waits for an opportunity to show his vengeance on Figaro who had helped the Count in taKing away Rosine from him. Susanna is the girl to whom Figaro is to be married. Bazile is the composer with whom Bartholo joins and the additional characters are Marcellina to whom Figaro at a situation is compelled to get wooed. She is elder than him and seems like his mother. The truth is finally that Marcellina is Figaro’s mother. He appears to be Bartholo and Marcellina’s son. A garden worker, his daughter and a guy are an additional weight to the play. They are hilarious and really entertain the audience.

The story of the opera is that Figaro and Susanna are to get wed soon. They eventually dream about their wedding and the place they were going to stay. The King named Almaviva had provided them accommodation in the room next to his and this was not liked by Susana. As she wanted to advise Figaro on this, she starts to sing and this is created as a musical melody by Mozart. She knew that the King was corrupt and wanted to be with her when Figaro was not with her. The King was evil minded and gave the room on a reason. The conversation is scored with music and it entertains with a lot of clarity in the transformation.

Figaro got a debt from Marcellina and if he failed to pay it back he had pledged to marry Marcellina and this was the right opportunity for Bartolo to settle his scores of Figaro who made him get rid of Rosine. When Susanna sees this she mistakes Figaro and Marcellina. This makes it comfortable for the Count to postpone the marriage of Susanna and Figaro. The Count suddenly enters her room and requests Susanna to be with him that night as he was leaving to London the next day on a hidden business trip as Figaro also accompanied him.

This ends when Figaro was all admiration for the Count as he had publicly made the rule of the Count to spend a night with all his worker’s partners. But this was not the Count’s real desire. Though he gives Figaro and Susanna all things needed for their wedding he also tells Marcellina that he would make Figaro woo her. Figaro at this point while meeting Cherubino tells him that he cannot meet and have fun with women and fighting for the Country was where his heart lies.

The second act begins with hilarious commotions. This is when the serious plotting of Figaro and Susanna begin. Cherubino plays a girl in this. He is dressed as a girl so as to meet the Count. Figaro gets irritated about his secret plan with Marcellina and plans a plot. He orders Basilio and designs an imaginary love letter to divert the thoughts of the Count. Susanna as per her plan has to enCounter the Count in the garden. It was not going to be Susanna as it was going to be Cherubino who gets dressed like the girl.

The scene is all set when Susanna is going to make up Cherubino as a woman and he tells the Countess that the appointment did not have a signature on it. Susanna moves to the other room to get something for the makeup. The young man tries to tell the Countess that he was in love with her madly and does not succeed in explaining because the Count suddenly comes in and Cherubino had no other go than to get into the closet to make himself hidden.

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The Count doubts the confusion and asks the Countess as to what happened. She says it’s Susanna who is wearing her wedding attire inside. He calls her name as to identify the voice but none responded. His doubts raise and Susanna unknowingly enters the room but manages to stay outside understanding the situation.

When the Count orders to break the door Cherubino jumps from the bathroom door. The Count and the Countess go out to check what the commotion was all about. Using this situation Susanna gets in and enters the bathroom. When they come in again, she opens the bathroom door to everyone’s. Countess manages to say some reason and the Count gets informed that someone had jumped from the window of the toilet and the flower vases had been broken and he shows a paper left by him as well. He finds that it was Cherubino and Figaro in order to save Cherubino cooks up a lie and finally the Count believes them.

Then Susanna comes to know about the wedding arranged with Marcellina and mistakes Figaro. She promises to pay back the money that Figaro had been loaned by the woman. The Count does not agree with her and asks her to sleep with him. Susanna was compelled to do this. She tells Figaro about this but the Count hears all the plans and decides to give them punishment.

At last Figaro shows a marKing on his body and tells without finding his parents he cannot marry Marcellina. He then happens to be Marcellina’s and Bartholo’s son. This at last ends as a marriage for both the couples.

The Countess wants Susanna to work for a plot and she decides to write a letter of love to the Count and if he tells that he would come to see the lady who wrote the letter he would return the nail on the letter to the concerned person. Susanna calls the gardener’s daughter Barbarina and tells her to offer the letter to the Count and get back the nail. Barbarina gets broken as she had lost the nail that the Count had given. Figaro is not aware of the plan by the Countess and Susanna and then is eager to know the woman who was going to meet the Count. To his astonishment it was Susanna and he loses all hope on her.

The scene in the garden occurs and Susanna and the Countess disguise each other by exchanging their costumes and the disguised Susanna comes to meet the Count. Marcellina tells her that Figaro doubts her and she instantly devices a plan and decides to teach both the men a lesson. The Count flirts with the Countess thinKing that she is Susanna. Once Figaro makes some noise the Count escapes and then the original Susanna comes dressed in the Countess’s attire. Figaro finds it out that it is Susanna by her voice and then plays pranks on her. She gets furious and slaps him. Figaro tells her everything and Susanna confesses. This finally has a very happy ending. The Count realizes all his follies and feels sorry for what he had done to Susanna and arranges for the wedding of Cherubino and Barbarina. The Count and the Countess also get wed at last.

“THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO” had multiple idiosyncrasies outside the stage too! Italians considered ballets not to be watched and the King had banned the ballet scenes. This particular play had ballet scenes in it and the audience requested the King to stop it. This made Mozart feel bad and he almost ceased to play the operatic back grounds. Da Ponte did not stop and continued to exhibit the play and with no music the performance looked so hilarious. The King came to know the exact reason for inserting a ballet in the play and ordered it to be performed. (Linda, 2002)

The duo of Mozart and Da Ponte had never been cordial and supportive. They always fought with each other but still their pieces were simply remarkable. Their personal relationships were not really nice. Da Ponte’s personality was completely different from the other librettists of the century. He showed interest on certain matters which made him a man not liked by everyone. Da Ponte basically liked Mozart’s creations and found him perfect as a composer. He was all praise for Mozart as he shaped Da Ponte’s poetic skills in a manner that Da Ponte was able to transform himself as a challenging librettist and a brave individual. Thus the two personalities though had problems at all times were able to work togetther and produce beautiful classical operatic pieces and plays. As a composer Mozart always loved innovating musical and reconstructing operatic pieces of ancestral composers (Holden, 2006, Jan 7).

Reference List

Asiado, T (2007) Da Ponte, Mozart Librettist. Web.

Attea, T (2006) A Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte: Talent Flies; Practical Reason Walks.

Epand, V (2008) The-Life-and-Times-of-Wolfgang-Amadeus-Mozart.

Genevieve, H (2010) Lorenzo_da_ponte_priest_poet_and_playboy, Web.

Holden, A (2006) The phoenix.

Linda, C (2002) Figaro.

Selby, A (2007) Lorenzo Da Ponte – Mozart’s Librettist. Web.

Shinn, D (2009) The Amazing Mr Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

Walters, T (2010) The Life of Mozart.

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