September 1, 2011

READING: Mozart by Peter Gay

Acquired a few weeks ago from Bibliobarn Too in Margaretteville (does it still exist? is it still underwater? Margaretteville was hit really hard by post-Irene flash flooding), this is part of the Penguin Lives series in which well-known authors and historians are commissioned to write little biographies. It was a plane-trip-sized read.

Reading this book made me realize I want to build a master timeline to start keeping track of what happened when. Mozart was 22 in 1776. He died in 1791, as revolution raged in France. He was a prolific letter writer and journal keeper (his correspondence peppered with shit jokes), but he never mentioned anything about the American or French revolutions in anything he wrote. Did the Comanches have horses yet? I'm going to need a big sheet of paper.

I'm interested now in Lorenzo da Ponte, the Italian who wrote the librettos for the Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan Tutti. He galavanted around Byron-style breaking hearts and incurring debt until he settled in the U.S. late in life. In 1825, he was a professor of Italian at Columbia University. It surprised me that Mozart was that closely connected to the modern world and to New York City. Who was in da Ponte's class? Did they badger da Ponte with questions about Mozart?

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