Reconsiderations March 2023
Making Da Ponte
On the extraordinary life of an extraordinary librettist.
Music so dominates grand opera, much as dance dominates ballet, that other aspects of opera production are seen as strictly secondary. Thus those responsible for the words, dancing, scenery, and direction are often, at best, second fiddles to the composers.
This, perhaps, is especially true of the librettists, the people who supply the words that the composers then set to music. Indeed, while every educated person—opera lover or not—knows such names as Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, and Puccini, who has heard of, say, Salvadore Cammarano? But he wrote thirty-nine libretti, including Lucia di Lammermoor for Donizetti and Il trovatore for Verdi.
Richard Wagner, uniquely among great opera composers, wrote his own libretti. But there is one other notable exception to the obscurity so characteristic of grand...
New to The New Criterion?
Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.Subscribe