The Libertine Librettist: Rare Musical About Lorenzo DaPonte Gets Free Concert Performances in NYC

Classic Arts News   The Libertine Librettist: Rare Musical About Lorenzo DaPonte Gets Free Concert Performances in NYC
A little-known Judd Woldin-Richard Engquist musical about the colorful life of Mozart's librettist Lorenzo DaPonte will be heard in two free concert performances on June 24 and 25 in Manhattan. Lorenzo - The Libertine Librettist has music by Woldin, lyrics by Engquist, with the book prepared by both men, drawing freely on the life and legend of the long-lived writer (1749-1838), who penned the libretti to Mozart's CosÐ fan tutte, Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro.

Woldin is the composer of Broadway's Tony Award-winning musical, Raisin and Off-Broadway's Little Ham. Enquist is the lyricist of Little Ham and Off-Broadway's Kuni Leml.

According to production notes, "Lorenzo DaPonte, the librettist of Mozart's, began life as an Italian Jewish poet and ended as a professor of Italian at New York's Columbia University. Along the way he was driven out of Venice by furious husbands and out of London by furious creditors ... a never-to-be-repeated epic story of love and ambition."

Christopher Scott will direct a cast of ten (including Bob Gaynor as Lorenzo, Trish Rapier, Vanessa Jones, Don Mayo, Joel Blum, Pat Cook and more), with music director Beth Falcone, in this revised concert version of the show that was commissioned and produced 25 years ago by Eric Krebs at the George Street Playhouse. The subtitle The Libertine Librettist was recently added.

"I stripped away everything in the book that was problematical," lyricist/co-librettist Engquist told, "so now it is a very lean, tight narrative, but we are doing the whole score, with ten actors and a grand piano. Beth Falcone has done new musical arrangements ... actors will have scripts and scores in hand."

Engquist said DaPonte's memoirs are "interesting, clearly highly embellished. He was a genius. Judd and I took the various extravagant facts about his life and did a treatment which is almost entirely made up."

DaPonte's life story has the feel of Candide in its variety and geography.

"Lorenzo DaPonte was an interesting character," Engquist said. "He was the son of a Jewish tanner in Ceneda, Italy, was educated in a Catholic seminary, and despite his holy orders lived a scandalous life in Venice, where he was befriended by Casanova and had a very busy sex life with women both married and unmarried. He ended up in Vienna, where he became a court poet in the court of Joseph II, working with a number of composers, among them Mozart. He hooked up with a young woman, Anna Grahl, who called herself Nancy. She was the daughter of a Jewish businessman, but they had also assimilated as Catholics. Lorenzo and his wife (they may not have been legally married) moved to London where they got into severe financial troubles, fled to America, had several children, did whatever they could to survive — a store, a boarding house, tutoring, translating.

"Lorenzo was the first professor of Italian at Columbia (later University). He made a couple of attempts to start opera companies in New York, and lived to a ripe old age."

Eric Krebs Theatrical Management is producing this new look at Lorenzo. The public is invited to the free concert performances — 7:30 pm on June 24 and 4 pm on June 25 — at Engleman Recital Hall, Baruch College Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter at 25th Street, east of Lexington).

For reservations, call 1-212-967-7079 or email

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