PONTE, Lorenzo da, the elegant poet who wrote the words for three of Mozart's operas—Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte—was born at Ceneda, in the Venetian States, March 10, 1749. He borrowed his name from a bishop, his benefactor, but was the child of very poor parents, and was left without any education till he was fourteen. He was then allowed to enter the Seminary of his native town, and after studying five years went to Venice to seek his fortune by the aid of his pen. In this gay city, the home of theatres and every kind of pleasure, he had a number of amorous adventures, and was at last obliged to escape to Treviso, where he was appointed professor of rhetoric. But having spoken against the government of the Republic, he was ordered to leave. He then took refuge in Vienna, where Salieri presented him to the Emperor Joseph II., who made him court poet in place of Metastasio recently deceased. Here, notwithstanding the difference of their characters, he became an intimate friend of Mozart, and wrote the libretti for the three operas above named. Michael Kelly, then in Vienna, says that he was a great coxcomb, supposed to be originally a Jew who had turned Christian and dubbed himself an abbé. After the death of the Emperor, Feb. 20, 1790, he was obliged to quit Vienna, and at Trieste married an English lady. Finding no prospect of permanent employment in Austria, he took his wife to Paris in August 1792. But Paris was then too stormy for him, and he soon left for London. Here he became a favourite teacher of the Italian language, and was appointed poet to the Italian Opera, then under Taylor's management. As part of his duty he travelled in Italy in 1798 in search of singers. In 1801 he took a part of Domenico Corri's music shop to sell Italian books, but this soon ended in pecuniary difficulties. He was in the habit of getting bills discounted for Taylor, and was imprudent enough to endorse them, thus making himself liable for several thousand pounds. As Taylor was not accustomed to pay his debts, Da Ponte naturally got into great difficulties, and his only resource was to join his wife at New York. So on March 5, 1803, this strange man sailed for America, and after a miserable passage of 86 days arrived at Philadelphia en route to New York. Here he was unsuccessful as a dealer in tea, tobacco, and drugs, but became a great favourite as professor of Italian. In 1811 he went to Sunbury (Pennsylvania) to manufacture liqueurs, but as usual lost his money, and returned to his pupils at New York. He now began to feel the weight of years and the disrepute into which his conduct had brought him, when in 1826 Manuel Garcia arrived with his family in New York. Though they had never met, Da Ponte rushed to Garcia's lodgings, and announced himself as 'Da Ponte, author of the libretto of Don Giovanni, and the friend of Mozart.' Garcia embraced the poet, singing 'Fin ch' han dal vino,' and ultimately the opera was performed at New York, Garcia playing the part of Don Giovanni, and his daughter (afterwards Madame Malibran) that of Zerlina. This was the last happy day for Da Ponte. He died at New York August 17, 1838, aged 89, neglected and in the deepest misery.
[ V. de P. ]
PONTICELLO (Ital. for the bridge of a stringed instrument) or 'sul ponticello' a term indicating that a passage on the violin, tenor, or violoncello, is to be played by crossing the strings with the bow close to the bridge. In this way the vibration of the string is partially stopped, and a singular hissing sound produced. It occurs in solo pieces as well as in concerted music. The closing passage of the Presto, No. 5 of Beethoven's Quartet in C♯ minor, op. 131, is a well-known instance.
[ P. D. ]
PONTIFICAL CHOIR. See Sistine Choir.
POOLE, Elizabeth, a very favourite English actress and mezzo-soprano singer, born in London April 5, 1820, made her first appearance in a pantomime at the Olympic Theatre in 1827, and continued for some years to play children's parts—Duke of York to Kean's Richard; Albert to Macready's Tell; Ariel, etc. In 1834 she came out in opera at Drury Lane, as the Page in 'Gustavus'; in 1839 visited the United States and sang in 'Sonnambula' and other operas; in 1841 was engaged by Mr. Bunn for his English operas at Drury Lane. Here she sang many parts, especially Lazarillo in 'Maritana.' At the same time her ballads and songs were highly popular at concerts, both in London and the Provinces. Miss Poole appeared at the Philharmonic, June 15, 1846. She was a leading singer in the operas brought out at the Surrey Theatre by Miss Romer, in 1852, where she sang in 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' 'Huguenots,' etc., and was also much engaged by Charles Kean, F. Chatterton, and German Reed. Miss Poole (then Mrs. Bacon) retired from public life in 1870, and is still living. She was a clever, indefatigable, artist, always to be relied upon. Her voice was good, extensive, and very mellow and sympathetic in quality; her repertoire in opera was very large, and in English songs and ballads she had no rival. Her portrait is preserved in the collection of the Garrick Club.
[ G. ]
POOLE, Miss. See Dickons, Mrs., vol. i. p. 444b.
POPPER, David, born June 18, 1846, at Prague, in the Conservatorium of which place he received his musical education. He learnt the violoncello under Goltermann, and soon gave evidence of the possession of a remarkable talent. In 1863 he made his first musical tour in Germany, and quickly rose to very high rank as a player. In the course of the journey he met von Bülow, who was charmed with his playing,
- In his autobiography ('Memorie di L. da Ponte,' New York 1829–30) he spells his name thus, and so do all other writers, except M. de la Chavanne, his translator ('Memoires de L. d'Aponte,' Paris 1860).
- P. Scudo, in his charming account of Da Ponte and society in Venice in the 18th century ('Critique et Litterature Musicales,' Paris 1856), says Sarti, but Da Ponte in his autobiography says Salieri.
- 'Reminiscences,' London 1826.
- Date in Meyer's 'Grosses Conversations Lexicon,' Hilburghausen 1850.
- Mendel, 'Musikalisches Conversations Lexicon,' says 1805.