B0950. April FitzLyon. The Libertine Librettist, an Autobiography of Mozart’s Librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. New York, Abelard Schuman, 1957. 292 pp. Index; Bibliography; Illus.
“This fantastic man, Lorenzo da Ponte, was by birth a Jew, ordained as a priest, and his early manhood was spent as a poet whose verse was carefully planned to ingratiate himself with his betters: he was an adventurer and a seducer whose own ‘catalogue’ of conquests was worthy of his friend, Casanova. Lorenzo's youth was one of shoddy connivance and sycophancy whether he worked his magic on prostitutes or royalty, in the person of Joseph of Austria. But in his mature years and until his death at 90 the profligate developed into a solid if fiery citizen. Perhaps it was marriage and family responsibilities that changed him but in any event Lorenzo's later callings included publishing, bookdealing, a period of being a grocer and another of accepting a professorship of Italian at Columbia University. With immense energy and erudition he brought to America the language and literature of Italy; he also founded what was probably the first opera house in America. A highly professional biographer (and a well-known translator of Tolstoy and Chekhov) with powers of judgments, restraint and clarity makes April Fitzlyon’s subject and his story an enjoyable surprise for all reading tastes.”
- Kirkus Review
“April FitzLyon was a scholar, a biographer, a remarkable translator and an intellectual of wide culture, which included a deep interest in Russia, its literature, history and well-being, and a passion for music.
She went on to write separate biographies of two singing sisters, first Pauline Viardot Garcia, one of the great divas of 19th-century France, who had never been the subject of a biography before (THE PRICE OF GENIUS, 1964), and then Maria Malibran, whose career was even more brilliant, and who sang internationally in the bel canto repertoire (MARIA MALIBRAN: DIVA OF THE ROMANTIC AGE, 1987). Both were daughters of the Spanish tenor and teacher Manuel Garcia who had sung for Rossini, but whose harsh parental tyranny blighted the lives of his daughters.
April FitzLyon discovered much about the long-standing and ambiguous relationship between Viardot and Turgenev, and threw light on both artistic and social life of 19th-century Europe. In 1983 she helped to organise and wrote the catalogue for the centenary exhibition TURGENEV AND THE THEATRE, at the Theatre Museum in London.
The FitzLyons lived in Golders Green and later Chiswick, moving in intellectual circles that included many Russian emigres. Kyril retired from the Ministry of Defence in the early Seventies. They visited Russia both before and after the collapse of Communism, and for about a quarter of a century until her death April was General Secretary of the Russian Refugees Aid Society. She made many radio broadcasts for the BBC, contributed to Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and produced articles and reviews for newspapers and journals including Encounter, the TLS and the Literary Review. She was a scholar of the old school.”
- John Calder, THE INDEPENDENT, 24 Sept,1998