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Da Ponte, Lorenzo (10 March 1749–17 August 1838), poet, librettist, and libertine, was born Emanuele Conegliano in Ceneda (near Venice), Italy, the son of Geremia Conegliano, a tanner and dealer in leather, and Rachele Pincherle. Following the death of his wife in about 1754, Geremia Conegliano wished to marry a Roman Catholic woman and so, together with his three living sons, converted from Judaism to Catholicism in 1763. As was customary at the time, the new converts took the surname of the current bishop of Ceneda, Monsignor Lorenzo Da Ponte, and Emanuele, the eldest son, took the prelate’s first name. His conversion and the bishop’s patronage enabled young Lorenzo to receive an excellent education, especially in the Latin and Italian languages, at the episcopal seminary in Ceneda and later at the seminary in the nearby town of Portugruaro. He progressed so rapidly that he became an instructor at the latter institution in 1770, professor of languages in 1771, and vice rector in 1772. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1773, a career decision he was soon to regret....