ADDRESSES: Home— Amsterdam, Netherlands. Agent— David Miller, Rogersm Coleridge, and White, 20 Powis Mews, London W12 9QE, England.
CAREER: Writer. Former theater director in London, England.
Amsterdam (travel guide), Globe Pequot Press (Chester, CT), 1992, 2nd edition published as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden and the Hague: Art History, Walks, Hotels, Cafés, Shops, Markets, Day Trips, Cadogan (London, England), 1997, 3rd edition published as Amsterdam, Cadogan (London, England), 2000.
Germany (travel guide), Globe Pequot Press (Old Say-brook, CT), 1993.
Bavaria (travel guide), Globe Pequot Press (Old Say-brook, CT), 1995.
Madeira (travel guide), Cadogan (London, England), 1995, revised edition published as Madeira & Porto Santo, 1999.
The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Dutch, Ravette (Hor-sham, England), 1995.
(With Paul Rubens) Amsterdam (children’s travel guide), Cadogan (London, England), 2000.
The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s Poet, Casanova’s Friend, and Italian Opera’s Impresario in America, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006, published as Lorenzo da Ponte: The Adventures of Mozart’s Librettist in the Old and New Worlds, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Rodney Bolt is the author of numerous travel guides and of two well-received biographies. His History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe is, according to a Kirkus Reviews critic, a “lively, speculative biography.” Bolt postulates a Marlowe who is not only a great playwright, but also a secret agent for the anti-Catholic spymaster of Queen Elizabeth I. However, when Marlowe himself was tempted by Catholicism and also uncovered a plot to overthrow the queen from among her advisors, he was marked for death. History records Christopher Marlowe dying in a tavern brawl before the age of thirty; Bolt, however, has him escaping death and roaming Europe for years, sending back his coded plays to the man he, Marlowe, had hired to be his stand-in: William Shakespeare. Thus, as Bolt has it, Shakespeare’s plays were all written by Marlowe, which would explain the use of foreign languages and the foreign settings, knowledge of which some literary critics have felt Shakespeare did not personally possess. The Kirkus Reviews critic went on to call History Play a “grand entertainment for literary sleuths.”Entertainment Weekly contributor Adam B. Vary similarly observed that Bolt’s speculations were “all in good fun.” Further praise came from Library Journal reviewer William D. Walsh, who called History Play an “audacious and entertaining work.”
Less speculative is Bolt’s 2006 biography, The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s Poet, Casanova’s Friend, and ItalianOpera’s Impresario in America. In fact, the subject of the biography led such an interesting life that there was little need for speculative embroidery in this title. Da Ponte was a womanizing priest in Italy and friend of Casanova who was expelled from Venice. Then he came to Vienna, where he became librettist for three of Mozart’s operas, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan Tutte. Da Ponte thereafter moved to London, where he married. He ended up in the United States, pursuing a varied life as a grocer, professor of Italian at New York’s Columbia University, and a promoter of opera. Barry Zaslow, writing in Library Journal, felt that the author’s “scholarship is well documented but appears at odds with his highly charged style,” making the target audience unclear. A similar criticism came from New York Times critic Charles McGrath, who observed that the book was written “in a somewhat operatic style, with a weakness for metaphors that are either clichéd or. . . just plain odd.” However, McGrath went on to note that The Librettist of Venice is a “remarkable yarn.” Megan Marshall, writing for the New York Times Book Review, agreed, calling the author a “masterly scene-setter,” and the book “irresistible reading, even for those who prefer Italy’s olives to its opera.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, June 1, 2006, Alan Hirsch, review of The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s Poet, Casanova’s Friend, and Italian Opera’s Impresario in America, p. 24.
Contemporary Review, January, 2005, review of History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe, p. 61.
Entertainment Weekly, September 2, 2005, Adam B. Vary, review of History Play, p. 85.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2005, review of History Play, p. 772; May 1, 2006, review of The Librettist of Venice, p. 444.
Library Journal, August 1, 2005, William D. Walsh, review of History Play, p. 84; May 15, 2006, Barry Zaslow, review of The Librettist of Venice, p. 102.
New York Times, July 21, 2006, Charles McGrath, “A Maestro of Second Acts, in Opera and in Life,” review of The Librettist of Venice, p. E32.
New York Times Book Review, July 30, 2006, Megan Marshall, review of The Librettist of Venice.
Observer (London, England), July 23, 2006, review of Lorenzo da Ponte: The Adventures of Mozart’s Librettist in the Old and New Worlds.
Opera News, October, 2006, Joanne Sydney Lessner, review of The Librettist of Venice, p. 77.
Publishers Weekly, April 17, 2006, review of The Librettist of Venice, p. 174.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2005, review of History Play; November, 2006, review of The Librettist of Venice.
Washington Post, July 16, 2006, Jonathan Keats, review of The Librettist of Venice.
Bloomsbury USA Web site, http://www.bloomsburyusa.com/ (December 11, 2006), brief biography of Rodney Bolt.