The official version helps us, as it shows the Emperor’s involvement.
Valentina’s contribution is that she shows a connection between Orsini del Balzo, the Emperor Joseph II as an Orsini descendant, the duke Orsini, Naples, Ferrara, the names Alfonso and Fernando.
Here is the official version:
“ The opera was based on a story familiar to the Emperor involving two brothers, the sons of a Venetian cobbler, who, disguised as Albanian noblemen, had travelled the Continent duping men with dishonest deals and women with false declarations of love. The older brother posed as Prince Stefan Zannovitch of Albania and his younger brother called himself Count Premislas Zannovitch. Both had been expelled from numerous gambling houses in Venice and finally from the state of Venice itself. Stefan Zannovitch was arrested in Vienna but was released due to the intervention of Emperor Joseph II. Stefan Zannovitch was arrested again in Amsterdam where he commited suicide on May 25, 1786.
Da Ponte was a contemporary of the Zannovitch brothers and knew them well from the time when both he and Casanova gambled alongside them at the famous Ridotto Casino in Venice. No doubt Da Ponte and Casanova discussed the “Prince of Albania’s” suicide when they met in Prague for the premiere of Don Giovanni. Stefan’s suicide in an Amsterdam jail was the hottest gossip not only in Vienna but also in Prague.
Late in 1789 Da Ponte wrote a libretto about two army officers from Naples who were called up to fight the Turks. They presented themselves to their sweethearts disguised as Albanian noblemen to test their fidelity. The ladies found the disguised gentlemen attractive – each one was drawn to the other’s beau! The result was a comedy of errors and proved a great success when it was premiered on January 26, 1790.”