Vivaldi’s Virgins, Barbara Quick, 2007
Set in Venice in the early 18th Century, this novel is based on the well researched lives of the red priest Antonio Vivaldi and his most famous musical student, the foundling, Anna Maria dal Violin for whom Vivaldi composed a number of works, including the Six Violin Concertos for Anna Maria.
The Ospedale della Pieta was a long established Catholic orphanage and school where orphans and foundlings, some the illegitimate children of aristocrats and priests, were sent to be raised in a safe environment. The children’s identity and parentage, if recorded, were closely guarded secrets of the Pieta. Girl children, if they had an aptitude for music, were trained as singers and musicians and they performed in churches throughout Venice. Antonio Vivaldi, a non practicing priest, was retained by the Pieta as a teacher and composer of choral and instrumental works for the students.
Ospedale della Pieta
This novel is largely a coming of age story of Anna Maria who desperately wants to know her parentage and is encouraged to write letters to her unknown mother. She has adventures where she sneaks out to attend Operas and balls, where contemporary luminaries such as the Saxon George Frideric Handel and Italian Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti perform. Anna Maria’s best outside friend is the gay assistant to the Pieta seamstress, a wise Jewish woman living in the Ghetto. Gives a lot of detail about the decline of the Venice aristocracy, life in Venice and the Pieta, and the music of the period.