Tuesday, April 7, 2009
.......Speaking of Vivaldi...
In a previous post, I mentioned how Vivaldi was employed by the Pieta’ as a violin master. I find the story behind this place quite fascinating and thought I might share a bit of its history with you here today.
The Pio Ospedale della Pieta’ (the pious hospitalof mercy) was first opened in 1346 by the Monk Pieruzzo. The initiative behind this hospital was to take in babies that were abandoned, illegitimate, ill or coming from extremely poor families who were unable to take care of these. It was a charitable institution and orphanage run by the nuns. The babies were usually given up to the Pieta,’ by being deposited anonymously through a designated trapdoor, where the nuns would then take them in.
The Pieta’, or Ospedale as it is often called, also provided for abandoned and orphaned girls who remained at the orphanage until they married or, sometimes lived there for life. Some boys were also taken in by the orphanage but were taught a trade for their future. It was then easier for boys to set out and make it on their own; consequently, most of them usually left after a few years.
So it became that the girls that were raised within the orphanage were given intensive musical training. They were taught how to play an instrument (primarily the violin)-and all of them were expected to learn how to sing. By the late seventeenth century the Pieta’ was no longer just a mere convent and orphanage; it also became a renowned music school. For a minimal charge, various concerts were performed for the Venetian aristocracy.
This is where the great Vivaldi comes in. The composer was the master violin tutor at the time and contributed to much of the Pieta’s success and fame. He wrote much of his music specifically for the women of the Pieta’.
A most touching and endearing aspect of Vivaldi is his devotion to this place, and to its residents. It appears that many of the abandoned children were left there because of facial and physical deformities; yet, this did not exclude them from music lessons and from participating in concerts. The devoted Vivaldi actually had instruments specifically altered and adapted for these girls. The beautiful sounds of their voices accompanied by glorious music were the main focus of the concerts; the girls were never seen. Their beautiful voices emanated from behind a metal grill where the choir was free to sing and express its music somehow distanced and protected from any ogling stares.
Jean- Jacques Rousseau was often in this audience, where he claimed to ‘never having heard anything so voluptuous and affecting as this music…in these delightful concerts’.
Posted by Lucy at 8:00 AM