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Vivaldi, Antonio

Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice on March fourth, 1678. His first job was as a priest – he was ordained in 1703, at 25. However, due to various physical complaints (he talked about tightness in his chest), he left the church after only a year. He had become a priest against his own will, because his family was poor and the training was free.

Vivaldi was mainly an opera writer. He is also famous, however, for his many concertos, especially the favored Four Seasons. Many of such pieces that he wrote early in his career (early 1700’s) were for an ‘orphanage,’ where he was the violin teacher. This orphanage was not really an orphanage at all, but a home for daughters of noblemen and their mistresses. These concertos which Vivaldi wrote for them were actually playing exercises for the talented young musicians.

In 1717, he lived in Mantua in order to provide operas, cantatas, and some concert music to Landgrave Philips van Hessen-Darmstadt. His official title was Chamber Kapellmeister of the court. In 1720 he moved back to Venice. It was at this time that he met Anna Giraud, who from then on lived with him. He denied that she was anything more than a friend. Her sister, Paolina also lived with them.

Vivaldi composed quite a bit. In only a month he composed three operas for two different cities – Florence and Venice. He was also writing two concertos a month, for which he received one ducat each. These concertos were sent to Ospedale della Dieta, with whom he’d made a deal. He had agreed to send the two concertos each month, and his presence was then not required. These concertos were very successful, especially in France. This is shown because he did a bit of work for French royalty, such as his serenade La Sena Festeggiante, which was written for Louis XV.

Between 1725 and 1728, around eight operas premiered in Venice and Florence. One of his publications during this time was Il Cimento dell’ Armenia e dell’invenzione, which appeared in Amsterdam. The famous Four Seasons, as well as Storm at Sea, Pleasure, and The Hunt were contained within this piece, along with other concertos. Strings play a very large role in this music.

In 1730, Vivaldi, his father, and his companion Anna Giraud went to Prague. Three of his operas opened at a theater there. The first was Farnace, which Vivaldi often used as a showpiece. Due to the opera’s success, two more of his operas opened the following season.

After this, he returned to Venice briefly before going to Verona and Mantua. In Mantua, Vivaldi’s opera Semimmide was performed. Other new material was also opened in Verona. After his time in Prague, he concentrated mainly on opera writing. No more instrumental music was published, although he continued to write such. In 1738, he conducted a festival for the 100th opening of the Schouwburg theater. In 1740, he resigned from composing for Ospedale. He died in Vienna on July 28th, 1741. Anna Giraud returned to Venice, where she died in 1750.