Music is in the centre of every secular party of Venetian noblemen at which they invite famous composers like Vivaldi. Very often the music is played by young and talented girls who reside in L’ospedale della Pietà. It’s neither an orphanage nor a conservatory. It’s not a monastery either. This is simply a place for abandoned children from poor families that cannot bring them up. But sometimes it is home also to daughters conceived by wealthy and noble Venetians who take advantage of the freedom they get after having got married. At the early stage of their lives these girls are watched strictly and according to their skills, they serve in the various workshops in l’Ospedale while music-oriented and highly talented ones become figlie di coro (“daughters of the choir”). Even though this institution is not a monastery, all of the residents are lead by their faith in God.
And this is the storyline of The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It tells the sad-and-happy story of Chiaretta and Maddalena – two sisters who are abandoned by their mother who is a famous Venetian courtesan. Being unable to bring them up, she leaves them at the doors of L’ospedale della Pietà. Thus she “stamps” and determines their lives both physically and spiritually. The three-month baby and her elder sister at the age of 3 get “P-stamps” on their heels that accompany them through their whole life. That is thefirst step to become part of the institution that raises them in the spirit of modesty.
Owing to their exceptional musical skills and talent they soon turn into figlie di coro. But because of their different characters they have a different destiny. Chiaretta is the highly-spirited little rebel, who chooses the secular splendid life of Venice full of fun and joy and gets married to a young man from an old aristocratic family. She gives up singing in public (not entirely) for the sake of a luxury life, children and the freedom of marriage she gets. Regardless of her choice and of the love of her husband and lover, her life is really happy and too emotional but at the same time too sad – she loses both her beloved husband and her sister at the end of the novel.
Maddalena’s life story is quite different. She remains at L’Ospedale all her life. She is fully dedicated to her little figlie di coro, violin and her teacher Vivaldi. The young lady has always a great and strong passion for music and becomes a true violin virtuoso thanks to the maestro. At the same time it turns that she is his muse because of the love they have for one another.
In conclusion, the Four Seasons isn’t only Vivaldi’s masterpiece we all know well but it is also the narrative about the lives and loves of the two sisters. This is the short story of Chiaretta (who becomes the wealthiest and most powerful woman in Venice) and Maddalena who dies still loving Vivaldi. And of course, the maestro’s Le quattro stagioni are the high tide both in his life and in that of the elder sister.