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A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other
Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.
Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.
Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.
“Playing the violin again ignited a permanent glow that I carried inside me, which burned gently and steadily just beneath my breast bone. Before I left Maestro Vivaldi’s house, we agreed I should return at noon in three days’ time, but I knew my frequent comings and goings would not go unremarked upon for long. I was tempting il destino, but I couldn’t stop.”
The man, the myth, the legend:
Most ears are familiar with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and think of him as the Italian Violin Master with no recollection of the exact period he was from, or with any idea that he was even a priest. While the maestro was, indeed, a priest, he was also an 18th century playboy by way of his rock star status. Yes, even 18th century Venice had rock stars. Vivaldi’s skill at playing the violin and at composition thrusted an aura of virtuoso virility around him that the ladies found hard to resist. Especially his virginal music pupils.
The Violinist of Venice reads with the alternating tempos of adagio and vivace. It is an ambitious book that does a lovely job of capturing the culture and landscape of the times it is set in. I went into this book expecting the author to completely demonize and generalize Vivaldi’s character, but was pleasantly surprised when she didn’t. She composed his character with as much thought and dimension as Adriana, the female lead.
Adriana is a strong and rebellious character who embodies what I would hope to have been like had I been alive in 18th century Venice. The author does a great job at capturing the suffocating patriarchy that made women the property of their fathers or husbands in this era and dictated what they could and could not do. For a girl like Adriana, pursuing her musical aspirations was literally gambling with her life.
Carnivale! Venice, Italy.
Lush settings, including a few delicious scenes at Carnivale, and historically accurate social climates made this book an enthralling read. I loved the thematic elements such as the divisions of sections and chapter titles that made this book like reading a musical score. The Violinist of Venice was a smart and entertaining window into Vivaldi’s lifetime and that of the women who met his hypnotic and inspiring charms. Musician and non-musician alike will enjoy this emotionally engaging and epic love story that doesn’t play out as one would expect. I can’t wait to read the next novel by Alyssa Palombo.
Setting the mood:
Although Paganini came to fame a while after Vivaldi, the rock star aura of this talented violinist/composer drove women crazy in the same way. It’s not hard to see why in the film The Devil’s Violinist which tells the tumultuous story of Paginini during the height of his fame. This is a great film to watch before reading The Violinist of Venice to help paint a picture of how musicians like this were received in society, and a great film to follow-up with is The Red Violin which tells the story of a violin spanning over 3 centuries, all the way back to its creation in 17th century Italy.
And just for fun:
Everyone knows Vivaldi composed moving violin pieces, but not very many know that he also composed arias and other vocal pieces. Simone Kermes is one of my favorite contemporary Baroque vocalists, and I have included a Spotify playlist of her Viva! Vivaldi album for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!