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Antonio

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Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice on March 4th, 1678. Though ordained a priest in 1703, according to his own account, within a year of being ordained Vivaldi no longer wished to celebrate mass because of physical complaints ("tightness of the chest") which pointed to angina pectoris, asthmatic bronchitis, or a nervous disorder. It is also possible that Vivaldi was simulating illness - there is a story that he sometimes left the altar in order to quickly jot down a musical idea in the sacristy.... In any event he had become a priest against his own will, perhaps because in his day training for the priesthood was often the only possible way for a poor family to obtain free schooling.

Though he wrote many fine and memorable concertos, such as the Four Seasons and the Opus 3 for example, he also wrote many works which sound like five-finger exercises for students. And this is precisely what they were. Vivaldi was employed for most of his working life by the Ospedale della PietÐo. Often termed an "orphanage", this Ospedale was in fact a home for the female offspring of noblemen and their numerous dalliances with their mistresses. The Ospedale was thus well endowed by the "anonymous" fathers; its furnishings bordered on the opulent, the young ladies were well looked-after, and the musical standards among the highest in Venice. Many of Vivaldi's concerti were indeed exercises which he would play with his many talented pupils.

Vivaldi's relationship with the Ospedale began right after his ordination in 1703, when he was named as violin teacher there. Until 1709, Vivaldi's appointment was renewed every year and again after 1711. Between 1709 and 1711 Vivaldi was not attached to the Ospedale. Perhaps in this period he was already working for the Teatro Sant' Angelo, an opera theater. He also remained active as a composer - in 1711 twelve concertos he had written were published in Amsterdam by the music publisher Estienne Roger under the title l'Estro armonico (Harmonic Inspiration).

In 1713, Vivaldi was given a month's leave from the Ospedale della PietÐo in order to stage his first opera, Ottone in villa, in Vicenza. In the 1713-4 season he was once again attached to the Teatro Sant' Angelo, where he produced an opera by the composer Giovanni Alberto Rostori (1692-1753).

As far as his theatrical activities were concerned, the end of 1716 was a high point for Vivaldi. In November, he managed to have the Ospedale della PietÐo

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