Personalities | Antonio Vivaldi | Late Baroque | Opera
Vivaldi’s father was a talented violinist who was employed at St Mark’s in Venice, and it is likely that his father was also involved in managing operas in that city during the late seventeenth century. Although Vivaldi was nominally a Catholic priest by profession, he did not have to say Mass for most of his life, and he followed his father’s example by becoming a professional musician. Vivaldi enjoyed a fine reputation as a composer of orchestral concertos, and taught music at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà (an orphanage for musically talented girls). Vivaldi’s first known opera, Ottone in villa (1713), was swiftly followed by Orlando finto pazzo (‘Orlando Plays Mad’, 1714), and he subsequently attempted to cultivate a dual career as an opera composer and impresario for most of the rest of his life. Vivaldi’s endeavours were directed towards Venice, although he also produced operas for Mantua, Teuzzone and Tito Manlio (both 1719); Rome, Giustino (1724); Verona, Bajazet (1735) and Catone in Utica (1737); and Florence, Ginevra (1736). In 1739, Vivaldi claimed to have written 94 operas, but this was probably an exaggeration: over 50 printed libretti and about 20 musical scores have survived, although several exist only in an incomplete form.
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