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RARITIES from VENICE

Fausto Cacciatori reports on a Museo del Violino project to analyse and restore a unique collection of instruments from the Ospedale della Pietà, the Venetian orphanage where Vivaldi taught

One of the treasures of the Venice collection: a 1654 violin by Andrea Guarneri

St Mark’s Square in Venice is known across the world for its beauty. Facing the Basilica and the bell tower, visitors can walk towards the Doge’s Palace, with the Grand Canal in front of us and the islands of San Giorgio Maggiore and Giudecca visible across the water. Having passed the palace and continuing on the left along the Riva degli Schiavoni, we reach the church of Santa Maria della Visitazione, consecrated in 1760 and designed to be both a religious building and an auditorium. On entering, we are immediately struck by the atmosphere created by the expansive, evocative choirs, described by travellers from centuries past including Charles de Brosses and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The figlie di coro performed here: orphaned girls who were taught music and the art of bel canto by renowned teachers, including Vivaldi, who composed original music for them. The church is tied to the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage founded in Venice in the 14th century to take in children abandoned due to poverty or illegitimacy, and which housed the figlie di coro.

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About The Strad

The Strad’s annual round-up of activity in the Italian city, with exhibition previews, photo galleries and the latest from the Museo del Violino.