As you probably know, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was one of the most famous Italian composers of his time, known for his baroque and virtuoso compositions. He was an impresario, a teacher, and a violinist, and at one time, he even served as a Roman Catholic priest!
Vivaldi was regarded as one of the world’s most talented Baroque composers. He had an influence across Europe and inspired the formation of bands, such as the French concerto and Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. The music genius could play various instruments, including the violin and string orchestra.
And beyond his musical prowess, there’s a lot more to Vivaldi than meets the eye. Here are 11 interesting facts about Antonio Vivaldi that you might not know. Let’s get started!
1. Antonio had a secret love life
Antonio took a position as a Maestro di Cappella for Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt at some point in his career.
This contract lasted for about three years, during which he produced several operas.
While there, he met and taught Anna Tessieri Giro, who became a great violin player and his protégé. She even accompanied him on his performance trips.
The two got too close, to the point that speculation was rife that they had a romantic relationship. However, Vivaldi denied any of the rumors, and in 1737, he even wrote a letter to one of his patrons, Bentivoglio, to emphasize his denial.
2. The father coached young Antonio Vivaldi
The young Antonio used to play the violin with his father, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi. Giovanni was a professional violinist who also doubled up as a barber.
During his father’s career, Antonio would accompany him on his performances and concert trips.
His father’s tours exposed Antonio to the violin industry and allowed him to interact with the finest composers and musicians in Venice at the time. This helped him master his wind instruments.
Only his chronic shortness of breath sometimes made it hard for him to play the instruments perfectly.
3. He went to the monastery to become a priest
Vivaldi went to the monastery at the age of 15 to become a priest. During his time, he also took music lessons.
He completed his studies and was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1703. While he was a priest, the locals called him “the Red Priest” or “il Prete Rosso.”
Unfortunately, his time as a clergyman was short-lived due to respiratory problems. He was forced to abandon the call at some point, as he could not deliver the mass.
4. He Was Probably Asthmatic
An interesting fact about Vivaldi is that he suffered from a condition called strettezza di petto (tightness of the chest), which historians think could have been asthma. This likely influenced his choice of the violin over wind instruments.
His health issues also restricted him from leading many masses, yet he remained an active member of the priesthood, contributing significantly with his liturgical compositions.
5. He made most of his music in an orphanage
When Antonio left the priesthood, he went to an orphanage in Venice called Ospedale Della Pietà.
Antonio started his career at the orphanage at the age of 25 and lived there for three decades. He mastered playing the violin and composed most of his famous works during his stay there.
Antonio also helped kids in the orphanage, which led to praise and thanks from people in the area and around the world.
6. He had been kicked out of the orphanage once
Despite his amazing work with the children, Antonio’s relationship with the directors at the Ospedale Della Pietà orphanage was always strained.
The board met every year to decide whether to keep him or throw him out. In many cases, they only kept him for the good work with the children.
At one point, they decided to throw him out. However, after a year, they realized the importance of having him in the orphanage and reinstated him.
When Antonio came back, he was put in charge of all musical activities.
7. Antonio did several other jobs besides teaching
After Vivaldi’s stint as a priest, he became known as a teacher for his work in the orphanage.
As we mentioned, he held this title for three decades. However, he had other duties besides teaching the young children.
Antonio took short-term composition contracts around Venice, Rome, and Mantua. He also composed his music.
“The Four Seasons,” which he wrote between 1717 and 1721 in Mantua, was one of his most popular short-term works. This composition was also paired with four sonnets, believed to have been written by Antonio himself.
8. He faced financial difficulties
Despite his amazing talent and fame, Vivaldi went through tough financial times, similar to other composers and musicians at the time.
This caused him to live a less desirable life than you would expect for a leading composer and violinist.
In his late years, his compositions were not held in the same high regard as they had earlier been. This was due to his changing music tastes every while and the fact that music was evolving fast.
His deteriorating financial situation forced him to sell some of his compositions at a lower price to get by.
9. He created music for the European nobility
Antonio Vivaldi was commissioned to create music for the European royalty and nobility several times.
One of the most popular pieces was his composition to celebrate King Louis XV’s marriage in 1725. The composition was known as “Cantata Gloria.”
Vivaldi also made pieces for the births of several French royal princesses from time to time.
At some point, he was given the title of knight by Emperor Charles VI when he made compositions for him in Vienna. Other nobles also bought pieces he had created.
10. He died poor
Sadly, Antonio died a pauper despite his fame and compositions spanning several decades. He died of an internal infection on July 28, 1741, at the age of 63.
You would expect music to be played during his funeral, as he was a musician. However, no music was played except for the chimes of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral bells.
Antonio was buried in a simple public grave next to the hospital where he was treated. Years later, a plaque was placed on the site where he once lived. However, it was later destroyed.
11. You can learn about Antonio’s life and career in a documentary
The life and times of Antonio Vivaldi were documented in a 2005 movie called “Vivaldi, A Prince of Venice.”
There was also a radio play featuring the same character on ABC Radio. Two years later, a play was adapted and titled “The Angel And The Red Priest.”
The movie has been played on big screens and is available on some movie streaming services.
These three compositions touched on Antonio’s life’s main aspects and times. They also give a clear picture of life in the Middle Ages.
If interested, you can look for the movie and learn more about the violinist priest.
Summing Up Our List of Fascinating Facts About Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi’s genius violin skills and compositions continue to influence the music world centuries after he passed away. Many of his styles have been adapted by numerous musicians even to this day.
Despite his music falling out of grace in his late years, people started to appreciate his compositions centuries later.
Antonio’s dedication to perfection and passion for children also improved lives during his career.
His complete music catalog was also discovered in a school in Piedmont. There has also been the introduction of the Vivaldi Week at Casella, where his most popular works are performed. Some of his songs are also played during the Christmas celebrations.