• Sheryl Gwyther

#22 Searching for Vivaldi and Caterina

At the risk of being called a complete nerd, I think I can safely claim the title of Australia's most highly-researched children's novelist about Antonio Vivaldi! Yep, I'm proud to admit - I'm a big fan of this Baroque genius.

I can tell you umpteenth facts and figures about his extraordinary life. I'm collecting many of his 500 concertos. I can hear when Winter Allegro non molto from The Four Seasons concerto is played slower than Vivaldi wrote it (this linked version is perfect).

I also know heaps about his connection to the Ospedale della Pietà, the home for abandoned and unwanted children in Venice. This relationship is at the heart of my novel, THE FOUR SEASONS OF CATERINA.

Yes, my enthusiasm for Vivaldi's world knows no bounds. It's the main reason I'm here in Venice. I've lots of information from the internet and especially from the experts' books. Experts aren't always experts, I've found. And of course, none of these resources give you the sensory details of unique Venice.

Here in this water city, I've walked in the footsteps of my 12-year-old protagonist, Caterina, through the calles and over the canals - by misty morning, sparkling noon sun, late afternoon glow, and chilly October nights as the tide rises in the canals, plashing against stone steps with a passing craft.

Nothing prepares you for the sights, sounds, smells, colour and spectacle of Venice. It's not so hard to imagine an earlier century either, once you escape the conga-lines of tour post.group queues.

My research venture the other day to discover more about Vivaldi and the Ospedale della Pietà turned out to be a dud - although Ross and I did find the nearby campo where he was born, and the beautiful small church where he was baptised immediately after birth (see top image). There was an earthquake at the time; or maybe it was so hasty because he was sickly. Antonio had bronchial problems (possibly asthma) most of his life.

Luckily, I had one more source to discover some useful research. The one person who knows more about Vivaldi's life than anyone else ... British researcher and archivist, Micky White.

Join my search for the truth in Part 2, where I meet Micky in the ferny courtyard of the historical Hotel Metropole, not far from the Doge's Palace on the waterfront - the site of the first Church of the Pietà, the one Vivaldi knew best. There we delve deeper into the life and times of this amazing man. All great fodder for my story.