The search for Caterina … Vivaldi, Venice, and a novel of hope

Who’d have thought writing an historical adventure for younger YA readers would turn into a 10-year long adventure for this author.

Did I mention passion as well?

Yep, I had no idea when I first wrote a short story about Antonio Vivaldi and his all-female choir at a 1700’s Venice’s home for abandoned children that this manuscript would lead me to Venice, to the 18thC Baroque era and beyond. A decade later, I’m on the final rewrite before sending to publishers.

Best news of all … I have found my 15-year-old protagonist, Caterina, and I can’t wait for you to meet her.

Caterina, aka l’Artiglio, the Claw, to be exact. But this feisty young street singer, the foster daughter of a family of thieves isn’t about to let her burn-scarred hand stop her finding what she truly wants and needs in the labyrinth of 18thC Venice, the water-bound city of obscene wealth and desperate poverty.

One of Canaletto’s large, wonderful oil paintings of 1700s Venice. One of Vivaldi’s contemporaries, the artist depicted the city, its weather, its inhabitants and their doings, including the dogs and clothes. A valuable visual tool for a writer.

A story of resilience, courage and hope for a musically-gifted young orphan with a shadowy past. Of course, if I was being honest, this story probably settled into my imagination many years ago when I first heard Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos.

Click for an extra treat Winter’s three movements including his descriptive Winter sonnet’s words to accompany the music. I guess Antonio intended people really understood how he was depicting the seasons via the instruments.

Back then, like most people, I enjoyed the music of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, but I had no idea this almost heard-everywhere composition (Coles supermarket’s background music; tv ads) had such an amazing history – both for its composer and for anyone who appreciates classical music and history.

This famous composition was almost lost to history after Vivaldi died at 63 in poverty to lie in an unmarked grave in Vienna, far away from Venice and all that he loved. I’ll keep that sad part of his history until another time. It is fascinating too, I promise.

Ten years ago, I discovered the inspiring part of this marvellous musician and composer, this son of Venice. And it’s when I became what is called a ‘studioso della vita e della musica di Antonio Vivaldi‘ – student of the life and music of Antonio Vivaldi.

Vivaldi was the music master at the Ospedale della Pietà, Venice’s home for abandoned babies. Those babies grew up behind the Ospedale walls. Some stayed all their lives. Some, the most musically talented became the choir and orchestra of the Pietà. Their Maestro Vivaldi composted over 500 pieces for them to sing and play.

Caterina, my novel’s protagonist, is at the heart of this story, its life and soul.

Vivaldi is at its musical heart.

Venice is at its core. And once this city called La Serenissima is in your blood, she will never leave.

2 thoughts on “The search for Caterina … Vivaldi, Venice, and a novel of hope

  1. I’m in awe. This all sounds beyond fabulous. what a juicy JUICY premise. What a fabulous & fiesty heroine she sounds. I read almost nothing these days unless it takes me no more that ten minutes, but this sounds worth the wait. Buona fortuna!


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