Childhood & Early Life
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born on March 4, 1678 in Venice, Italy. His father was Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, a barber by profession and also a violinist who used to play at the San Marco basilica orchestra. His mother was Camilla Calicchio. His father was a co-founder of an association of musicians known as ‘Sovvegnodei musicisti di Santa Cecilia’ whose president was Giovanni Legrenzi, a veteran Baroque composer.
He had eight siblings named Iseppo Santo, Iseppo Gateno, Bonaventura Tomaso, Margarita Gabriela, Cecilia Maria, Gerolama Michela, Francesco Gaetano and Zanetta Anna.
Vivaldi wanted to play wind instruments from his childhood but could not fulfill his dream as he suffered from asthma.
In 1693 at the age of 15 he started to study to become a priest andgot ordained as a priest when he was 25 years old in the year 1703.
As his parents did not earn much and the family was big, Antonio chose to become a priest as it would enable him to get a good education free of cost.
His first teacher was his father himself from whom he learned to play the violin from a very early age and accompanied him to give performances at different functions in Venice. By the age of 24 he had acquired a great deal of knowledge and expertise in playing the violin.
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Antonio Lucio Vivaldi started his career in music by becoming a violin teacher at an orphanage for girls in Venice called ‘Ospedaledella Pieta’ in 1703. He composed a large number of pieces for the female ensemble consisting of girls at this orphanage during this time.
In addition to his work at the Pieta, hewas able to have a steady income throughout his life by selling his compositions to wealthy patrons including King Louis XV of France and Emperor Charles VI of Austria.
In 1704 he was allowed to abstain from Mass and priestly duties because of his respiratory problems but it did not prevent him from conducting orchestras or teaching music.
In 1704 he was appointed as the teacher for ‘viola all’inglese’, a bass viol used in English orchestras in the seventeenth century in addition to his duties as a violin teacher.
In 1705 Giuseppe Sala published Antonio’s first ‘Opus 1’ titled ‘Connor Cassara’ which was made of 12 sonatas for two violins and a basso continuo.
In 1709 ‘Opus 2’ comprising a collection of 12 sonatas for violin and basso continuo was published.
In 1709 the board of the orphanage voted him out of his job as a music teacher by 7 votes against 6. He worked as a freelance musician for one year after which he was reinstated at his old job in 1711 by the orphanage’s board by a unanimous vote.
In February 1711 Antonio Vivaldi travelled to Brescia with his father where they played his setting named ‘Stabat Mater’ at a religious festival.
Vivaldi stared his career as an opera composer with his first opera named ‘Ottone in villa’ which was performed at the ‘Garzerie Theter’ in Vicenza in 1713.
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He dedicated his ‘Opus 3’ of 12 concerti for one, two and four violins with strings titled ‘L’estroarmonico’ to the ‘Grand Prince Ferdinand of Tuscany’ whom he had met in Venice. ‘Opus 3’ was published from Amsterdam in 1711 by Estienne Roger and made Antonio Vivaldi very famous as a composer.
In 1714 he dedicated his ‘Opus 4’ titled ‘La stravanganza’ which was a collection of concerti for a solo violin and strings to the Venetian noble Vettor Dolfin who was one of his old students.
His next opera named ‘Orlando fintopazzo’ was performed at the ‘Teatro San Angelo’ in Venice in 1714 where he acted as the ‘impresario’.
In 1715 he composed ‘Nerone fatto Cesare’ which has since been lost and ‘Arsilda, regina di Ponto’ which was blocked by the state censor but was greatly successful when it was released next year.
During this period he wrote two sacred oratorios ‘Moyses Deus Pharaonis’ which has been lost and ‘Juditha triumphans’ which is one of his masterpieces.
He wrote the two operas ‘L’incoronazione di Dario’ and ‘La costanza trionfante degl'amori e degli odi’ in 1716. The latter was very popular and was edited, re-edited, and renamed ‘Artabano re dei Parti’ but has been lost since.
After being appointed as ‘Maestro di Capella’ at the court of Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt’, the governor of Mantua, Vivaldi stayed there for three years and composed several operas including a pastoral drama titled ‘Tito Manilo’.
While visiting Milan he presented the pastoral drama ‘La Silvia’ in 1721 and the oratorio ‘L’adorazione delli tre re magi al bambino Gesu’ in 1722 which is also lost.
During his tours outside Venice he used to send two concerti to the Pieta every month for two sequins as per agreement and rehearsed with them at least five times when he returned to Venice from the tours.
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He moved to Rome in 1722 on the invitation of Pope Benedict XIII to play for him. Vivaldi returned to Venice in 1725. During this time he wrote ‘Four Seasons’ which is his greatest masterpiece.
The French ambassador commissioned his serenata ‘Gloria e Imeneo’ for the celebrations during the marriage of Louis XV of France.
In 1726 he wrote another serenata ‘La Senafesteggiante’ for the celebrations marking the birth of French royal princesses Louise Elizabeth and Henriette. In 1730 he accompanied his father to Vienna and Prague to oversee his opera ‘Farnace’ being performed.
In 1740 he sold all his manuscripts and moved to Vienna in the hopes of finding steady employment under the patronage of Emperor Charles VI who greatly admired the composer’s work and had invited him to his court.
But Charles VI died soon after Antonio Vivaldi arrived in Vienna. He was left destitute without having any job or income. This caused him to fall ill and he died soon afterwards.
Vivaldi’s music died with him but was revived when a large number of his manuscripts were found in Turin in 1926. His music started to become popular again after 1950.
Personal Life & Legacy
Although he stopped going to the Mass soon after getting ordained as a priest, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi never gave up his priesthood and remained unmarried.
At the age of 48, Vivaldi met 17-year old soprano Anna Tessieri Giro in Mantua who accompanied him on his tours across Europe with her half-sister Paolina. Though Antonio insisted that there was no romantic involvement between them, there were several speculations about a romantic relationship.
He died of a heart attack on July 28, 1741 at the age of 63 in Vienna, Austria.