Posts filed under ‘Antonio Vivaldi’

Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery

In this touching tale, a gifted young violinist is sent to study music at the Pietà orphanage in Venice with the great composer Antonio Vivaldi. It’s Carnival time, magic is in the air and mystery unfolds as Katarina enlists Giovanni, the gondolier, to help in her search to discover her origins.

In a climactic scene, a masked stranger reunites Katarina with her family and she must make an important choice between staying with her music at the Pietà or entering the world.


By Douglas Cowling
Illustrated by Laura Fernandez and Rick Jabobson

Douglas Cowling, a writer, musician and educator, whose most recent publication is Hallelujah Handel, has had great success in bringing classical music to young audiences. In a note to the reader at the beginning of Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery, he writes:

History is full of people whose voices are not heard and whose words were never written down: women, slaves and children. We have no records from the hundreds of children that he (Vivaldi) taught and to whose lives he gave meaning and beauty, We must use our imagination to hear their hopes and fears, their loneliness and their laughter.

Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery is set in 18th century Venice, home to the Pieta, a school run by nuns for orphaned student musicians. When 12-year-old Katarina arrives as a new student, she is overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the floating city. It seems to the young violinist, as she looks around at musicians, tumblers and jugglers, that the whole city has gone mad.

“Why is everyone wearing a mask?” Katarina asked a gondolier.

The young man laughed and gave her a mask to wear.

“Everyone wears a mask during Carnival, Signorina. A rich man can pretend to be a beggar, and a beggar can be a rich man!”

The gondolier introduced himself as Giovanni and helped Katarina into his gondola.

Giovanni takes Katarina through the back canals of Venice to the prison-like building which houses the Pieta. To the young musician’s delight, she discovers a whole orchestra of girls playing every instrument, even those considered by many as “unladylike” such as the bassoon, the trumpet and the timpani. But most thrilling of all is Katarina’s meeting with her new teacher:

Standing before them, a man with fiery red hair nodded his head in time to the music. Then he raised his violin and began to play. The instrument seemed to sing in his hands. The music was everywhere – in her ears, in her head, in her heart.

Katarina realized that it could be none other than the famous composer Antonio Vivaldi!

Don Antonio shows his students a gift from the Duke of Cromona, a beautiful violin case decorated with a picture of a nightingale. Inside is a violin built for the Duke by the most famous violin maker, Signor Stradivarius. The Duke has sent the violin to Venice for the Grand Concert which is being held at the Pieta the next day. Don Antonio explains that many years ago the Duke lost his son, daughter and granddaughter in a shipwreck. Convinced that his granddaughter is still alive, the Duke travels from city to city hoping to find a musician who can play music “so beautiful and so magical that it could call his grandchild back from the mists.”

Katarina is awed by the beautiful instrument and intrigued by the picture of the nightingale on its case, a match for the nightingale on a ring around her neck. Unable to resist the temptation to pick up the precious violin, she is horrified when it slips from her hands and lies broken on the floor. Katarina enlists the help of her friend Giovanni in a desperate attempt to get the priceless instrument repaired and back in time for Don Antonio to play at the Grand Concert. The young people’s journey to retrieve the Stradivarius involves a mysterious thief, a poem and a midnight visit to the Island of the Dead. By the end of the story, the link between Katarina’s nightingale ring and the Duke of Cremona’s violin becomes clear, leaving the young violinist to make a decision that will change her life.

(more…)

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October 22, 2018 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment


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