Hidden Voices: The Orphan Musicians of Venice
This engaging novel focuses on the lives of three members of the figli di coro at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice in the early 1700s. Young women with musical talent, almost all orphans, receive an extensive musical education. Those girls without such talent become members of the figli di commun, and are trained to become nurses or lace makers or such. Anetta, Rosalba, and Luisa lead lives that may seem highly structured to them, but that have allowed them to thrive and to develop their prodigious talents. Anetta excels on the viola d’amore, and Luisa has a heavenly voice. Luisa, unlike the others, has a fashionable and mysterious mother who visits, but not often enough to make Luisa happy. These young female musicians are studying under Vivaldi, who writes compositions for them: compositions that allow them to develop their talents, and that might attract rich and cultured suitors for their hands. When Rosalba decides that the young man she frequently sees passing the Ospedale is of more interest than her studies, her life changes dramatically, and only then realizes the wonderful opportunities she had previously taken for granted. Told alternately by the three young women, this novel will entice both young adults and not-so-young adults with its glimpse into a riveting world.