Friday, July 23, 2010
Title-The Red Priest's Annina
by Sarah Bruce Kelly
Publisher: Bel Canto Press
Format: Hardcover, 260pp
Appropriate for Ages 12 and older
Synopsis from Goodreads:
THE RED PRIEST'S ANNINA, based on actual events, tells the story of 15-year-old Annina Girò, an aspiring singer who faces abandonment, cruelty, and harassment in her quest for theatrical stardom. Annina arrives in Venice in the winter of 1722 in hopes of studying with the great Venetian priest-violinist and opera impresario Antonio Vivaldi, known as the "Red Priest" because of his fiery red hair. But on her arrival she discovers that he has left for Rome. Her dream of singing in the opera is further hindered by family problems, a disparaging singing master, a malicious rival singer, a noble patron who becomes a sexual predator, and a mysterious Gypsy's prediction that she will suffer much and be silenced. Annina's struggle to break into and survive the treacherous, cutthroat world of Venetian opera is set against the colorful back-drop of 18th-century Venice, with its carnivals, masks, drama, intrigue, and music.
I was fascinated from the opening line "I bit back the song I ached to sing" to the very end reading through the credits. Annina's truest desire is to sing opera. Not only does she want to sing opera, she longs to sing opera with her favored Don Antonio, Vivaldi, aka, the "Red Priest" for his red locks and priesthood. I chose this book because it was about Vivaldi and I adore all types of music from the loud, raucous guitar, drums, and keyboards my son plays to classic rock to opera and classical. I have portions of The Four Seasons on my iPod that I listen to while doing homework even! I've even been to the local college with my daughter to a Italian composers medley concerto BUT I don't think I ever knew that Vivaldi was called the "Red Priest" or that he had red hair or that he was even a priest! So I found this book so fascinating!
Annina is fifteen years old when circumstances work out for her to move from her father's home in Mantua to Venice so that she may study voice under her beloved Don Antonio. Her older sister, Paulino takes her to Venice to the boardinghouse in which she is to reside paid for by the Duke of Massa Carrara. On the way to the boardinghouse Annina encounters a gypsy who gives her an ominous warning and a carnival mask:
"You will suffer much." The woman's hissing tone and strange accent sharpened the sting of her sinister words.
My heart lurched. "Scusi?" I fumbled to apologize, but she cut me off.
"La moretta. She will shelter you."
I gawked dumbly at the ghoulish black mask she'd shoved into my hand, unsure how such an evil looking thing could protect me.
"La moretta was given to me by a countess, as payment for telling her fortune," the woman said. "She has much value. But for you, one soldo." "There are no bands or strings. Inside the mask there is un bottone, a button you will clutch with your teeth. You will have no voice. The silence of la moretta will shield you."
Once Annina arrives at the boardinghouse she realizes that not all is at it seems. She is at the mercy of the other girls living in the home, especially Chiara, a jealous, vindictive opera singer who only seems out to ensure the failure of Annina. The twists and turns the story takes are all the more fascinating because it is history and not just an imaginary tale. It is not until Annina overcomes her fear and doubts and speak up for herself that she is able to fly like the butterfly she longs to play.
Some interesting links
Music Composed for Beloved Anna Giro by Vivaldi
Vivaldi Music & Pictures
Timeline of Vivaldi Operas
Ode to Anna Giro
Bel Canto Press
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Royal Reviewer Angela Renee at 9:53 AM