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Friday, July 23, 2010

The Red Priest's Annina by Sarah Bruce Kelly

Title-The Red Priest's Annina

by Sarah Bruce Kelly

ISBN-13: 9780578025667

ISBN: 0578025663

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.

My Thoughts:

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

Visit Stacy @ A Novel Source


Susan said...

This sounds so interesting! I'm adding it to my to-read list.

AlleluiaLu said...

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Have a great day!

Christina T said...

This looks like the kind of book I'd love. I don't know much about Vivaldi's life so I'm sure I'd learn a lot too. Fantastic review!

Anonymous said...


Lady Q said...

I adore Vivaldi and I had not heard of this book before! I'm so glad you brought it to my attention.

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

Thank you lovely ladies! If you're interested in a more in-depth look on Vivaldi's women the link to Bel Canto Press has a wonderful BBC show linked up to YouTube that tells about his work, his women, his life, his music. Absolutely perfecto! Anyone with half an interest in Vivaldi should watch it. Amazing!

Barbara Quick said...

It's wonderful to see such enthusiasm for this fascinating time and place, Venice in the 18th century! Readers who want more might enjoy my 2007 novel from HarperCollins (now translated into 15 languages), VIVALDI'S VIRGINS. There's a book trailer on my web site, http://www.BarbaraQuick.com