The life and death of the famous Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi - known as the red priest. He was invited by all European courts, but he died in poverty and disappeared in anonymity only to be rediscovered in the first half of the 20th Century. Antonio was born into a poor family and ever since childhood he had been in bad health. He became a priest and as a young violin virtuoso eventually led an orchestra of illegitimate daughters of Venice's courtesans in a convent. Soon his music and operas were known at every European court; yet a thorn in the eye of the Bishop of Venice. He tried everything to stop the red-haired priest being involved with the Venetian high society. Finally, Vivaldi succeeds on leaving Venice and accepts an invitation to the Austrian Court. Unfortunately, he arrives there shortly after the death of the Emperor and subsequently never gets the anticipated engagement. He dies one year later in poverty in Vienna. Written by
Great artists aspire to transcend the confines of their ordinary existence. Their art is their escape. Thanks to this worthy effort by the French, it is clear Vivaldi had a surfeit of stress to escape from. But this film does not demonstrate how that stress was the impetus behind the music.
Recall for a moment the highlights of Vivaldi's vast oeuvre. There is a trio sonata that gracefully rises up, evoking a better world; an aria from Moctezuma that hovers peacefully above a far-less tranquil world below; the opening chorus of the Gloria, which ascends to the heights of nobility, without even acknowledging the ignoble. These, and many more pinnacles of his accomplishments were omitted from the film, literally and figuratively. The meaning behind the music is not made clear.
By way of analogy, I might lend clarification from my own experience. For many years, I worked in an open office with several associates. Much to my dismay, I soon found that they chatted incessantly in the intervals of work about the most vulgar and abhorrent topics. There was but one escape: good music via earphone, of which Vivaldi was a cornerstone. Invariably, when the quiet was adulterated by obscene chit-chat, I found a lofty refuge in the red priest's contemplations. His compositions were, no doubt, intended to dispel the very same ennui. His was a delicate, noble constitution, incompatible with the cannaille.
Towards the end of the film, the word "Amsterdam" had been spoken often. I realized that it was a siren-call for this poor composer, kept forever under the thumb of a philistine patron. And I was moved profoundly, not by the film, but my recollection of having once toured Amsterdam for hours, to the accompaniment of Moctezuma, among the greatest of Vivaldi's 40+ operas. I had taken his music physically to the place he could only reach in his dreams.
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