Viva, at 19, has rarely been allowed outside the gates of the Venetian orphanage where she has been raised. Yet she has been trained in music by the great Antonio Vivaldi himself and her beautiful voice lures the rich and famous from around the world to come hear the girls' choir and orchestra of the Ospedale de Maria della Pieta. Viva longs to be free, to sail through the world like the merchant ships in the bay. More secretly, she longs to compose great music. But girls aren't allowed to compose for the coro. Then one day, Jean Jacques Rousseau comes to hear the choir girls sing. And Viva's life and music are changed forever.
Winner of the 2006 Tassy Walden Award for Best Young Adult Novel.
For a taste of the book's historical setting, see the BBC's 2008 documentary, "Vivaldi's Women," on youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYpSTlN9n-w
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By Linda Ross Meyer
Jun 9, 2008
"Reviewed by Kirkus Discoveries" Lyrical, fact-based fiction tracing the incremental liberation of a musically gifted Venetian girl. Italy in the mid-1700s provides the lush, historical backdrop for the coming-of-age of Viva, 19, who was orphaned as a baby at the Ospedale de Maria della Pietà, a Catholic charity home for girls renowned for their dazzling, disciplined choir performances. But Viva is restless and knows the home sequesters its girls right into adulthood with little opportunity to leave the property independently and uncover “the distant and impossible.” Viva resorts to escaping to the school’s rooftop to dream of one day leaving the orphanage’s confines to write musical compositions, a pastime that is forbidden to the girls at the home. While instructing younger students makes up a good portion of her days, Viva takes a Venetian governor’s reticent daughter named Angelica under her wing and then becomes naturally maternal to Emilie, the latest tiny... More > orphan to be left on the orphanage’s doorstep, a baby whom she believes holds musical intuition. When intrepid, enterprising Swiss ambassador Jean- Jacques Rousseau arrives, he is instantly enamored of Viva and prearranges a secret escape and elopement for Angelica and her new beau, Abate Casanova. As the grand Easter celebration nears, Viva is in love and her immense talents blossom and begin to become recognized, but Emilie’s mysterious origins sets off a disastrous chain of events. Slim in length yet eloquently written, Meyer’s strength lies in the story’s descriptive characterization: “Viva-the-Alto” makes for an engaging, virtuous protagonist with her fiery red hair framing a face grotesquely scarred by smallpox; her fellow students, some brash and catty, others timid and fearful, are a vivid and authentic supporting cast. Concluding historical notes (with photographs) afford an interesting look into ospedale life. Though written for a young-adult audience, this warm, charming novel’s message about the healing and transformative power of music will appeal to readers of any age. Meyer, Linda Ross SHE WHO SINGS, PRAYS TWICE Lulu (132 pp.) $17.99 paperback June 20, 2007 ISBN: 978-1-4303-2290-0 Kirkus< Less
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