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• Friday, April 27th, 2018

Alyssa Palombo graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, where she also lives and presently works. She obtained a degree in English and another in creative writing as well as a minor degree in music. She is a trained classical musician – a mezzo-soprano – and occasionally plays the piano. Palombo would like to become a full-time writer one day. The Violinist of Venice, published in 2015 is her first novel.

The story takes place in eighteenth-century Venice. Adriana d’Amato, the main character and narrator, is an eighteen-year-old girl who lives with her authoritarian, wealthy merchant widower father, Enrico d’Amato, in an elegant Venetian palazzo.

Adriana has music in the blood inherited from her mother who once, before marrying Adriana’s father, was a famous soprano singer in the girl’s orphanage choir in Venice called Ospedale della Pietà. After her mother’s death, Adriana’s father forbids her to play the violin, her favourite instrument.

The musically gifted Adriana refuses to submit to her father’s order and determinedly follows her dream by using the cover of night to secretly obtain violin lessons given by the composer and virtuoso, Maestro Antonio Vivaldi, nicknamed: Il prete rosso (the red priest) due to the colour of his hair.

Nevertheless, what starts as violin lessons develops gradually into devouring fiery passion between the master and his young student. An impossible love to be satisfactorily fulfilled since Vivaldi is a Catholic, ordained as a priest and therefore sworn to celibacy and Adriana’s father is determined to have her marry a wealthy Venetian from a respectable family.

Adriana’s secret romance with Vivaldi takes a different turn when Adriana discovers that she is carrying his child. From this point onward, events change course. We follow Adriana’s unsettled life with all its ups and downs for over thirty years.

Adriana compares Vivaldi’s piece of music, “The Four Seasons” to her life. She says:“My youth was spring and my affair with the man I loved was summer, with all its heat. And autumn came as we began to come apart and winter when we were undone and I was forced to give up our child. And yet surely that winter has ended long since. Then spring came again with the births of my children and this peace and contentment I know now is like the beautiful sun of summer once again”.

Luckily Adriana can rely on her faithful servant and dear childhood friend, Giuseppe Rivalli. In order for her to repair the shame she inflicted on her family, she has to endure an arranged marriage organised by her father and marry his old wealthy friend, Senator Giacomo Baldovino. They have three children together who prosper and later one of her daughters makes her a grandmother.

Adriana loses her elder and only sibling, Claudio, who had been found in Florence, where he was looking after his father’s business affairs, stabbed to death in the chest in an alley outside a brothel. Her father’s demise follows a few years later.

With the passing years and with age, Adriana matures and mellows. She redeems herself, becomes serene and mistress of her destiny, as well as devoting her love to her growing family. After becoming a widow, she accepts to marry her former suitor, Tommaso Foscari and lives happily by his side. We also witness her visiting Vivaldi on his deathbed for their last farewell.

The Violinist Of Venice is an enthralling novel, dedicated to classical music, romance and historical, fictional lovers. Palombo has duly researched eighteenth-century Venice at the time of Antonio Vivaldi. There is a vivid description of the culture, the aristocracy, the decadence, the lavish balls, banquets and carnivals as well as the conservative and patriarchal society of the time.

The author skilfully intertwines little-known historical facts about Antonio Vivaldi’s private life with her own imaginary story. She also interlaces intense love with musical passion as being inseparable and a vital source of creative inspiration. She chooses the idyllic, musical, decadent and romantic city of eighteenth-century Venice as the frame enhancing the picture.

In one of her interviews about the protagonist in her novel the author says: “Adriana and I are definitely alike in many ways – the love of music, certainly, though she’s a violinist and I’m a singer. Many of the passages where she talks about how music makes her feel – both listening to it and performing it – are pretty autobiographical. She also definitely has some of the hopeless romantic in her, and I do as well. She’s not afraid of going after what she wants, and I like to think that I’ve been that way as well at points in my life”.

In the interview above the author reveals her deep love for music like her main character, Adriana. Nevertheless, even for a reader who is a music enthusiast, a less contrived and less detailed description of extensive musical knowledge would have benefited the flow of events and rendered the novel less unwieldy, less slow-moving in parts and more profound.

Category: Book Reviews
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