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Vivaldi's life * Vivaldi's times * Vivaldi's music * Creator and the Seasons by C.J. Taylor

Vivaldi's Times

Carnival Season

A carnival in eighteenth-century Venice did not mean a travelling amusement show. This was the season in the church calendar immediately preceding Lent. For several weeks, everyone had a grand time going to fancy masked balls, parties, and other social events. Opera was popular too. At least twenty casinos were open for business. People poured into Venice from all over Europe to be there at Carnival time. We still have this type of carnival today, Winter Carnival in Quebec City, for example. There are many others.

Vivaldi lived near the end of an era known as the Baroque period, which lasted from about 1600 to 1750. It was an exciting time to be alive. The spirit of adventure and discovery filled the air. Astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo looked high into the heavens and learned that Earth revolves around the sun. Anton van Leeuwenhoek found a whole new world under the microscope bacteria, blood cells, and much more. William Harvey discovered the circulation of blood. There were many great composers too: in Germany there were Bach and Telemann; Handel and Purcell worked in England; France had Couperin and Rameau.

Just what does baroque mean? This is a term that was originally used to describe architecture. Buildings of grand design and containing a lot of detailed decoration were called baroque. By extension, these grandiose, highly decorated structures inspired art, music, furniture, gardens (for example, those at Versailles, outside of Paris), and even clothes and hairdos of the period. Strong colours, dramatic effects, splendour, and a sense of both dynamic movement and spontaneity were all features of baroque style. The word awesome would be appropriate to describe much baroque art, architecture, and music.

Activity Ideas

1) Find examples of pictures showing baroque gardens, furniture, hairstyles, and fashion. Do you think fashion today could be called baroque? Why or why not?

2) Research and present for your class one of the important historical events listed in the timeline.

3) What would you do in Venice if you could visit as a tourist? How many people live there now? How do they get around if the streets are made of water?

The Baroque period was not all pleasure and joy. There were no luxuries like ovens or dishwashers. No indoor plumbing or central heating. No radios, televisions, or cell phones. Only a few people lived well the aristocracy. Most worked much harder and longer hours than people do today. And many suffered under the autocratic rule of kings, queens, and emperors. Democracy such as we enjoy today was still far in the future.

Vivaldi's home city of Venice was, and still is, one of the most magnificent in all Europe. Tourists loved Venice. When Vivaldi lived there, the city had a population of about 150,000, which was large for the time. Venice is a city built on water, with canals instead of streets. It is also a city of splendid churches, grandiose palaces, and beautiful theatres. The baroque love for extravagance, grand effects, and lavish decoration is seen at its best in the huge basilica of San Marco (St. Mark's).

Listen to excerpts of the National Arts Centre Orchestra performing The Four Seasons.

Vivaldi's life * Vivaldi's times * Vivaldi's music * Creator and the Seasons by C.J. Taylor