at Vivaldi. ‘I have never heard playing like it, certainly not from a
priest.’ He sighs. ‘The mercy of God be upon you.’ Coughing, the
Pope raises a ﬁnger to his servant and the man steps forward to
hand Vivaldi a purse. Bowing deeply, Antonio runs his ﬁngers over
the soft leather, trying to discern what sort of coins lie in the heavy
pouch. Pope Innocentius XIII has meanwhile been seized by a
violent ﬁt of coughing and Ottoboni indicates to Antonio that they
must leave. This they do rather hastily, for the coughing does not
abate. Antonio makes the sign of the cross before the sick man,
anxious to leave the Pope alone as quickly as possible out of respect
for his vulnerable state. People capable of appreciating his music
so intensely always evoke the deepest empathy in him.
Priest and cardinal retrace their steps in silence.
‘That did him good,’ pronounces Ottoboni at last.
‘Is his condition serious?’ asks Vivaldi sombrely.
The cardinal nods, putting his foreﬁnger to his lips. ‘Speak
to no one of this,’ he instructs Vivaldi in hushed tones. In reply the
priest again makes a sign of the cross. This, he conﬁdes to the
cardinal, has been one of the most remarkable meetings of his life.
But there is not long to reﬂect upon his encounter with the
Pope, for a new season of rehearsals is underway. Vivaldi has
produced just the second act of the ﬁrst opera to go on this carnevale,
entitled La virtù trionfante dell’amore, e dell’odio, overo Il Tigrane. All his
attention is focused on the last performance of the season; it must
be the highpoint of the year.
The libretto for Il Giustino, written ﬁfty years before by the
late Count Nicolò Beregan, has been set to music once already.
Giovanni Legrenzi did so in 1683, and Antonio was just ﬁve years
old when the curtain rose on Il Giustino at the Venice theatre San
Salvatore. It was a major hit. Both Domenico Scarlatti and Tomaso
Albinoni had since put on their own successful productions but, as
usual, Vivaldi has chopped bits out of the plot, altered, amended
and improved it. It is now, to all intents and purposes, a completely
new story, one that takes place in Constantinople in the early years
249-304 Chapter 6.indd 283 22-11-2007 14:11:38