This is a rather long entry with many questions, so I've broken it up into smaller chunks.
My mad researching on the composer Vivaldi over the past five or six or whatever years is finally winding down, but I'm still left with at least one Very Big Issue that I need to get solved before I can write the final draft of my novel involving him.
Throughout most of his life, Vivaldi worked at the Ospedale della Pietà, a sort of girls' orphanage (or mostly girls, at any rate) where the most promising children were taught music. Vivaldi apparently did a variety of things there, from purchasing instruments and keeping them in good repair, to giving lessons, and of course composing for the orchestra and choir. So of course my novel tends to spend a lot of time in the Pietà. Which brings me to my biggest issue: I have only a very small idea what the place looked like, inside or out.
The Pietà was only one of four such institutions in Venice at the time. However, searches for those haven't given me much information either.
The meager information I have managed to find only says that:
1) There was a wall around the place, and of course front gates (no idea about side gates or anything), and either in the gates themselves or in the wall next to them there was a sort of 'window' where orphaned/illegitimate children could be left for the caretakers or gatekeepers or whoever to find the next morning.
((Which leads to questions such as these: how high was the wall? I'm assuming it was just plain stone, but did it have any decorations at the top? How thick was it? How big of an area did it surround, and how far was it from the wall to the buildings within? etc.))
2) There was of course a chapel, which as I understand it is the only part of the original Pietà still standing today. However, I've never seen a picture of it so I don't know what that looked like either, or if it was attached to the rest of the Pietà or what.
3) Wherever it was that the girls did their concerts, the audience sat in a large(?) room, separated from the girls by a wall. The girls actually sat higher up, like on a balcony of sorts (again, a '?', because this was the layout in a contemporary painting of another one of the orphanages and I'm just basing my assumption of the Pietà's 'concert hall' on that). Eyewitness accounts are very adament about a grate between the girls and the audience.
((I'm still unsure as to whether or not Vivaldi would have conducted the concerts himself. I've heard that he did, but then I've also heard that the more advanced students of his might conduct sometimes--my conclusion is that he did when he felt like it :D. But whoever was conducting, where would they stand exactly? I'd assume it'd have to be behind the grate with the musicians.))
Beyond that, nothing. I cannot find out what the dormitories for the girls were like; if there were some boys there as some people claim, where would they stay (surely they wouldn't have the boys and girls sleeping in the same area); what kind of administration offices were there; how often outsiders were allowed in (for business or whatever); if the girls were allowed outside the buildings; if they were allowed outside Pietà property; if the girls would ever have been able to run into/interact with the staff members; where the girls ate or what they ate; how many girls were there at a given time (I think this particular information is in Talbot's biography of Vivaldi, which I sorely need a copy of); how high the ceilings were; what kind of decorations, inside and out--were the walls painted, any wall-hangings, carpet anywhere in the whole place (I assume not), what kind of windows (where the normal ones were and if there were any stained glass pieces)... In general, I am severely lacking a good idea of a blueprint for this place, or even any of its sister insitutions. Up to this point I've just been making it up as best as I've been able, but I have a feeling I'm getting it totally wrong.
I've seen the above-linked image (with the audience in the room) in color and it was, iirc, a pretty vibrant red overall (could have been just my computer though), although the second one is obviously more subdued in white and purple. hmm.
Does anyone have even a written description of what the Ospedale della Pietà was like? Or another one of the orphanages? Even having an idea of what another similar building was like would be so extremely helpful; I could 'invent' a Pietà from that if that's all I have to go on.
I've been told by some people in a Vivaldi email group I'm in that, well, none of them have any idea, and that my best bet would be to write to Micky White, who is doing a lot of work in Venice researching Vivaldi. Unfortunately, nobody has an email address or snail-mail address to give me so I can write and ask, so that's a moot point :P.
Also, along the tangent of the Pietà...what kind of punishments might a girl who broke the rules be subject to? I'm looking for physical things, not religious things like 'get on your knees and beg for God's mercy' (which I'm sure they had to do as well, but it won't work for one particular character in my story). Or would they never have to experience a punishment like that, because they're girls? *clueless*
Apparently Vivaldi was heavily involved in the affairs of the Teatro di San Angelo or its director or something (I don't have my notes handy). Whatever the case was, some of his operas were performed there. My main character also goes there, to see one of his operas. Again...I'm unsure of how this place looks, inside and out.
I'm pretty sure this place is still around. At least, there's a building marked as this Teatro on my map. Whether or not it's the original building I don't know, and if it is, I don't know if it retains the decorations it would have had in Vivaldi's time or not (I'm guessing not, unless it's been remodeled as such). I haven't been able to find any pictures of it, at any rate.
I don't need the exterior details as much as the interior on this one (still, it would be nice information to have if it's available). I assume this place would have had a foyer of some sort; how big would it have been, how would it have been decorated, etc? Were there private boxes there? Was the orchestra actually in a pit, as most music theaters have it today, or were they on the same level as the main audience floor? How many would the Teatro have seated? I don't deal with the backstage area in my story, but information on that would be nice to know just in case.
I saw a picture of a contemporary theater-like place a while back, and I remember it being done up in red with gold accents and decorations--if the interior of the Teatro in Vivaldi's time is unknown to us today, would it be reasonable to sort of extrapolate the red-and-gold scheme to the Teatro (like, would that have been a reasonable color combination for Venice at that time)?
At the time when my story is set, Vivaldi is living in his last known house in Venice. As far as I remember, it was across the Grand Canal from the Pietà and then some (totally helpful, I know). At this time, his father Giovanni Battista was living with him, at least some of the time. He also had the mysterious Anna Giro (and her sister, at least in my story) living there, supposedly to help care for Vivaldi the younger thanks to his asthma or whatever, but of course more than a few people think some sort of Hot Scandal was going on between them.
...same question :D;. What would his house have looked like? How big? How many rooms? How many stories? In what layout? Decorations? Etc. I would feel woefully stupid if I made up some home for him that would have never existed in Venice at that time.
Oh, and another big question: would there have been servants of any kind there, or would Anna Giro and her sister have taken some of those responsibilities (cooking, keeping the house, etc)? I don't know if priests at that time (as Vivaldi was) would have been allowed to keep servants, but then his father is there with him, so could his father hire servants if needed? Would it be possible at all? As I understand it, his father was of the middle class, and Vivaldi himself wasn't bad off at all, so I'm guessing they would have had the money to hire people if needed.
Thanks to those who actually read through all that!
*edit* As I wrote this, I came across this page that has some images of both the Pietà and the Teatro. The Pietà seems to be lacking in a wall, alas.
I found another image that also seems to dispel the wall thing.