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Stabat Mater [Paperback]

Tiziano Scarpa , Shaun Whiteside
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 6.35 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

25 Aug 2011
The female musicians of the Instituto della Pietà play from a gallery in the church, their faces half hidden by metal grilles. They live segregated from the world. Cecilia, is a violinist who, during anguished, sleepless nights, writes letters to the mother she never knew, haunted by her and hating her by turns. She eats little and cannot sleep. But things begin to change when a new violin teacher arrives at the institute. The astonishing music of Vivaldi, the 'Red Priest', electrifies her and changes her attitude to life, compelling her to make a courageous choice.

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Stabat Mater + Venice is a Fish: A Cultural Guide
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (25 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846687691
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846687693
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 12.4 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 546,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Disquieting, lyrical and intensely authentic' -- Michelle Lovric, author of 'The Book of Human Skin'

'Rhapsodic, poetic prose...gritty and at times brutally graphic...well worth exploring' --Classical Music Magazine

'Stabat Mater is old-school fairytale, with Scarpa's narrative rooted in earthy images that give Venice a raw reality' --Guardian

Book Description

In early eighteenth-century Venice an orphan girl discovers life and independence in the music of Vivaldi

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
There's a fascinating story behind this tale of which this first person narrative gives only glimpses. It's interesting, but ultimately a little frustrating.

Translated by Shaun Whiteside from Scarpa's 2008 Italian original, "Stabat Mater" is set in a Venetian orphanage for girls run by nuns in what would have been around the 1700s. The girls at the "Ospedale" are trained as musicians and singers who play from a hidden gallery in the adjoining church for the patrons of the Instituto della Pietà. However, this is a highly stylised little book, bordering on the almost poetic, narrated from the point of view of one of the orphans, a young violinist named Cecilia who goes on to tell of the impact of the appointment of a new in-house composer, one Don Antonio, or Vivaldi as most of us know him.

This is rather the strength and weakness of the book. On the one hand, it's a fascinating story with the young Vivaldi composing classical standards for his young orphans - he introduces himself to the girls with a series of compositions based on the four seasons. Not only that, but the whole thing is set in the fascinating glamour of Venice. Add in the strange and peculiar world of a church-based orphanage for young girls and there are stories, you feel, just bursting to be told. And yet, rather like the audience to the performances, the reader only gets tantalising glimpses of the orphans and the narrative thread in Cecilia's story.

Scarpa's Cecilia is a troubled young girl who cannot sleep and appears to have an eating disorder. At night she creeps to a hidden place to write `letters' to her unknown mother even though these are never sent.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but frustrating as style obscures story 30 Aug 2011
By Ripple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There's a fascinating story behind this tale of which this first person narrative gives only glimpses. It's interesting, but ultimately a little frustrating.

Translated by Shaun Whiteside from Scarpa's 2008 Italian original, "Stabat Mater" is set in a Venetian orphanage for girls run by nuns in what would have been around the 1700s. The girls at the "Ospedale" are trained as musicians and singers who play from a hidden gallery in the adjoining church for the patrons of the Instituto della Pietà. However, this is a highly stylised little book, bordering on the almost poetic, narrated from the point of view of one of the orphans, a young violinist named Cecilia who goes on to tell of the impact of the appointment of a new in-house composer, one Don Antonio, or Vivaldi as most of us know him.

This is rather the strength and weakness of the book. On the one hand, it's a fascinating story with the young Vivaldi composing classical standards for his young orphans - he introduces himself to the girls with a series of compositions based on the four seasons. Not only that, but the whole thing is set in the fascinating glamour of Venice. Add in the strange and peculiar world of a church-based orphanage for young girls and there are stories, you feel, just bursting to be told. And yet, rather like the audience to the performances, the reader only gets tantalising glimpses of the orphans and the narrative thread in Cecilia's story.

Scarpa's Cecilia is a troubled young girl who cannot sleep and appears to have an eating disorder. At night she creeps to a hidden place to write `letters' to her unknown mother even though these are never sent. The narrative consists of these notes to her mother, strange internal dialogues with a `snake-haired woman' representing death and slightly more conventional journal like entries of events as they unfold. However, there is no clear distinction between these and they all roll into one stream of writing. Once Don Antonio arrives we also get snatches of conversation between the him and Cecilia. This short book concludes with some more translated comments from Scarpa on his admiration of Vivaldi.

It's all rather esoteric which is frustrating when the story and setting is so intrinsically interesting. There is very little of the feel of Venice, nor of the life of the orphans, let alone the impact of Vivaldi's arrival on the scene. In fact, I found myself re-reading the cover blurb around a third of the way in just to make sense of what was going on. While conceptually it's clear that Cecilia has had a tough life which ought to garner the reader's sympathy, her self-pitying tone becomes depressing to read and she does little to win the reader over.

I would guess that if you were skilled enough to read the original Italian, the experience might be more beautiful. That's in no way a negative comment about the quality of the translation, but I wonder if the Italian language lends itself better to the almost poetic quality of her musings. Scarpa has Cecilia noting that words are inferior to music in explaining her feelings and somehow his book rather supported this comment in this instance for me.
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