La Pietà (the Pietà) was a home for unwanted or abandoned children. Its residents came from varied backgrounds some were foundlings some were from destitute families some were the children of prostitutes and some the illegitimate children of noblemen and their mistresses. Children upto the age of six were first placed in foster homes and upon reaching their sixth birthday came to La Pietà. Boys were taught a trade and left aged 16, while the girls could either marry, become nuns, or remain at the Pietà for the rest of their lives. This latter group were divided into the non-musicians called the Figlie di Comun and earned their keep doing such work as sewing, embroidery, weaving, and housekeeping duties within la Pietà. The second group, the musicians, were called the Figlie di Coro and were the elite within La Pietà. They lived in special rooms, they ate separately from the others and had a special (and better) diet. Vivaldi’s job was to train girls who had musical abilities how to sing, play musical instruments, or both for services at La Pietà. The quality of the music at services in La Pietà was such that visiting the services became a part of the "Grand Tour" undertaken by the sons of aristocrats and the emerging merchant and professional classes. Vivaldi was well aware of the abilities of his students and composed music for them with their abilities in mind.
This documentary from the BBC follows an Oxford women’s choir as they explore Venice and the creative relationship between Vivaldi and his students. It deals with Vivaldi’s creative relationship with the girls of the Ospedale della Pietà for whom he composed so much music. Musicologists often blithely ignore the fact that Vivaldi wrote a lot of his music specifically for all woman and girl orchestras and choirs. I’ve never understood why this should be so difficult to grasp but apparently it is. I found this documentary which lasts just under an hour fascinating. I hope you enjoy it and benefit from it at least as much as I did.