I stumbled across a wonderful BBC video on You Tube this evening that I just have to share. It is called Vivaldi's Women.
Antonio Vivaldi was actually Fr. Antonio (the "Red Priest" because he had red hair) who spent most of his life serving as music director of an extraordinary Venitian institution: the Pieta. A orphanage for the abandoned girl babies born as a result of Venice's famously debauched lifestyle. Four babies were dropped off at the Pieta on any given day and there they were raised and many were trained to be musicians.
The all women choir and orchestra of the Pieta reached an extraordinary level of skill and became an international sensation. The rich would crowd the Pieta's church to hear these women make angelic music while carefully hidden behind a screened balcony. Vivaldi wrote much of his music for these women, many of whom were affected by their mother's syphilis.
A women's choir and orchestra from Britain traveled to Venice to make the wonderful women musicians of the Pieta live again and the BBC was along for the ride. For centuries, music scholars were certain that the tenor and bass parts of these works were sung by men but the Brits demonstrate that it was entirely possible to perform the entire works as Vivaldi wrote them - for women alone.