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bearings there for a moment. One gets such days. It was not meant
personally, I do assure you.’
Making her way slowly over to Vivaldi, she takes the seat
he offers her. She looks straight into the priest’s eyes, then drops
her gaze modestly and sighs. Her next words escape her in a sort of
sob. ‘I’ve ruined everything, haven’t I?’
Antonio can no longer restrain himself. He laughs out
loud, so that Margherita really does begin to wonder about him.
But Antonio recovers himself, takes her hand and plants there a
respectful kiss. ‘Signora Gualandi, if you will consent to play
Estilla, you may stay!’
By the time he has finished going over his plans for Orlando
with her, Margherita feels thoroughly ashamed of her former
behaviour. But Vivaldi is having nothing of apologies and instead
takes handy advantage of the moment to bring up the matter of her
honorarium. They part on the best of terms.
Have to see about her, thinks the priest, scratching his
head and looking about him. The theatre must still be crawling
with lice; that’ll be it.
Vivaldi has several people in mind for the role of Argillano, but one
by one they get eliminated. Too dated, too rigid or too expensive.
In the end he reaches agreement with Andrea Pacini, the alto
castrato from Lucca, where Gasparini grew up. It had passed
through Antonio’s mind that this might bring luck. Andrea is
clearly a rising star. He has produced scintillating performances in
work by Scarlatti and Francesco Mancini and Venice took him
lovingly to her heart about five years ago in Tomaso Albinoni’s
opera Astarto.
Giambattista reads through all the contracts once more. He is
concerned about the honorarium offered the artistes, far higher
than originally agreed. But Antonio brushes all objections airily
aside. ‘Open your ears to what people are saying, father. Everyone’s
talking about Orlando Finto Pazzo and we haven’t even gone on stage
172
155-196 Chapter 4.indd 172 22-11-2007 14:09:54
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