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In the summer of 2019, Penn State musicologist Marica S. Tacconi visited Venice’s Ospedaletto, or “Little Hospital,” for the first time. From the 16th century to the turn of the 19th century, the charitable institution took in orphaned girls. Taccino was especially eager to see the orphanage’s music room, which was renowned for its acoustics.

As she entered the elegant space, Tacconi found herself drawn to one section of a fresco painted on the wall – a group of four female musicians, one of whom was holding the musical score of an aria from an opera, its notes still legible.

Tacconi’s encounter with the aria inspired her to learn more about the rest of the work, the teacher who composed it and the girls in the orphanage who, trained by some of the era’s most famous Italian musicians, likely performed the music to raise money from donors.

This December, thanks to Tacconi’s research, the music from the Ospedaletto will be played at a concert in Venice for the first time in hundreds of years.

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Nick Lehr

Arts + Culture Editor

The music room of the Ospedaletto is known for its remarkable acoustics. Marica S. Tacconi

Music painted on the wall of a Venetian orphanage will be heard again nearly 250 years later

Marica S. Tacconi, Penn State

On the wall of an orphanage in Venice, a musicologist encountered a fresco featuring an aria written for an opera. She’s since embarked on a project to bring this forgotten music back.


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