When Elizabeth Anderson, now Manager of the Australian Chamber Choir, was a child, reading about Vivaldi, she was fascinated by his deep involvement with the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children in Venice. Institutions like this orphanage – of which there were a handful in the city – were funded by the Venetian government to provide shelter and education to children whose families could not support them. Vivaldi was 25 when he was appointed as a violin teacher, and worked there for the better part of the next 40 years, rising to maestro de’ concerti (music director). A significant number of his most famous works – including his Gloria and The Four Seasons  – were written for, and premiered by, the girls and women of La Pietà.

Grand Canal, Venice

“I was fascinated by the idea that a famous violinist, a famous composer, should have been working with orphan girls,” says Anderson. “From...