Saturday, 10 November 2018

Juliet texts emojis but Romeo forgets his smartphone: Shakespeare in Venice at Hotel Danieli

Shakespeare in Venice at Hotel Danieli - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) William Shakespeare, the world's most famous English playwright, set one third of his plays in Italy. This rich exotic backdrop allowed him the freedom to tackle difficult subjects that might have been taboo on his native soil.

On Friday evening, November 9, I was a guest at the magnificent 14th century hall of Palazzo Dandolo, home of Hotel Danieli, and the stage for Shakespeare in Venice, a Journey through Shakespeare's Works, a condensed, contemporary version of five of the Bard's plays set in the Veneto.

The Merchant of Venice at Hotel Danieli - Photo: Cat Bauer
The quirky production, directed by Lorenzo Maragoni, whizzed through Romeo & Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Othello and The Merchant of Venice in about an hour with two young actors, Giulia Briata and Josh Lonsdale playing all the parts. They were accompanied by Giorgio Gobbo on guitar, who tossed the audience into a farcical key by singing the Beatles' Here Comes the Sun in falsetto when morning dawns and Romeo must flee Juliet's room after their wedding night.

Josh Lonsdale is not only an actor; the 26-year-old Brit also wrote the text. One of the best bits was when Juliet, about to drink the poison, sends Romeo a text message complete with emojis (smiley face, kiss, kiss) warning him that she is not dead, and not to overreact. Unfortunately, Romeo has forgotten his phone, and does not get the message...

Cocktail dinner at Hotel Danieli - Photo: Cat Bauer
After the performance, guests were treated to a cocktail dinner created by Chef Alberto Fol featuring food inspired by Shakespeare in Venice with tasty morsels like Insalata di latti di seppia con sedano e olive, Gallina Padovana con saor di cipolla, Zuppetta di pesci dell'Adriatico and Anatra arrostita alle spezi Orientali con salsa Peverada on the menu.

Dessert table at Hotel Danieli - Photo: Cat Bauer
Shakespeare in Venice is part of a collaboration between the Hotel Danieli, the Teatro Stabile del Veneto and the Chamber of Commerce of Venice and Rovigo, a cultural project whose aim is to promote Venice's uniqueness and cultural and artistic heritage through Shakespearean theatre and Post WWII nonconformist literature. Next up on December 11 is Art/Beat - from Beat Generation to Contemporary Art, a commemoration, in English, inspired by the term "beat" coined by Jack Kerouac 70 years ago, and performed by two actors and two musicians.

For reservations contact:
Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Alone in the Doge's Palace - Venice, Italy

Palazzo Ducale at night - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Tonight I was alone inside the Doge's Palace with only the phantoms of the past. I had come from a book presentation in the Doge's Private Chapel. It was not the first time I have been alone inside Palazzo Ducale.

When I first arrived in Venice twenty years ago, I was fortunate enough to have an access-all-areas pass to the Doge's Palace to do some research, and could wander freely through the rooms rich with the Renaissance. I met a lot of ghosts.

Golden Staircase - Photo: Cat Bauer
There are so many tourists trashing the halls these days that I forgot what it looked like. Tonight, as I descended the Golden Staircase, I saw -- really saw -- a section of the floor for the first time, an optical illusion 5D Mary-Poppins-jump-through-the-pavement floor that threw me off. The floor did not seem solid at all; for few moments I was thrown back a couple hundred years.

5D pavement inside Doge's Palace - Photo: Cat Bauer
I jiggled my legs back to present reality, touched marble, and continued down Sansovino's Scala d'Oro. I met a female attendant leaning against the loggia. I was still dizzy: "What they built... what they built... so many years ago."

She was pragmatic. "Well, they didn't build it all at once. They built that section in 14th century; and that section in the 15th century, and that section in the 16th..."

"Yes, but, what have we actually built these days, in the year 2018?"

She thought, then said: "The Calatrava Bridge and MOSE."

I haven't had such a good laugh in a long time.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, 29 October 2018

Acqua Alta - Exceptional High Water in Venice, October 2018

Acqua alta on the Zattare in Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) We are having our first acqua alta, or high water, of the fall season, and it is a doozy. I can't remember it being this high since back in 2008, ten years ago.

There is a siren that goes off to warn the citizens of Venice that acqua alta is expected, which starts with a shattering air raid wail, then segues into four ascending harmonic tones that sound something like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. With each ascending tone, anxiety rises. We usually have one or two tones. Three is bad. Four is almost unheard of. Today we had four. On top of that, it has been raining on and off all day with strong, gusty winds.

Fallen trees by Accademia - Photo: Cat Bauer
Officials say that the water level reached just about 160 centimeters today, which is "exceptional." They measure the high water level from point zero at Punta della Salute, which is where the mareograph, an instrument for recording the rise and fall of the tide, is located.  Most of Venice -- 97% of the town -- is at more than 100 centimeters, so normally when we have acqua alta, we put on our rubber boots and go about business as usual since there are only patches that flood -- in fact, many times we don't even put on our rubber boots if we know the area well enough to navigate.

Only certain areas are lower than 100 cm -- the lowest point in Venice is right in front of the main entrance of the Basilica of San Marco in Piazza San Marco, which is 64cm, and always floods. But when we have exceptional high water -- over 140cm -- that means 90% of the town is covered by water.

Flood Rates of Venice in Relation to High Water Levels

+100cm - 3.56%

+110cm - 11.74%

+120cm - 35.18%

+130cm - 68.75%

+140cm -  90%

The information I am using from the Province of Venice's Turismo Venezia does not list tides over +140cm, but we can imagine that at +160cm, nearly the entire town is covered by water. This does not mean that we are under water, but there is water in almost every calle in town. Here is a photo of the calle outside my door, which never gets high water, even at +140cm. I was only millimeters away from the water coming in my house! I wonder if in the future there will always be water in the calle, and that to live in Venice you will have to put on rubber boots just to get out the door.

Water in the calle - Photo: Cat Bauer
The water rose so high that they cancelled the vaporetti except out to the islands. Schools and museums had already announced they would be closed today and tomorrow. We were told to stay inside, but nobody seemed to listen, including me. I managed to navigate well enough up until about 2:30pm, but gave up when the water went over my boots at Rialto. There were guys right inside the vaporetto stop selling those noisy plastic colorful boots to tourists for ten bucks a pair.

Intrepid travelers at Bar da Gino during acqua alta in Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer
The tourists in town were in good spirits, and seemed to treat it like a great adventure. Of course, for businesses it is not an adventure at all, but a lot of stress, hard work and clean-up. Even Gino's by Accademia which is open all day from 6:00am to around midnight gave up and closed around 2:00pm, leaving some intrepid travelers munching on some pizza as the water lapped around their feet.

Here is a YouTube clip of the Zattare, which became part of the lagoon, and was not possible to navigate without thigh-high boots as early as 12:45pm.

Another four-alarm siren went off as I wrote this. The winds are gusting. Exceptional acqua alta is also on the agenda for tonight and tomorrow...

Go to the Province of Venice High Water Information Centre for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, 14 October 2018

It's a First in Italy: Léon Bakst, Acclaimed Set & Costume Designer of the Ballets Russe, at Palazzo Cini in Venice

1909 Amoun costume for Michel Fokine in Cleopatra - design by Léon Bakst - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) The Ballets Russes has always intrigued me. Originally conceived by ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who is buried here in Venice on the island of San Michele, the itinerant company never performed in Russia, beginning its adventure in Paris in 1909.

The Ballet Russes grew out of the World of Art movement, founded in Russia by artists opposed to the prevailing culture -- a talented group that introduced "Russian Colour" in music, choreography and the figurative arts. In addition to Diaghilev, the founders of Ballet Russes included Léon Bakst, who had created a name for himself as an art editor and childrens' book illustrator before tackling set and costume design for ballet. Other prominent members included the renowned Vaslav Nijinksy, considered the greatest male dancer of the early 20th century, and Michel Fokine, the groundbreaking Russian choreographer and dancer.

In 1909 Bakst visited Venice with Diaghilev and Nijinksky. That same year he joined the Ballets Russes, which debuted with the ballet Cléopatre performed by Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Ida Rubinsetin and Michel Fokine, who was also the choreographer. 

Cleopatra costume design by Léon Bakst for Ida Rubinstein, Paris 1909 - Photo: Cat Bauer
"The greatest success of the season is Cléopatre. The theatre was packed even on the closing nights and the result was surprising every time, earning 34,000 francs a day." 
Letter by Bakst to his wife Lyubov Gritsenko, June 30, 1909.

"In my apartment Ida Rubinstein met Diaghilev and the entire troupe of the Ballet Russes artists and it was then that she was invited to perform in the 'Russian Season,' in Cléopatre, and later in Shéhérazade. For a year I couldn't make a real dancer of her. She was very unemotional in the roles of Cleopatra and Shéhérazade, but thanks to her striking appearance she managed to achieve unusual forms and a very profound image."
Letter by Michel Fokine to Frederick Beaumont, January 1, 1925

The Fondazione Giorgio Cini Institute of Theatre and Opera and the Saint Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music present the exhibition of Léon Bakst, built almost entirely around Bakst's stage and costume designs from the large collection of his work in the Saint Petersburg Museum, now on show in Italy for the first time. In addition to Bakst's designs, the exhibition is complemented by rare theatre programs and other iconographic items from the archive of choreographer Aurél M. Milloss, presereved in the Fondazione Giorgio Cini.

The exhibition made me greatly appreciate the organizations that somehow manage to preserve the monumental moments of mankind throughout war and strife, suppression and revolution. It seems that no matter how hard the forces of obstruction try to repress these precious jewels, industrious individuals manage to squirrel them away.

Léon Bakst. Symbol of the Ballets Russes, curated by Maria Ida Biggi and Natalia Metelitsa is at Palazzo Cini until November 19, 2018. Go to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, 7 October 2018

What are those Photos around Venice? "Water, Future, Life" - Ten Years of the Elena Trevisanato Foundation

Brehane, elderly woman from Obal village - Photo by Axel Fassio
"We were resigned to the necessity of migrating, without knowing where to go. Today we are here, our village is prospering and we can live on our land. Water keeps our roots and our traditions alive."
Brehane - an elderly woman from the Obal village

(Venice, Italy) Ten photographs. Ten stories. Ten months. "Water, Future, Life," ten photographs by Axel Fassio tell ten different stories in an itinerary that weaves throughout the heart of Venice and Mestre for the next ten months to raise awareness of the ten years that the Fondazione Elena Trevisanato has been doing good deeds in Ethiopia.

Zahi, village chief of Darwoanji - Photo by Axel Fassio
"Since the day we got water, it is not only the history of individuals that changed, but the history of our entire community. It has been a dream come true. It is like we are born again."
Zahi, village chief of Darwoanji

Elena Trevisanato died very young, at age 19, when she fell off a horse. Her family spun their grief into gold by setting up the non-profit Fondazione Elena Trevisanato, which has transformed the lives of about 135,000 people by bringing water, new schools and health care to villages in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. With images and words, ten villagers reflect upon how their lives have been transformed by the Fondazione Elena Trevisanato.

Asma, student from Darwonaji village - Photo by Axel Fassio
"Education is the light of the world."
Asma - 12-year-old student from the Darwonaji village

The exhibition began on October 5 on Salizada San Samuele where the ten photographs were sprinkled throughout various businesses along the street. It will continue until July 2019, culminating with an auction next September. Here is the itinerary:

  • October 2018: Salizada San Samuele
  • November 2018: Campo Santa Margherita
  • December 2018: Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio
  • January 2019: the island of Giudecca
  • February 2019: the Rialto Fish Market
  • March 2019: the center of Mestre
  • April 2019: vaporetto stops along the Grand Canal
  • May 2019: Campo San Giovanni e Paolo
  • June 2019: Forte Marghera
  • July 2019: Fondamenta Misericordia

At the inauguration next February, there will be an event at the Rialto Fish Market open to all. The Fondazione Elena Trevisanato believes that the Rialto Fish Market is a historic space that is synonymous with work and tradition, as well as the future and life of all the citizens of Venice.

Selam, patient at Darwonaji health center - Photo by Axel Fassio
"The presence of the hospital ward has greatly improved the assistance we receive. Today, the dispensary of our village is a real place of care."
Selam, patient at the Darwonaji health center

Photographer Axel Fassio is a "globetrotter since birth, a Venetian by adoption." He has exhibited throughout the world, from Europe to the United States, from Argentina to Sri Lanka and Kenya. His images have been published in National Geographic, Der Spiegel and The New York Times, the Discovery Channel and BBC Travel. He has lived and worked in Africa with NGOs and the United Nations.

Everyone involved is volunteering their time, energy, spaces and other resources to turn the spotlight on the foundation created by the Trevisanato family to memorialize Elena, their daughter and sibling. Fondazione Elena Trevisanato has transformed the grief of one tragic young death into a movement that gives life and hope to thousands. 

Fondazione Elena Trevisanato onlus
Santa Croce 252
30135 Venezia
Tel.: +39 041 522 61 36

Exhibition info
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Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Rebel Angels, Dogs are Humans with More Hair and John & Yoko Erotic Lithos - Art in Venice & Treviso

Francesca Woodman - From Eel Series, Venice, Italy, 1978,© Charles Woodman, courtesy Victoria Miro, London/Venice
(Venice, Italy) Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) was an angel on earth, and like many angels, died young. The sensitive photographer killed herself at age 22 by jumping out a window in New York City. Born on April 3, 1958 in Denver, Colorado to artists George and Betty Woodman, the family spent their summers in Italy, which profoundly influenced her work, and is the focus of the show at the Victoria Miro Gallery here in Venice. Woodman took her first self-portrait at age 13, and used herself and other female models, often nude, to create small, haunting images packed with powerful emotions.

The intimate photos on show at the Victoria Miro Gallery are deeply moving, and it made me wish that Francesca Woodman had stuck around a lot longer to witness the impact her work has on people still here on earth. Hopefully she is watching from the heavens.

Francesca Woodman: Italian Works is at Victoria Miro Venice through December 16. Go to Victoria Miro for more information.

Osvaldo Licini Amalasunthas on a Green Background (1949) ©Osvaldo Licini by SIAE 2018
Another rebel angel, Osvaldo Licini (1894-1958) was a complicated artist from the Marches region of Italy, who, in 1958, was the first Italian artist to be awarded the Grand Prize for painting at the Venice Biennale. He died soon after from emphysema. Sixty years later, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice commemorates Licini with a retrospective curated by Luca Massimo Barbero.

Over 100 works in 11 exhibition galleries follow the wildly diverse artistic path of the artist as he traveled from landscapes and figurative work to abstraction and Rationalism, with an accent on geometry. The most iconic works are of Amalasunthas, Queen of the Ostrogoths, and his series of Rebel Angels, which illustrate the many facets of his complex personality. Licini said, "He who seeks certainty rarely finds it."

Karole Vail photo by Cat Bauer
Karole Vail, Dir. Peggy Guggenheim Collection - Photo: Cat Bauer
The last days of summer were celebrated with breakfast on the fabulous terrace of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal before the press conference for Osvaldo Licini, with Karole Vail, director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, radiant in white. OSVALDO LICINI. Let Sheer Folly Sweep Me Away runs through January 14, 2019. Go to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection for more information.

New York City 2000 © Elliott Erwitt - Magnum Photos
At 90-years-old, veteran Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt (1928) is still going strong. He's photographed everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Che Guevera, but is perhaps best known for his witty photographs of dogs. There is a lighthearted exhibition dedicated to his canine creatures at Casa dei Carraresi in Treviso, curated by Marco Minuz entitled I cani sono come gli umani, solo con più capelli -- Dogs are like humans, only with more hair.

Born in Paris, Erwitt spent his childhood in Italy until his family moved to the United States. Erwitt's preferred method of shooting is with a Leica camera using black and white film, and said "photography is not rocket science. It's rather simple," but only a few photographers have a certain "magic." There are also two short films in English with Italian subtitles in which the photographer speaks about his life and work, and how "Marilyn looked better in pictures than in person."

ELLIOTT ERWITT: Dogs are like humans, only with more hair is at Casa dei Carraresi in Treviso -- just a short walk from the train station -- through February 3, 2019. Go to Casa dei Carraresi for more information (in Italian).

Bag One - John Lennon - Photo: Cat Bauer
John Lennon created Bag One, a leather bag filled with 15 lithographs commemorating his wedding and honeymoon as a wedding present for Yoko Ono. The day after the initial presentation at the London Arts Gallery on January 15, 1970, eight erotic lithographs were seized by agents of Scotland Yard. When the show open on Febuary 7th at the Lee Nordness Gallery in New York, there were no such problems, nor are there any problems viewing the lithos today at the new Beatrice Burati Anderson Art Space & Gallery here in Venice. The lithos are on loan from the private collection of Rolando Giambelli, founder and president of The Beatles People Association of Italy.

Section of Ertotica #4 from Bag One lithograph by John Lennon - Photo: Cat Bauer
The lithos are part of the Water/Mater exhibition, which also features works by the Dutch architect, designer and artist Maurice Nio based on the theories of the Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto, which focus on how water molecules are sensitive to emotional vibrations. Maurice Nio also presents Dark Matter, a 17-metre sculpture on sand bags that is a metaphor for the uncontrollable forces of Nature.

Water/Mater runs through December 22, 2018. Go to the Beatrice Burati Anderson Art Space & Gallery for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog