Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Crossroads of Civilization - International Literature Festival in Venice

Stanzi by Pietro Aretino (1537) design attributed to Titian
published by Francesco Marcolini
(Venice, Italy) Venice once dominated the publishing market. The majority of books that were sold in Europe were printed in Venice, spreading freedom of the press all over the world. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, controversial authors like Pietro Aretino, genius artists like Titian, and enlightened publishers like Aldus Manus collaborated to produce a wealth of precious knowledge which still reaches us today. More than 500 years ago, in 1474, original thought was so highly prized in Venice that she passed the first elegantly-worded written law to protect intellectual property rights. (Click HERE to read the Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog post entitled Intellectual Property Rights at the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace).

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Some have suggested that it was the plague of 1575–76, which wiped out nearly a third of the Venetian population, that brought the city's great age of book production to an end. Another factor was the increasing restrictions of the Counter Reformation. As freedom of the press was replaced by fear of the Inquisition, works of literature and science ceased to issue so copiously from the presses. Marcolini's rival, the prolific and influential publisher Gabriel Giolito, had to appear before the Inquisition; and Marcolini's Le Sorti, with its recourse to magic and its occasionally anticlerical or ribald responses, was added to the Index of Prohibited Books. (Click the link below to read the entire article.)

Source:Woodcut Book Illustration in Renaissance Italy: Venice in the Sixteenth Century | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On March 25, 2011, Venice turned 1650 years old. The dignified grand dame stills radiates tolerance, freedom of expression, beauty, magic and wisdom, always with a sense of humor. That is why Venice is a perfect location to host an international literature conference called Crossroads of Civilization, or Incroci di Civiltà, Incontri Internazionali di Letteratura a Venezia. The fourth edition will run from April 13 to April 16, 2011 in various venues around town. The festival has grown in size and prestige. This year, Booker Prize winner A.S. Byatt and Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul will be here, as well as thirty other significant writers  from all over the globe.

Wednesday, April 13 - Preview

4:30pm  - Between Film and Writing: Another Greece - at the Giorgione Theater
Greek director Theo Angelopolus and the writer Petros Markaris will speak with Roberto Ellero and Caterina Carpinato, followed by a screening of the Angelopolus film The Dust of Time; Markaris was a collaborator. Conversation conducted in Greek with translation. Admission: 5 euro
In collaboration with Circuito Cinema Comune di Venezia, EKEBI - the National Book Center of Greece, and the Minister of Culture & Education of the Republic of Cyprus 

6:30pm - An India of Saints, Children and Travelers - at Fondazione Querini Stampalia
Kiran Nagarkar was awarded the 2001 Sahitya Akademi Award in English, a literary honor in India which recognizes outstanding work in twenty-four major Indian languages. Nagarkar will speak with Gioia Guerzoni and Marco Zolli. Conversation conducted in English with translation. Admission: Free until seating is at capacity
In collaboration with the Querini Stampalia Foundation

9:00pm - Indonesia: A Look at the Female - at Fondazione Querini Stampalia
Critics hailed Nukila Amal's 2003 debut novel Cala Ibi as one of "the pinnacles of Indonesian contemporary literature." Amal will speak with Silvia Vignato in English. Translation available. Admission: Free until seating is at capacity
In collaboration with the Querini Stampalia Foundation

Thursday, April 14
9:30am - Inauguration - at the Santa Margherita Auditorium
Venice's mayor, Giorgio Orsoni, together with the organizers of Incroci di Civiltà, Tiziana Agostini, Counselor for Cultural Activities; Carlo Carraro, Rector of the University of Ca' Foscari Venezia; and Alide Cagidemetrio, Dean of the Foreign Language & Literature faculty, will inaugurate the fourth edition of the Venice International Literature Conference. The Bauer-Ca'Foscari Award will be presented by Francesca Bortolotto Possati, President & CEO of the Hotel Bauer, and Carlo Carraro, Rector of the University of Ca' Foscari Venezia.

11:30am - Towards a Multicultural Literature - at the Santa Margherita Auditorium
Writers Pap Khouma, who immigrated from Senegal to Italy in 1984, and Igiaba Scego, who defines herself as "Somalian origin, Italian vocation" will speak with Tiziana Agostini and Ricciarda Ricorda in Italian. Translation available. Admission: free with mandatory reservation
In collaboration with EIUC - University Centre for Human Rights and Democratization

4:00pm - Rain and Sparks - at the Casinò - Ca' Vendramin Calergi
Celebrated author Jabbour Douaihy and popular Italian journalist Gad Lerner were both born in Lebanon, Douaihy in Zgharta in 1949; Lerner in Beirut in 1954. They will speak with Elisabetta Bartuli and Emanuela Trevisan Semi in Italian and French. Translation available. Admission: Free until seating is at capacity
In collaboration with Spazio Eventi al Casinò di Venezia

6:30pm - Gold, Silver, Sugar and Ice - at the Malibran Theatre
World-renowned British novelist, poet and short-story writer Dame Antonia Susan Duffy, better known as A.S. Byatt, won the 1990 Booker Prize for her novel, Possession. Her newest book, Ragnarok: the End of the Gods, will be released in September. Byatt will speak with Irene Bignardi and Anna Nadotti in English. Translation available. Admission: 7 euro
In collaboration with Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia

9:00pm - Outfield Voice - at the Punta della Dogana
Dubravka Ugrešić was born in Croatia but now lives in the Netherlands. According to Wikipedia: "After the outbreak of the war in 1991 in former Yugoslavia, Ugrešić took a firm anti-war and anti-nationalistic stand. She wrote critically about nationalism, the stupidity and criminality of war, and soon became a target of nationalistically charged media. She was proclaimed a “traitor”, a “public enemy” and a “witch”.[4] She left Croatia in 1993 after a series of public attacks." Ugrešić will speak with Neval Berber and Laura Graziano in English. Translation available. Admission: Free with mandatory reservation
In collaboration with Palazzo Grassi and Wake Forest University

Friday, April 15

9:00am - Where a Writer Arrives and Causes a Big Mess - Santa Margherita Auditorium
Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Etgar Keret is one of the leading voices in Israeli literature and cinema. Todd McEwen reviewed Missing Kissinger in The Guardian: "...I enjoyed these wild, blackly inventive pieces, very much at times - they might have been dreamed up by a mad scientist rather than a writer." Keret himself wrote in an opinion piece for the LA Times entitled Middle East 'proportionality': "The only equation I can wholeheartedly accept is one whereby zero bodies appear on either side of the equation. And until that time comes, I'll choose outcry and protest that appeal solely to the heart. I shall reserve my appeals to the mind for better times." Keret will speak in English with Emanuela Trevisan Semi and Monica Capuani. Translation available. Admission: free with mandatory reservation.
In collaboration with il Centro Veneziano di Studi Ebraici Internazionali

10:30am - The Boom in Russian Disco - at the Santa Margherita Auditorium
According to Wikipedia, Wladimir Kaminer "is a Russian-born German short story writer, columnist, and disc jockey of Jewish[1][2] origin." Kaminer will speak with Ulrike Kindl and Stefania Sbarra in German. Translation available. Admission: Free with mandatory reservation. 
In collaboration with il Centro Tedesco di Studi Veneziani 

12:00pm - Ordinary Persecution - at the Santa Margherita Auditorium
Wikipedia: "Nathan Englander is a Jewish-American author born in Long Island, NY in 1970. For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1999, won widespread critical acclaim, earning Englander the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Malamud Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kauffman Prize, and established him as an important writer of fiction." Alessandro Piperno "(born Rome, March 25, 1972) is an Italian writer and literary critic of Jewish descent, having a Jewish father and a Catholic mother." Englander and Piperno will speak with Gianfrano Bettin in English and Italian. Admission: free with mandatory reservation.
In collaboration with the Assessorato alle Politiche Giovanili e alla Pace and the Centro Veneziano di Studi Ebraici Internazionali

3:00pm - Poets for Czesław Miłosz - Presented by the Polish Institute of Rome and Incroci di Civiltà
at Palazzo Ducale - Salla dello Scrutinio
A gaggle of writers - Antonella Anedda, Ewa Lipska, Julia Hartwig, Hans de Waarsenburg, Adam Zagajewski, Tomas Venclova, Ryszard Krynicki, Michael Kruger, Breyten Bretytenbach, Urszula Koziol, Ali Podrimja, Tomasz Rozycki - will honor the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004). From Wikipedia:
"Miłosz was a Polish poet, prose writer and translator of Lithuanian origin and subsequent American citizenship. His World War II-era sequence The World, is a collection of 20 "naive" poems. He defected to the West in 1951 and his non-fiction book The Captive Mind (1953) is one of the classics of anti-Stalinism. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1980, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature." Introduction by Adam Michnik and Francesca Fornari. Various languages. Translation available. Admission: free with mandatory reservation
In collaboration with Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia and Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi Balcanici e Internazationali - Ca' Foscari Venezia 

9:00pm - Yellow and Black - Gianrico Carofiglio - at Ateneo Veneto
Former anti-Mafia prosecutor and novelist Gianrico Carofiglio talks with writer Alberto Toso Fei in Italian. Admission: free until seating is at capacity. 
In collaboration with Ateneo Veneto

Saturday, April 16 

9:00am - The First Root - The Land of Catalan - at Santa Margherita Auditorium
Catalan writer Maria Barbal will speak with Patrizio Rigobon in the Catalan language. Translation available. Admission: free with mandatory reservation.
In collaboration with Institut Ramon Llull

10:30am - Certain Looks, Certain Voices - at Santa Margherita Auditorium
Spanish poet Guillermo Carnero will speak in Spanish with Elide Pittarello. Translation available. Admission: free with mandatory reservation
In collaboration with Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia

12:00pm - Klezcomics: Comics, Cats and Rabbis - at Santa Margherita Auditorium
According to Wikipedia, Joann Sfar "is considered one of the most important artists of the new wave of Franco-Belgian comics. Many of his comics were published by L'Association which was founded in 1990 by Jean-Christophe Menu and six other artists. He also worked together with many of the new movement's main artists, e.g. David B. and Lewis Trondheim. The Donjon series which he created with Trondheim has a cult following in many countries." Sfar will speak in French with Paolo Interdonato and Marie-Christine Jamet. Translation available. Admission: free with mandatory reservation
In collaboration with Alliance Française Venezia

3:30pm - Between Heaven & Hell: The Discovery of Iceland - at Santa Margherita Auditorium 
Jón Kalman Stefánsson won the Icelandic Literary Prize for his novel Summer Light, and then Comes the Night. His English-language début, Heaven and Hell, was published in 2010. Stefánsson will speak with Massimiliano Bampi in Icelandic -- and yes, translation is available:) Admission: free with mandatory reservation. 
In collaboration with the Icelandic Literary Fund

6:00pm - The Serious Traveler - at Teatro Malibran 
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is better known as V. S. Naipual. In awarding V.S. Naipaul the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, the Swedish Academy praised his work "for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories." The Committee added, "Naipaul is a modern philosophe carrying on the tradition that started originally with Lettres Persians and Candide. In a vigilant style, which has been deservedly admired, he transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony." Sir Vidiadhar will speak with Matteo Codignola and Flavio Gregori in English. Translation available. Admission 7 euro.
In collaboration with Literary Review and the Italian Association for the study of English Culture & Literature

For appointments at the Malibran Theater: 
Phone: 041. 2424

For appointments for reserved seating at the Santa Margherita Auditorium, Ca' Foscari, Palazzo Ducale and Punta della Dogana:
Phone: 041-5210255

"...books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon's teeth: and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye." -- John Milton, 1644

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Othella Dallas & Ismael Ivo Hit Grand Slams out of the Park

(Venice, Italy) The powerhouse named Othella Dallas was born in 1925 in Memphis, Tennesse, and after more than fourscore, appears to be at the height of her career. When she finished her performance at Teatro Piccolo Arsenale last evening, she thanked Ismael Ivo, the Director of La Biennale Dance and creator of the Arsenale della Danza for "finding" her. (That photo is not from yesterdays' performance -- if anything, her energy was even more tremendous.) By the end of the evening, the entire theater was on its feet, singing and clapping along with Othella as she sang, "Oh, Happy Day."

Ismael Ivo
This is the third edition of L'Arsenale della Danza, La Biennale's investment in the future of dance, with Ismael Ivo at the helm. In 2010, auditions for the dance company were held in Venice, Italy, Vienna, Austria and São Paulo, Brazil. (Click HERE to read the Venetian Cat - Venice Blog post Let's Dance! L'Arsenale della Danza - Body in Progress.)

Francesca Haper's master class
© La Biennale
The winners arrived in Venice in January, 2011, and are presently in the middle of attending intensive master classes by visiting instructors -- Marion Ballester, Niels "Storm" Robitzky, Francesca Harper, Plinio Ferreira do Santo, Othella Dallas and Kenji Takagi -- whose backgrounds are a schmorgesborg of contemporary and classical dance styles, including Hip-Hop and the Brazil martial art of Capoeira. At the end of each master class, the product of the encounter is performed free of charge to the public in a series called "Open Doors" at Teatro Piccolo Arsenale at 6:00pm on Saturday evenings. So, we are getting a rare treat -- the opportunity to watch the dancers' work-in-progress.

Othella Dallas was a protégé of the renowned Katherine Dunham, who died in 2006, one month before her ninety-fifth birthday. The evening began with an English-language video of clips from Dunham's life. From Wikipedia:

Katherine Mary Dunham (June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006) was an American dancerchoreographersongwriter, author, educator, and activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century and has been called the "Matriarch and Queen Mother of Black Dance".[1]

During her heyday in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, she was renowned throughout Europe and Latin America as "that Black woman", and the Washington Post called her "Dance's Katherine the Great". For more than 30 years she maintained the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, the only permanent, self-subsidized American black dance troupe at that time, and over her long career she choreographed more than 90 individual dances. Dunham was an innovator in African-American modern dance as well as a leader in the field of Dance Anthropology, or Ethno choreology. ...

Despite strong opposition from the State Department, the Katherine Dunham Company performed Southland, a ballet whose theme dramatizing lynching of blacks in the racist American South, in Santiago, Chile. As a result, she would later experience some diplomatic "difficulties" on her tours. The State Department regularly subsidized other less well known groups, it consistently refused to support her company (even when it was entertaining US Army troops), although at the same time it did not hesitate to take credit for them as "unofficial artistic and cultural representatives". In attempts to downplay their popularity, the State Dept. repeatedly scheduled performances of their cultural representatives in conflict with those of the Dunham Company, invited ambassadors and other foreign officials to these performances, despite the frequent protests of officials and recommendations that Dunham's Company be supported... 
Click HERE to read the Wikipedia article. (It's interesting to note that the US State Department has been behaving in such a petty, undignified fashion for such a long time. As P.J. Crowley, who just resigned from the State Department recently said: "The United States, as an exceptional country in the world, has to be seen as practising what we preach." Ditto that. Speaking from personal experience as an American writer living in Europe, it has come as a shock to me how much damage the State Department is prepared to do to their own citizens to discredit them -- instead of practicing what they preach.)  

In one clip, Katherine Dunham, then in her nineties, tells a youthful, turban-haired woman who is visiting at her bedside: "To me, you don't seem like you are seventy-seven. You seem like you are thirty-seven." When the video had finished, the lights went up on a woman with a deep, penetrating voice belting out a tune from the floor in front of the stage, accompanied by a guitarist and a drummer on congas. After a moment, I realized it was the same turban-haired woman in the video, who, at that time, had been seventy-seven-years-old. I did some quick math, subtracting 1925 from 2011. Here, standing in front of us was Othella Dallas, and she was nigh on her eighty-sixth year.

 Dallas is a singer as well as a dancer, and is dubbed the "Grand Old Lady of Jazz, Blues and Funk." From Jazz at Lincoln Center:

Born 1925 in Memphis, Othella Dallas can look back to a long and illustrious career. She was discovered by the iconoclast dance teacher Katherine Dunham and was awarded a scholarship to study with her in New York. After the war Othella became a permanent member of the Katherine Dunham dance company and a teacher at the Dunham School. She began her successful American singing career in New York, 1954 -- appearing alongside such greats as Sammy Davis Jr. at the Apollo, Duke Ellington, Sony Stitt and King Curtis, to name just a few. Her career brought Othella to Switzerland where she opened her own highly successful jazz ballet academy in Basel and continued to sing at clubs and concert halls across the continent. 

Click HERE to read the entire article.

Othella Dallas' speciality is Afro-Caribbean dance and rhythm, and the dancers performed on stage to an exotic mixture of music, which was not identified in the program. The Arsenale della Danza company has been together now since January 17, and will culminate with performances in May, so they are just about halfway through their master class lessons. Mid-term report card: I was mightily impressed with their movements as well as their unity, and judging by the audience reaction, so was everyone else. 
Ismael Ivo & Paolo Baratta
I remember several years ago when Ismael Ivo and Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, held a press conference and announced that they were going to create this opportunity for dancers. Back then, it was just an incredible idea and many people doubted whether they could pull it off. Well, they are actually doing it, and it is actually working!  

The theater was packed with people at 6:00pm on a Saturday evening way down by Arsenale. How they all got there, I have no idea. Word of mouth, perhaps, announcements in the local Venice tourist brochures, dance enthusiasts, whatever. All different ages were represented, young, old, middle-aged; all sorts of nationalities were there, but the majority seemed to be Italians. 

At the end of the performance, Othella announced that she was going to sing a gospel song, and started belting out, "Oh, Happy Day," which, if you know the tune, is almost irresistible. It is usually difficult to get Italians up on their feet to participate, but Othella insisted that everyone stand. She pulled several people to their feet. She made everyone clap. The dancers came out on stage and started singing and dancing behind Othella. People in the audience resisted at first, but Othella's sunshine was so bright that soon everyone's icy reserve melted. More and more people rose to their feet as their souls connected to the song. Soon the entire theater was moving and clapping, the audience from their seats, the dancers up on stage, and Othella standing in the center of it all, everyone singing, "Oh, Happy Day." Othella herself became so emotional that she suddenly stopped and put her head down on one of the drums, overwhelmed. She said that had never happened to her before. 

Then Othella climbed up on the stage and started dancing with the dancers; Ismael Ivo presented her with a bouquet of flowers; one of the male dancers swept her off her feet, and carried her off the stage. Othella Dallas was laughing and waving and hugging her flowers as if she were thirty-five, not eighty-five. 

And the crowd went wild. 

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Here's the original "Oh, Happy Day," with Edwin (who wrote it) & Lynette Hawkins:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Antonio Lotti at Santa Maria Formosa

Director Riccardo Favero
(Venice, Italy) On Ash Wednesday or le Sacre Ceneri, I attended a deeply moving concert at the Church of Santa Maria Formosa entitled dalla passione al compianto, which translates to The Passion of Grief. Grief has always been an emotion that fascinates me, as it seems to combine a dark, profound mourning that penetrates the soul, together with an element of grace -- a light -- that lifts one's spirit to the heavens.

The concert was sponsored by the Fondazione Ugo e Olga Levi (the Ugo and Olga Levi Foundation), the Fondazione Teatro La Fenice (the Foundation of La Fenice Theater) and Chorus - Associazione per le chiese del Patriarcato di Venezia (Chorus -- the Association for the Churches of the Patriarchy of Venice), together with the Regione del Veneto (the Veneto Region).

The program was Antonio Lotti's Miserere mei Deus and Crucifixus etiam pro nobis, together with Dietrich Buxtehude's Membra Iesu nostri patientis sanctissima.

From Wikipedia:

Antonio Lotti (ca. 1667 – 5 January 1740) was an Italian composer of classical music.
Lotti was born in Venice, although his father Matteo was Kapellmeister at Hanover at the time.[1] In 1682, Lotti began studying with Lodovico Fuga and Giovanni Legrenzi, both of whom were employed at St Mark's Basilica, Venice's principal church. Lotti made his career at St Mark's, first as an alto singer (from 1689), then as assistant to the second organist, then as second organist (from 1692), then (from 1704) as first organist, and finally (from 1736) as maestro di cappella, a position he held until his death. He also wrote music for, and taught at, the Ospedale degli Incurabili. In 1717 he was given leave to go to Dresden, where a number of his operas were produced, including Giove in ArgoTeofane and Li quattro elementi (all with librettos by Antonio Maria Luchini).[2] He returned to Venice in 1719 and remained there until his death in 1740.
The program notes disagree with Wikipedia about where Lotti was born; it says he was presumed to have been born in Hannover. Wherever he was actually born, Lotti's roots are certainly in Venice, and his music reflects that mysterious Venetian quality that seems to emanate straight from the water of the lagoon.
From Wikipedia:
Dieterich Buxtehude (German pronunciation: [ˈdiːtəʁɪç bʊkstəˈhuːdə], also Dietrich; Danish Diderich[ˈdidəʁɪk buksdəˈhuːðə], equivalent to the modern Diderik) c. 1637-1639 - May 1707 was a German-Danish organist and composer of the Baroque period. His organ works represent a central part of the standard organ repertoire and are frequently performed at recitals and in church services. He composed in a wide variety of vocal and instrumental idioms, and his style strongly influenced many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Buxtehude, along with Heinrich Schütz, is considered today to be one of the most important German composers of the mid-Baroque.[2]
I was not familiar with Buxtehude, but became hypnotized by the music; I could imagine Jerusalem when I closed my eyes. And the voices! I will never cease to be amazed at the capacity of the human voice to perform like a musical instrument. All the lead singers were superb, especially the first soprano, Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli, and the alto Andrea Arrivabene. 
The church was packed with locals; only a handful of tourists wandered inside... whispering... blinking... snapping photos... as if they had stumbled into another world and didn't know what to make of it all. And they had! Inside the church that night was another world, a world where Jews and Christians and Muslims and pagans and Buddhists and bird worshippers, whatever, all sat down together and joined souls together in song -- especially when just the night before had been the wild, final celebrations of Carnival, Mardi Gras. 
Venice is so civilized that she can smoothly move from one extreme element to another with barely a shrug of her shoulder. At midnight on Fat Tuesday the transition is made with a silent parade of boats starting at Rialto, making their way down the Grand Canal, candles flickering in the windows of all the houses. At least that is how it is supposed to be. There were no candles lit in the windows of the homes by the Rialto Bridge, though a huge crowd had gathered to watch the regatta -- my home, too, is still closed and dark, my once-living Christmas tree lying on its side, dead, on the balcony, deliberately cut down -- but plenty of shimmering lights in the windows of the homes and palaces further along the canal. 
The Pope has a new book coming out in which he speaks quite strongly against violence in the name of religion.
VATICAN CITY -- Violence committed in the name of God or religion is a "favorite instrument of the Antichrist," Pope Benedict XVI writes in a new book on the life and teachings of Jesus.
"Violence does not build up the kingdom of God, the kingdom of humanity," Benedict writes. "On the contrary, it is a favorite instrument of the Antichrist, however idealistic its religious motivation may be. It serves not humanity, but inhumanity."

The Pope also says to stop blaming the Jews for Jesus' death. 
In pre-publication excerpts that were released March 2, Benedict wrote that the Jewish people were not responsible for Jesus' crucifixion, and their descendants have not inherited blame for his death.
Christ Blessing by Titian
So, there it is. Official.
With all these religious celebrations, I even had a dream the other night that Jesus Christ was walking next me. He was very tall, as if He was walking on stilts. Nobody knew who He was. I said, "I can tell it's You because I can see a white light surrounding You." He sort of gave me a sly smile. He did not look at all the way He looks in the paintings. He had curly hair, and a round face. 
After the concert at Santa Maria Formosa, I immediately called a friend, and said, "Whenever anyone wants to know why I live in Venice, it's because of events like these. If I were in New York, I would have to go all the way to Carnegie Hall to hear this -- plus I would have to pay!"
Ciao from Venice,

Friday, March 4, 2011

OTTOCENTO - From Senso to Sissi - The City of Women - Venice Carnival 2011

(Venice, Italy) Silvia Bianchini, a 23-year-old Venetian, was the Angel this year for the Flight of the Angel, or Volo dell'Angelo during the 2011 Venice Carnival. Even though I have lived in Venice since 1998, I had never seen the Flight of the Angel, and decided to go this year on Sunday, February 27 at noon. Apparently I was not the only one who ventured into Piazza San Marco that day -- there happened to be 84,999 other people there.

The charming and beautiful Silvia Bianchini won top prize at the Festa delle Marie last year, 2010, so she is the reigning Maria dell'anno, or Mary of the Year, sort of like the Princess of Venice. From a previous blog I wrote:

La Festa delle Marie originated from a pirate raid in 943 a.d., according to Venetian legend. In ancient times, Venetians married on only one day each year. A water procession from the Arsenale on the canal “delle Vergini” started the festivities. All the brides-to-be were rowed across the lagoon in decorated boats brimming with dowries, while their future husbands waited at the Church of San Nicolò at the Lido.

That year, pirates raided the procession, kidnapping the brides and the booty. An enraged Venetian rescue party executed the pirates and brought the brides back to the ceremony.

To commemorate the victory in the past, every year twelve patriarchal families would present twelve virtuous young women from poor Venetian families with a dowry, and the designation “le Marie,” or “The Marys.”

To read the entire article, click HERE.

Now, in addition to being the Maria, Silvia Bianchini is the Angel, too, an incredible feat, because she had to go all the way to the top of the Campanile, and "fly" off. The Campanile is 98.6 meters high, or 323 feet tall, and not for the feint of heart. I thought she was remarkable. The photo at the top of the page seems to have been taken from the Campanile, to give you and idea of the distance she had to travel. It was surprisingly moving to watch her gently float down to the ground, accompanied by a chorus of angels. (Could someone please explain to me why advertisers in Piazza San Marco can't create an ad designed particularly for the space in Piazza San Marco? To me, it should be like a Super Bowl ad, competing to be the coolest, most talked about ad. It should be a work of art and compete for advertising-world prizes. Instead the ads are astonishingly out of place and distracting.)

Here is the official Volo dell' Angelo video from You Tube:

Please click HERE to go to the Venezia Marketing & Eventi site for more Carnival happenings.

The theme of this year's Carnevale is OTTOCENTO - da Senso a Sissi - La Città delle Donne, or NINETEENTH CENTURY - from Senso to Sissi - The City of Women. It could be subtitled "independent female aristocrats who didn't play by the rules." Both the heroine in Senso, and the real-life Empress Elizabeth of Austria, spent time in Venice during the struggle for Italy's Unification; the 150 year anniversary is being celebrated in Italy this year. The Italy we know today is younger than the United States, a Republic a little over 200-years-old. Venice herself was conquered by Napoleon in 1797 after living as an independent Republic for more than 1,000 years. 

From Wikipedia: The Republic of Venice (Italian: Repubblica di Venezia, Venetian: Repùblica Vèneta or Repùblica de Venesia) or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until the year 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice (Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, Venetian: Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta or Repùblica de Venesia) and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in reference to its title as one of the "Most Serene Republics". It preferred to trade rather than participate in unnecessary war activities.   

About Senso from Wikipedia:

"Senso is a 1954 film adaptation of Camillo Boito's Italian novella, Senso, by the Italian director Luchino Visconti, ... Senso is set in Italy around 1866, when the Italian-Austrian war of unification was coming to its end. The film opens in the La Fenice opera house in Venice with a performance of Il Trovatore. The opera is interrupted by a major protest of Italian Nationalists against the occupying Austrian troops present in the theatre. Livia, an Italian Countess who is unhappily married to a stuffy old aristocrat, bears witness to this and tries to conceal the fact that her own cousin Marquis Roberto Ussoni organized the protest. During the commotion, she meets a dashing young Austrian Officer named Franz Mahler, and is instantly smitten by him. The two begin a secretive and highly forbidden love affair. Despite the obvious fact that Franz was responsible for sending Roberto into exile because of his radical behavior, Livia vainly pretends not to be aware of it."

About Empress Sissi, from Encyclopedia.com:

The German-born Elisabeth, Empress of Austria (1837-1898), was the beloved “Sisi,” one of the most famous royal celebrities of her day. As the consort of the emperor of Austria—a land that dominated the map of Europe at the time—Elisabeth was a well known figure whose exploits were avidly chronicled in the nineteenth-century press much in the same way that Britain's Diana (1961-1997), Princess of Wales, would be a hundred years later.

On one occasion, she shocked an aristocrat seated near her at a formal dinner by removing her gloves. When the older woman asked why she did so, Elisabeth replied, “Why not?” to which the woman answered, “Because it is a deviation from the rules.” At that, cognizant of her power as empress, Elisabeth retorted, “Then let the deviation henceforth be the rule,” according to A. De Burgh's biography, Elizabeth, Empress of Austria: A Memoir.

There is a fountain spilling over with wine in the center of Piazza San Marco, and men strolling around in top hats and capes in additional to the usual costumes, which range from the creative to the elegant to the downright silly. There is even an ice-skating rink in Campo San Polo. This year they are charging admission to enter the center of Piazza San Marco when there is a show going on, which everyone agrees is a very good idea, except, perhaps the tourists. It used to be free, but if you consider the huge expense Carnevale costs in keeping things neat and tidy, it is only fair that the burden be shared. If there were 85,000 people in Piazza San Marco alone last Sunday, that is much more than the population of Venice itself, which is a bit over 59,000. Imagine -- there are so few residents left that you can fit the entire population of Venice into Piazza San Marco.

Photo: La Biennale
For the second year, La Biennale presents Carnevale dei ragazzi, or the Kid's Carnival down at Giardini. Unfortunately, I went with a dog, not a kid, who was not allowed inside, so I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked. I loved it! The kids were creating things the old-fashioned way -- with their own hands -- just like real children, and they seemed perfectly content not to have a computer in front of them. Different rooms inside the Italian pavilion with names like "The enchanted forest" "The prarie of sounds" "The painted desert" "The city of visions" "The fluorescent depths" were bursting with creative activities and plenty of kids intent on the act of creation.  The principle: "having fun by creating." Remember that? Remember how you could spend hours simply with some crayons, or some mud? As well as visitors to Venice, schools from all over the Veneto arrived. Paolo Baretta, the President of La Biennale, wrote: "I would like to thank the teachers of all the schools at every grade and level, from Venice and the Veneto region, our intelligent ambassadors and precious partners. I would like to thank the parents who will accompany their children, and those will allow themselves to be accompanied by their children." This year's edition was the first time there was international participation, with Austria, Great Britain, Holland and Poland contributing to the fun.

On Tuesday night, March 1, the Venetian band, Ska-J played over at Remer's as part of the official Carnival schedule. I am a huge fan of Furio, who plays the sax and sings, and is one of the original members of Pitura Freska, the beloved Venetian band. They have their own sound, unique to Venice, a mix of ska, reggae, jazz, whatever. First, here's Furio, by himself, singing So Figo, with nice shots of Venice with... brace yourself... real, live Venetians! Click HERE to go to the official Ska-J site.

 Also, here's another clip of a reunited Pitura Freska singing in Piazza San Marco during Carnevale, 2008.

And if you would like a peek inside one of the fabulous masquerade balls, here is a clip from Antonia Sautter's world famous Il Ballo del Doge (The Doge's Ball) in 2010, held every year at one of Venice's most stupendous palaces, Palazzo Pisani Moretta. Enjoy!

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

UPDATE March 8, 2011 from Ansa:

Venice packed for carnival finale

Mardi Gras celebration coincides with International Womens's Day

08 March, 15:44

Mimosa for Woman's Day
(ANSA) - Venice, March 8 - All hotels in this picturesque lagoon city have hung out their no vacancy signs as hordes of costumed merrymakers gather for the finale of Italy's most famous carnival celebration Tuesday night.

Over 280,000 visitors arrived last weekend filling all available beds not only in Venice but also on the Lido island facing it and the neighboring city of Mestre on the mainland.

"This is the highest occupancy we've ever seen in the three areas, a far cry from last year," said Vittorio Bonacini, head of the Venice Hoteliers Association.

Click HERE to read the entire ANSA article.