Saturday, 21 July 2012

Rufus Wainwright in Venice - Teatro Verde Reborn

Rufus Wainwright at Teatro Verde - photo newnotizie
(Venice, Italy) In his only Italian appearance, Rufus Wainwright sang new life into the Teatro Verde on the Island of San Giorgio last night, July 20, awakening the once-neglected outdoor theatre with his powerful chords and enchanting the audience. Accompanying himself on piano and guitar, Wainwright's music ranged from intensely personal songs sprinkled with references to his friends and well-known family members, to an excerpt from his opera Prima Donna and a William Shakespeare sonnet.

Before the Show
I have kept an eye on Teatro Verde over the years. Back on May 30, 2010, in a post entitled Oxygen - Finally a Breath of Air!, I wrote:

 During the lunch break I wandered back to the Teatro Verde, "a 1,600 seat open air theater nestled among cypress trees and boasting a splendid view of the lagoon." I am quoting myself from a piece I wrote back in 2003 for the Italy Daily section of the International Herald Tribune. I also wrote that it "presents a host of international productions, often in conjunction with the Venice Biennale." Well, it does not do that any more. Right now, it is flooded with a green slime, and the green shrubbery is wild and overgrown, highlighted by wild red poppies. After hearing the last lecture, to me, I'd let the street artists get their hands on it and bring it back to life.

Photo: La Nuova di Venezia
Now, two years later, Teatro Verde is alive again, filled with music and human beings. In 2003 I wrote it had 1600 seats; now I see it has 1166 seats, so perhaps my Italian was so bad back then that I misunderstood the figure:) Built in 1952 by the architects Luigi Vietti and Scattolin Angelo, Teatro Verde is modeled on the outdoor theaters that decorated the villas of the Veneto mainland between the Renaissance and eighteenth century, which were inspired by ancient Greek and Roman theaters. The theater is made of white Vicenza stone steps interspersed with espaliers of shrubbery.

After having sat for around two hours, I found that the stone steps were surprisingly comfortable; the view of the stage was excellent from all points of view, and the acoustics were superb. I don't think there is a bad seat in the house. The concert was well organized, which is not so easy to do on an island in the Venetian lagoon -- especially when you come from out of town. The shows L.i.Ve in Venice, which also include Ludovico Einaudi & Paul Fresu on July 18, and Blonde Redhead on July 21, are organized by Ponderosa Music & Art based in Milano (in collaboration with the Giorgio Cini Foundation and the Venice Comune), who did an impressive job. The performance was seamless except for a couple of broken guitar strings -- Wainwright joked that it was either the humidity or that the spirit of Vivaldi did not want him to play.

Island of San Giorgio
Wainwright said that "Coming to this city is like magically going back in time." He sang Montauk, which was written for his infant daughter, Viva Katherine, and is about Viva coming to visit her two dads sometime in the future. Wainwright is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, and is engaged to Jörn Weisbrodt, the director of Luminato, Toronto's Festival of Art and Creativity. In fact, he offered a discount to the concert for non-straight couples. According to Wikipedia:

In 2011, Wainwright announced that he and Leonard Cohen's daughter, Lorca Cohen, had had a child. He announced on his website: "Darling daughter Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen was born on February 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California to proud parents Lorca Cohen, Rufus Wainwright, and Deputy Dad Jorn Weisbrodt. The little angel is evidently healthy, presumably happy, and certainly very very beautiful."

Montauk, Wainwright's song for Viva Katherine, ends with a memory of Wainwright's mother, the singer, Kate McGarrigle, with whom he grew up in Montreal, Canada, after her divorce from his father, the singer, Loudon Wainwright III. Viva Katherine was born a little more than a year after McGarrigle died.

One day, years ago in Montauk
Lived a woman, now a shadow
But she does wait for us in the ocean
And although you want to stay
For a while
Don't worry, we all have to go
One day you will come to Montauk

Wainwright said that he had come to Venice with his mother several years ago to visit La Biennale, and that his mother was happy that she had seen Venice before she died. He expressed his desire to have the concert documentary Sing the Songs that Say I Love You, which celebrates the life of Kate McGarrigle, screened at the Venice Film Festival.

Wainwright was grateful for the piano that had been provided, saying "I don't often get to play on a gorgeous piano like this." And the piano was spectacular, a Passadori - Steinway & Sons, with rich, pure notes that wafted through the cypress trees. Someone in the audience called out, "Happy Birthday!" which Wainwright acknowledged, saying he was born on July 22, and, with a shudder, that he would be 39-years-old -- which makes him a fellow Leo, born five days before me (and a few years after me:)

The crowd demanded several encores, and Wainwright obliged, one of which was Halleluia, written by Viva Katherine's grandfather, Leonard Cohen. When I first wrote this post, the only clip I could find was from an Irish performance a few years ago. Now I see that another attendee has uploaded a clip on YouTube from the Teatro Verde performance. It is an amateur video, but captures the sound and the emotion, and I like it very much. So you can share in what we experienced on July 20th, out in the open. With fresh air. Free. A gorgeous piano. Cypress trees. E persone simpatici. There should be a concert in Teatro Verde every week. [Update January 21, 2017: That video has vanished; here it is again from Vimeo:]

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Rufus Wainwright, Hallelujah, Venice - Teatro Verde from Lys on Vimeo.

1 comment:

  1. In his only Italian appearance, Rufus Wainwright sang new life into the Teatro Verde on the Island of San Giorgio last night, July 20, awakening the once-neglected outdoor theatre with his powerful chords and enchanting the audience.