Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI in Venice - Blast from the Past

Photo: Comune di Venezia on Facebook
(Venice, Italy) With Pope Benedict's resignation stunning the world, and as whispers of scandal surrounding the Vatican abound, it made me remember how much joy and goodwill the Pope actually generated when he was here in Venice back in May 2011. Enormous crowds of people arrived from all over the world to see Papa, a cornucopia of languages enlivened Piazza San Marco, and the feeling was one of community and friendship. IT WAS SO COOL. I wrote about it here:

Papa is Here! Pope Benedict in Venice

Catholicism permeates the Italian spirit, and Venice and Venetians have their own unique way of expressing their faith. For myself, I was raised as a Catholic on my mother's side, and an agnostic on my father's side, a combination of faith and rationalism.

Photo:  Comune di Venezia on Facebook
Carl Jung wrote in The Undiscovered Self:

"In order to free the fiction of the sovereign State -- in other words, the whims of those who manipulate it -- from every wholesome restriction, all socio-political movements tending in this direction invariably try to cut the ground from under the religions. For, in order to turn the individual into a function of the State, his dependence on anything beside the State must be taken from him. But religion means dependence on and submission to the irrational facts of experience. These do not refer directly to social and physical conditions; they concern far more the individual's psychic attitude.

Photo: Comune di Venezia on Facebook
But it is possible to have an attitude to the external conditions of life only when there is a point of reference outside them. The religions give, or claim to give, such a standpoint, thereby enabling the individual to exercise his judgment and his power of decision. They build up a reserve, as it were, against the obvious and inevitable force of circumstances to which everyone is exposed who lives only in the outer world and has no other ground under his feet except the pavement. If statistical reality is the only reality, then it is the sole authority. There is then only one condition, and since no contrary condition exists, judgment and decision are not only superfluous but impossible. Then the individual is bound to be a function of statistics and hence a function of the State or whatever the abstract principle of order may be called."

Of course, scandal at the Vatican is nothing new; it has been going for centuries. In 1983, Richard Condon (The Manchurian Candidate, Prizzi's Honor) published a historical novel entitled A Trembling Upon Rome, which reaches back 600 years, about the exploits of Baldassarre Cossa (1370-1418), who started life as a pirate and, backed by the Medici, ended up as the first Pope John XXIII. Once Pope, Cossa made the Medici Bank the bank of the papacy. The logline for A Trembling Upon Rome at Google books reads: "Elevated to the papacy and involved with two remarkable mistresses, Baldassare Cossa--lawyer, soldier, and prelate--becomes embroiled in the political intrigue, financial machinations, and violence of late medieval Italy."

Personally, I find comfort in the fact that I can duck into an ancient church in Venice whenever the mood strikes me and surround myself with the mysterious and the unseen. The icons, the altars, the structure of the buildings themselves all awaken what Carl Jung called "the undiscovered self." 

Basilic of San Marco
 Carl Jung again:

"The statistical method shows the facts in the light of the ideal average but does not give us a picture of their empirical reality. While reflecting an indisputable aspect of reality, it can falsify the actual truth in a most misleading way. This is particularly true of theories which are based on statistics. The distinctive thing about real facts, however, is their individuality. Not to put too fine a point on it, one could say that the real picture consists of nothing but exceptions to the rule, and that, in consequence, absolute reality has predominantly the character of irregularity."

Conversion of Mary Magdalene by Paolo Veronese (1547)
No matter how scandalous the outer workings of the Vatican are, I can always feel the spirits of the Christ and the Madonna in the ether -- the foundation upon which the Church was built -- and recover my inner spirit. And, after everything, isn't that what it's all about?

UPDATE: February 27, 2013 - the original post ended there. I have since found another remark by Carl Jung that seems appropos: should not be forgotten that, unlike other religions, Christianity holds at its core a symbol which has for its content the individual way of life of a man, the Son of Man, and that it even regards this individuation process as the incarnation and revelation of God himself.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Venice Carnevale 2013 - The Magic Continues

Youth of Dagestan Dancing Group
(Venice, Italy) Thanks to a cultural exchange between the Russian Republic of Dagestan and Venice, the dancing group the "Youth of Dagestan" is here during Carnevale, performing their passionate dances on stage at Piazza San Marco. From the Carnival of Venice official site, slightly edited:

On the southern edge of Russia lies a wonderful mountain village - Dagestan - indeed, the Mount of languages, the ancients said. The people here speak over thirty different languages​​. However, all the ethnic groups have lived and worked in peace for centuries. Since ancient times Dagestan has been famous for its handicrafts. The art of the masters and popular culture are transmitted from generation to generation, with poems, songs and dances.

Their national dance lezghinka -- impetuous, fiery, fervent -- does not leave anybody indifferent. The performances of the dancing group "Youth of Dagestan" is a testament to the originality of the multicultural society of Dagestan. The group was formed in 1978 by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Dagestan. Over the years the group has developed into a collective of skilled dancers. 

The group has achieved a broad consensus of the public in 32 countries and has won the International Festival of Folklore on several occasions. Today, the complex State dance of the people of the Caucasus is performed by "Youth of Dagestan," a group of high-level professionals who are always looking for new forms of artistic expression and are ready to reach new levels!

It's peaceful here in Venice, with throngs of people wandering through town, some dressed in elaborate costumes, some not, some wearing masks, some not, and others getting designs painted on their faces. Here are some images I captured today.

 From a Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog post entitled, Venetian Masks:

As far back as the 11th century, the mattaccino costume was worn by mischievous young men, who, dressed as clowns, would bombard noblewomen with eggs filled with rosewater, inspiring the first official documentation regarding masks: a 1268 law prohibiting the throwing of eggs while disguised. The Venetian government apparently gave up trying to enforce it, however, and resorted to putting up nets along the Procuratie in St. Mark's Square to protect the ladies and their rich clothing. 

Mask-making in Venice can be documented back to the 13th century, though it probably existed much earlier. On April 10, 1436, the ancient profession of mascareri was founded under the jurisdiction of the Painter's Guild. Over the years, masks were used for a variety of reasons -- in the government, the theater, and as a means of disguise. Masks provided the Venetians a degree of anonymity.

The wearing of a mask put everyone on the same level: rich and poor, nobleman and citizen, beautiful and ordinary, old and young. It permitted confidences to be exchanged anonymously -- everything from accusations before State Inquisitors, to a potpourri of sexual indiscretions. Prostitutes practiced their trade without fear of retribution; homosexuals hid their illicit lifestyle. In 1458, it was decreed that men were forbidden to dress up as women and enter convents to commit indecent acts.

Not all masks were used for indelicacies, however. The bauta was worn by both men and women, and was not considered a costume but a form of dress -- required wearing if a woman wanted to go to the theater. Il medico della peste had a long beak-like nose stuffed with disinfectants, and, as its name implies, was used to protect doctors from the plague.

Another ingredient in this colorful mix was the Italian theater, Commedia dell'arte. In the 18th century, the renowned Venetian playwright, Carlo Goldoni, brought theatrical masks to the forefront. Pantalone, Harlequin, Colombina and Pulcinella were among the many masks that found their way into the Carnival.

Over the years, Carnival festivities grew more decadent until it evolved into a 250-day event of non-stop parties, gambling and dancing. Social and class distinctions were flipped on their heads, with servants dressing up as masters and vice versa. It was difficult to distinguish a housewife wearing a traditional mask, cape, hood and three corner hat from a nobleman dressed in the same outfit, allowing both to move freely though the city without fear of recognition. ...

Over in Campo Sant' Angelo there is the Carneval Altro - Facciamo la Festa all'Austerity, or the "Other Carnival - Let's Celebrate Austerity," where students flood in from all over the region and dance the night away, and where the anti-cruise ship folks, Comitato No Grandi Navi, have set up a base. Dogs play frisbee while gyros sizzle in the background, and the sweet smell of crepes cooking perfumes the air.

There is something for everybody at this year's Carnival, and everyone seems to be having a good time. The thing that always amazes me about the Carnival in Venice is how polite people are despite sometimes being caught in a pedestrian traffic jam. There is a feeling of goodwill permeating the air, and the city feels alive and warm. Let's hope it is a sign of more good things to come!

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, February 3, 2013

It's Carnival! Venice 2013

Photo: Carnival of Venice Official Site
(Venice, Italy) As the bells in Saint Mark's Campanile struck noon, "Angel" Marta Finotto took flight and floated boldly into the throng of 70,000 packed into Piazza San Marco to watch the Volo dell'Angelo. Marta was costumed as Columbina, a stock character in the commedia dell'arte, and flew with pizzazz, stricking glamorous poses on her descent. According to a new tradition, the winner of the previous year's Festa delle Marie, an ancient Venetian beauty contest, is the Angel who kicks off Carnevale the next year. The Festa delle Marie was supposed to be held yesterday, but it got rained out -- it poured all day long -- but today is beautiful and sunny, and things are back on track.

Photo: Carnevale di Venezia official site
I've written about this festival before:

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

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.

Photo: Carnival of Venice official site
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.”

Bruno Tosi
The biggest thing missing from Carnival this year is the presence of Bruno Tosi, the King of the Festa delle Marie and Maria Callas expert. Sadly, Bruno Tosi passed away on September 13, 2012. But I think I saw him flying next to Marta Finotti -- except he did not use a cable, he used his own wings! Click to read the Bruno Tosi obituary entitled Una vita come un'opera (A Life Like an Opera) at the Corriere del Veneto (in Italian).

The theme of this year's Carnival is Live in Color, a Carnevale dedicated to color itself. "The Carnival of colors, the colors of Carnival: this is the theme of Venice Carnival 2013. Venice is the only city in color before the invention of color itself: Canaletto, Guardi, Bellotto, Titian, Giorgione, Bellini, Veronese refined the art of perspective and color painting here in the lagoon. Under the theme of color are the many events of the rich calendar of Venice Carnival: the concerts in St. Mark's Square staged on the spectacular scenic structure of the Grand Theatre, each focusing on a strictly different color theme, the dances and historical performance in the squares, the aperitifs in music as well as all the entertainment for kids. 

Photo: Carnevale di Venezia official site
Click to go to the Carnevale di Venezia official site.

This year, during Carnevale, the Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello at Palazzo Pisani in Santa Stefano is putting on a special program called A Music Aperitif.  At 4:00pm on February 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, Venice's music academy is offering guided tours to Palazzo Pisani where you will be able to visit the interior of the magnificent palazzo. Then, at 5:30pm a series of concerts will be performed. After the concert, enjoy a drink of Prosecco and some typical Carnival pastries and cicchetti, traditional Venetian finger food. The price for that unique afternoon and evening is 15 euro, and all proceeds will be donated to the Conservatory of Music Benedetto Marcello of Venice.

Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello
Click to go to the Aperitivo in Musica .pdf file invitation.

This year is the 4th edition of La Biennale's Carnival for Kids, one of my absolute favorite things to do during Carnevale, even though I am a grown up:) The theme is Il Leon Musico, The Musical Lion. It's good old-fashioned creative fun for kids of all ages. I've written about it before:

Too Much Fun! 3rd Venice International Carnival for Kids


La Biennale Kid's Carnival

Here is the statement of Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia:

“Yet another step forward. The 4th International Kids’ Carnival becomes more articulated, more complex and more fun all at the same time. The Director of the Music Biennale Ivan Fedele will personally take charge to lead the children to meet The Musical Lion, to play with him, to experiment, to use colours, musical notes and sounds to build the most stimulating of experiences. We confirm our special attention to the younger generations and the importance we place in familiarity with the arts on the one hand, and creativity as dedicated play on the other. Carnival is an initiative that will harness the combined energy of many institutions and academies throughout the city: so far 110 schools have joined and we wish to express our gratitude to them all.”

This year promises to be even more exciting, so if you've got children, or if you are young at heart, head on down to Giardini and play!

Click to go to the La Biennale Carnival program.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog