Friday, October 11, 2013

Viva Verdi! Venice Celebrates Music



(Venice, Italy) Either yesterday or today, October 10th, is Giuseppi Verdi's 200th birthday, since, according to Wikipedia: "The baptismal register, on 11 October lists him as being "born yesterday", but since days were often considered to begin at sunset, this could have meant either 9 or 10 October." Most definitely, October 9th would have been John Lennon's 73rd birthday, and it is the day my second novel, Harley's Ninth, which is set entirely on October 9th, turned six-years-old.

Venice, together with all of Italy, is celebrating the great composer's life and work. Above, you will find a YouTube clip to listen to as you read, one of the most famous choruses ever written, "Va, Pensiro," which means, "Go, Thought," but is better known in English as "The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" from Verdi's opera, Nabucco.

It also happens to be La Biennale 57th Festival of International Contemporary Music right now. These elements came together to give us Viva Verdi! one of the most delightful evenings I've spent in a long time. On October 8, 9 and 10, Palazzo Pisani in Santo Stefano, home of Venice's Music Conservatory, Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello di Venezia, presented a tour through the enormous palace, with guides giving a bit of history of the rooms. Along the way, we were treated to "reductions" of Verdi's masterpieces.

La Traviata by Verdi - world premiere at La Fenice March 6, 1853
According to La Biennale (and this really is just one sentence! I added a few commas in an attempt to make it legible):

 "In the Nineteenth Century, before the era of music recording and reproduction and the onset of mass communication, works of musical theatre were disseminated and became familiar to the public primarily in transcriptions and re-elaborations of various types, which, as a whole, constitute a heterogeneous and composite domain: they range from the simple reduction for practical purposes, which were exclusively functional, on the one hand (represented, for example, by the scores for voice and piano that made it possible to bring opera and music into the home), to the fantasies and paraphrases for concerts on the other."

In other words, sometimes the scores were reduced from music for an entire orchestra down to a score written for a single piano so your kids could play a little Verdi at home. Those reductions were not written by famous musicians, but by technicians who disappeared into anonymity. However, the fantasies and paraphrases were more like The Red Hot Chili Peppers' doing their cover of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground. The authors were often illustrious virtuosos like Paganini and Liszt, who used famous opera pieces to show off their talent as performers and their own ability to compose.

Viva Verdi! included both these types of performances:

"Disassembled and recomposed, decontextualized, read, recited, sung, pronounced and projected, drawn and printed, played and cried, Verdi's words and notes push us through the rooms of the Conservatory."

Pisani in-house auditorium
The Pisani family was one of the wealthiest and most powerful in Venice. Originally built in 1614-15, Palazzo Pisani expanded over the centuries in an attempt to contain their ambitions until it became the largest private palace in Venice. Their guests included kings, princes and other international celebrities. It was filled with magnificent furniture and masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto and Versonese, to name a few. The Pisanis were forced to sell the palace and most of their loot to pay their debts in 1816, but the reminders of grandeur are still sprinkled throughout the building, which is now home to the Benedetto Marcello Music Conservatory.

My favorite room was three gorgeous ladies playing a tune from La Traviatta on one grand piano -- I had never experienced a six-hand piano performance before.

Photo: Susan Eyre
To make the circle complete, La Biennale's International Contempory Art Festival runs through November 24, and during the day Palazzo Pisani is home to a Collateral Event by the artist Simon Ma entitled, Ink . Brush . Heart - Xishuangbanna, with invited artist Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son.

Julian Lennon & Simon Ma
"The artist has dramatically transformed the two courtyards of Palazzo Pisani to host an installation of 6 stainless steel 'Water drops' sculptures, surrounded by hundreds of water drops balloons of six different colours... On the first floor the collaboration between the Chinese artist and Julian Lennon with his visual art is exhibited. The two artists' love for nature is reflected in a unique technical experiment of crossover between two different genres of art, where photography and painting come together..."

October 9th always seems to be an event-filled day.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Note: Even though I started writing this on October 10th, I didn't finish it until October 11th.

1 comment:

  1. Either yesterday or today, October 10th, is Giuseppi Verdi's 200th birthday, since, according to Wikipedia: "The baptismal register, on 11 October lists him as being "born yesterday", but since days were often considered to begin at sunset, this could have meant either 9 or 10 October." Most definitely, October 9th would have been John Lennon's 73rd birthday, and it is the day my second novel, Harley's Ninth, which is set entirely on October 9th, turned six-years-old.

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