Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Burt Bacharach at La Fenice - Venezia Jazz Festival

Burt Bacharach at La Fenice
(Venice, Italy) Magic Moments was one of Burt Bacharach's very first hits, and that is what he gave the full-house audience at La Fenice on Sunday night, July 20th --- some very Magic Moments. Sung by Perry Como back in 1958, Magic Moments reminds us how long the 86-year-old Bacharach has been providing background music for the highs and lows of our lives. Baby it's You by the Shirelles in 1961, and again by the Beatles in 1963, and again by the Smiths in 1969; Blue on Blue by Bobby Vinton in 1963; Walk on By by Dionne Warwick in 1964; Wishin' and Hopin' by Dusty Springfield in 1964 were the beginnings of the world's love affair with Burt Bacharach, which continues to this day -- after collaborating with Elvis Costello and appearing in the Austin Powers films, Bacharach was embraced by another generation.

Burt Bacharach & Elvis Costello - Austin Powers - The Spy who Shagged Me
Bacharach gazed out at La Fenice and remarked how beautiful the theater was; what a wonderful setting. And La Fenice did look especially beautiful on Sunday, the day of Redentore.The mood was festive and anticipatory -- after all, the man is 86-years-old; how well could he possibly perform? It turned out: very well, indeed. Burt Bacharach exceeded expectations with one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. Yes, his voice cracked, and he had some difficulty walking, but he played the piano with ease, and his band was tight; he called them a family. In fact, his very young son, Oliver, who looked like he was about 20, had joined him on the tour on keyboards. Bacharach was emotional when he said how much it meant to have his son with him.

Interior of La Fenice
Burt Bacharach and his posse opened the show with What the World needs now is Love, which was first a hit for Jackie DeShannon back in 1965. The audience clapped with joy, everyone from the plateau up to the tiers at the top of the opera house. With so much tension in the world these days, that simple message written by lyricist Hal David, who died in 2012 at the age of 91, was especially poignant: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it's the only thing that there's just too little of." Here's a clip from In Performance at the White House after the team won the Library of Contest Gershwin Prize in 2012:



Bacharach remarked that the movies have been very good to him over the years -- it is astonishing how many of his songs were written for soundtracks, such as Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Alfie, Arthur's Theme from Arthur, and who can ever forget Tom Jones belting out What's New Pussycat as frenzied women tossed their panties on the stage. The Look of Love is probably my favorite Bacharach song, full of romance and sensuality; it has been recorded by many artists over the years. Here's the original version by Dusty Springfield from 1967 James Bond film Casino Royale.



There were so many hits, it is not possible to list them all, but you will remember: This Guy's in Love with You by Herb Alpert. I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin and then Dionne Warwick. I'll Never Fall in Love Again. Close to You by the Carpenters. One Less Bell to Answer by the Fifth Dimension. Walk on By. Only Love Can Break a Heart. Always Something There to Remind Me. A House is Not a Home. And, of course, That's What Friends are For with Dionne Warwick and the whole gang.

Veneto Jazz Festival
Burt Bacharach was here in collaboration with the Venezia Jazz Festival; his early background lies in jazz. In fact, the Venezia Jazz Festival is filling the whole town with excellent music throughout the second half of July. Venezia Jazz Festival is the Venice section of the larger Veneto Jazz Festival, which has been organizing jazz performances throughout the region since 1988 with international stars like Keith Jarret, Bobby McFerrin, Paolo Conte, Norah Jones, Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Sting with the Symphony Orchestra of Teatro La Fenice, Cesaria Evora , Paco De Lucia, and Gilberto Gil appearing on the scene.

Burt Bacharach ended the evening with an audience sing-along of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, the entire theater standing on its feet, applauding with genuine appreciation. Bacharach said, very sincerely, that he had really enjoyed himself; that we were a great audience, and that he had a very, very good time. He walked slowly off the stage, the band still playing, as his young son, Oliver, waved at the crowd from behind the keyboards.



Thank you, Burt Bacharach, for all the Magic Moments you have given me in my life. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have heard the Maestro at the beautiful La Fenice -- and to be reminded that I believe in love, Alfie.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

ALFIE
by Burt Bacharach and Hal David

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
...or are we meant to be kind?


And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
then I guess it is wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
what will you lend on an old golden rule?


As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there's something much more --
something even non-believers can believe in...


I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
and you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Festa del Redentore 2014 in Venice - Luxurious Things to Do

Redentore Fireworks - watercolor by Alexander Creswell
(Venice, Italy) The Festa del Redentore, or the Feast of the Redeemer, the festival that Venice has been celebrating every year since 1577 to give thanks for deliverance from the plague is coming up on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20. I have written about the festival many times before; here is an excerpt from last year:

Church of the Redentore
  ...between 1575 and 1577, Venice was ravaged by the plague, which wiped out nearly 50,000 people, almost a third of the population. The Venetians became convinced it was divine punishment for their sins. Desperate, powerless to stop it, in the midst of the desolation, on September 4, 1576, the Venetian Senate voted to ask the Redeemer, or the Redentore, for help, vowing to build a magnificent temple in thanksgiving. They commissioned the great architect, Andrea Palladio, to design the church, and on May 3, 1577 the Patriarch of Venice laid the cornerstone. 

And it worked! Just two months later, on July 13, 1577, the plague was declared officially over. After it was consecrated in 1592, the Church of Redentore was placed in the charge of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Every year the Doge, the Patriarch and the Senate walked across a pontoon bridge to attend Mass on the third Sunday in July, grateful for all the good they had received.

Click to read the entire post: 

Fireworks in Venice - Redentore 2013


This year, Grassi+ Partners, who do marketing for The Luxury Collection, one of my sponsors, sent over a press release describing how their hotels in Venice will celebrate the evening. For me, the best place to be in the entire world on the evening of Redentore is in Venice. Whether you are in a tiny boat with your lover, on the island of Giudecca with the locals or at a 5-star hotel with a group of friends, if you are in the right venue, and with the right people, it is an exceptional experience. Venetians know how to celebrate their own holiday, but for those of you (with money) from out of town who want to watch, here are some suggestions:

Terrace at Club del Doge - Gritti Palace
The Gritti Palace - A Luxury Collection Hotel
Guests can dine on the terrace of the Club del Doge restaurant or Bar Longhi with spectacular views of the lagoon lit by the wonderful fireworks display. Chef Daniel Turco masterfully combines local ingredients in two tasty menus designed specifically for the occasion.
Club del Doge:
Time: 20:45
Price: € 405 per person, includes a welcome Ruinart Bellini cocktail and a 6-course menu (including service charge and VAT). Drinks not included.
Bar Longhi:
Time: 21:30
Price: € 240 per person, includes a welcome Ruinart Bellini cocktail, a selection of snacks, a first dish of lobster, and a bottle of Champagne "R" de Ruinart at the table (tax and service included) 

Private table at La Cusina - Westin Europa & Regina
The Westin Europa & Regina
Guests can dine at Bar Tiepolo or enjoy the menu of the gala dinner at the La Cusina Restaurant, or in the comfort of the private terraces in each suite, watching the amazing fireworks display that lights up the spires, domes and bell towers of the city with kaleidoscope colors and reflections.
Bar Tiepolo:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 210 per person, includes typical Venetian dishes of fish and Champagne (covered, service and 10% VAT included)
Restaurant La Cusina:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 410 per person, includes gala dinner and selected wines (service and 10% VAT included)
Private terraces:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 495 per person, includes gala dinner and selected wines (service and 10% VAT included) 


Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
Hotel Danieli - A Luxury Collection Hotel
Guests can dine at the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli; the gala dinner will be accompanied by spectacular views of the lagoon of Venice, which becomes an open-air theater where you can admire the kaleidoscope of colors, lights and reflections that illuminate the spiers, domes and bell towers of the city. Guests will be delighted by local ingredients superbly combined by Chef Dario Parascandolos in a tasty menu that combines the sophistication of Venetian cuisine and sparkling entertainment.
Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
Time: 20:00
Price: € 590 per person, includes a gala dinner with a 7-course menu and wines selected by our sommelier (tax and service included) 




The St. Regis San Clemente Palace Venice
Guests can entertain themselves starting at 6:00PM in the beautiful gardens of The St. Regis Bar with DJ music, Moët & Chandon tastings and the mixology of Alessandro Carà accompanied by tasty snacks. Afterwards, at 8:00PM at the restaurant Acquerello, Chef Roberto del Seno delights guests with a 5-course menu accompanied by perfectly paired wines selected by our Head Sommelier and live jazz music, ending with the magnificent spectacle of fireworks at starting at 11:30PM until midnight.
For those who wish, the party will continue after midnight until 3:00AM at La Dolce Restaurant with a DJ set at the poolside, Veuve Clicquot Champagn , cocktail mixology and raw and smoked delicacies.
Time: 6:00PM
Price: € 390 per person includes welcome drink at the St. Regis Bar, 5-course dinner with live jazz music and paired wines / € 150 per person includes "late night celebration" at La Dolce Restaurant / € 950 up to 6 people, includes gala dinner at Gazebo Privé with personal butler service; supplement of €150 for each additional guest. 


Redentore - Views on Venice
Of course, you can always do what the Venetians do and make your own food, bring your own boat, and watch the fireworks explode over your head from the waters of the magical Venice lagoon, and give thanks that we aren't all dead from the plague. Yet. 


Ciao from Venezia,
Cat

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Digital Venice - Europe Starts Up - The Internet of Things

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Venice
(Venice, Italy) This past week, from July 7 to 12, Venice was the digital capital of Europe as Italy kicked off its turn at the Presidency of the Council of the European Union with Matteo Renzi himself, the Prime Minister of Italy, arriving here in Venice on Tuesday, July 8. From Digital Venice 2014:

“Digital Venice 2014” is a high-level meeting, hosted by the City of Venice and promoted by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the support of European Commission – DG Connect, that will gather policy, industry and innovation leaders from all over Europe to trace the road to a growing, sustainable digital economy.

The event, intended to be held every year, takes place at the start of the Italian Presidency to mark the emphasis placed by the Italian government on digital innovation as the key to sustainable economic development and boost to new employment. A “Venice Declaration” summarizing vision and recommendations will be presented by the Italian Presidency to be tabled at the next Digital Council..."


The European Union is a strange creature, and is still in the process of becoming. The United States began with 13 original states, and those states rebelled against Great Britain for taxation without representation. They declared that they were independent on "Independence Day," July 4, 1775, and then created a Constitution in 1781, which we still argue about nearly every day -- in English, the language that everyone in the United States of America is supposed to speak.

The European Union originated under very different circumstances. It was created after World War II to ensure that such killing, devastation and destruction never happens again. According to the European Union website, "Europe Day" is May 9, and celebrates the Schuman Plan presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950. Then, on April 18, 1951, six different nations, all with their own languages and cultures -- Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg -- agreed to place the coal and steel industries under one common management so that no country could make its own weapons of war and turn against the others. Bitter enemies, who just a few years earlier were massacring each other, decided they were going to become friends. Italy and Germany were on one side, and France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg were on the other. So for Robert Schuman, who was born in Luxembourg, and was a member of the French Resistance and nearly thrown into Dachau, to decide to become friends with Germany just five years after the Nazis were defeated, shows what a civilized, forward-thinking a man he was.

EU flag
The European Union was built on a foundation of peace. There are now 28 countries that belong to the EU, many of which used to be part of the Soviet Union. Absorbing these Eastern European counties into the West has not been simple. To use Latvia as an example, in recent history, it was an independent republic, then forced into the Soviet Union in 1940, then invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941, then went back into the Soviet Union until that collapsed in 1991. It became part of the European Union on May 1, 2004, together with Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Malta. 

When I first moved to Italy in 1998, there were still border controls in Europe, which meant each time you drove into another country you had to stop and show your documents. It would be as if each of the 50 states had their own border patrols, with their own attitudes. Imagine driving from New York to Florida, and getting harassed when you reached South Carolina or Georgia because you were a Yankee. We can imagine that an army composed of Californians would be very different than an army composed of Texans. It is sometimes difficult to understand the people from Louisiana if you are from Connecticut; imagine if each state had its own language. Europe was like that once; now there are no borders, but each country still maintains its own language and culture. There is a joke:
Heaven is where the police are British, the lovers French, the mechanics German, the chefs Italian, and it is all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is where the police are German, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, the chefs British, and it is all organized by the Italians.

Member states of the EU
Just as Americans fiercely believe in the individual rights written in the Constitution, so do Europeans believe they have certain rights. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union lists those rights, some of which might surprise Americans. There is no right to bear arms, for example, but there is a right to life, and no death penalty. "No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed."

No one is allowed to be tortured: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

As in America, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, but Europe goes even further, protecting the arts, academics and sciences in particular -- fields which oppressive governments like to restrict: "The arts and scientific research shall be free from constraint. Academic freedom shall be respected."

There is a right to education, a right to unionize, and a right to medical care. There is a right to freedom of peaceful assembly. One right that interests me personally is the right to property: "No one may be deprived of his or her possessions, except in the public interest and in the cases and under the conditions provided for by law, subject to fair compensation being paid in good time for their loss."

Importantly, there is a right to protection of personal data and "such data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the person concerned or some other legitimate basis laid down by law. Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified."

In terms of history, the United States is an adolescent, only 238 years old, and often behaves like one. Europe has been around for millennia, and understands well the horrors of war, and the extreme dangers of spying on innocent civilians and the attempt to control a population by fear and intimidation, which is one reason why its Fundamental Rights differ from the United States -- Europe lived through the Nazi invasion.

Cisco
Which brings us to the Internet of Everything, the conference I attended on July 8 as part of Digital Venice 2014, which was presented by Roberto Masiero, Co-Founder of The Innovation Group, and by. Cisco, which was represented by Agostino Santoni, CEO of Cisco Italia. Cisco is really pushing the Internet of Everything, or the IoE, and says that it is a $19 trillion global opportunity. Since Italy is still in a recession with 12.6% unemployment, and a whopping 45% youth unemployment rate, the idea of a new arena for growth is particularly exciting.

Apparently there is an Internet of Things (IoT) and an Internet of Everything (IoE). Cisco says that the IoE is not its trademark, or its architecture, but if you google the Internet of Everything, you get Cisco, whereas if you google the Internet of Things, you get... everything. The sector does, indeed, seem to be exploding. Huge investments are being made; Forbes says that "influential conversations" about the Internet of Things have increased 70% between late March and early July of this year.

Forbes
First -- what IS the Internet of Things? It will connect everything in the world, including people, to the Internet. Billions and billions of things. From Forbes:

The new rule for the future is going to be, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” But why on earth would you want so many connected devices talking to each other?  There are many examples for what this might look like or what the potential value might be.  Say for example you are on your way to a meeting, your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take, if the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late.  What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 am and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more? What if the wearable device you used in the workplace could tell you when and where you were most active and productive and shared that information with other devices that you used while working?

That sounds a bit too much like Big Brother for my taste, though when applied to a "Smart City," it makes more sense. Traffic lights would be connected so you wouldn't have to wait unnecessarily for a green light at 2:00 in the morning. Trash cans run on solar energy would alert their collectors when they are full. Self-driving cars mean no more accidents, though how it will prevent a tractor tailor from jackknifing on the LA freeway, I have yet to understand.

Under 30 CEO
The problem, of course, is security and privacy, and someone who was not a techie, Gerard de Graaf from the European Commission, brought that up in his keynote speech. He said a lot of politicians don't get it, and that tech scares them. They need to be shown: HOW CAN THEY ACHIEVE THEIR AGENDA? He said that we could not build a 90% bridge; it must be a 100% bridge, and that all the pieces of the puzzle must be put in place -- he compared it to doing a jigsaw puzzle with your kids, to complete the entire thing only to discover that three pieces are missing. He said that his home is his castle, and that the IoT will know everything about our lives. We will be connected but incredibly vulnerable, and it could easily disrupt our societies.

Since Google and Facebook and other American giants are attempting to gain the lead on the Internet of Things, and since we have already seen how the United States government has abused its data, to me, the top priority must be security and privacy. 

With headlines like these:

A Year After Snowden, U.S. Tech Losing Trust Overseas

you would think the US government would put a brake on it, but no. Just a few days ago Germany kicked out the head of the CIA. According to the Voice of America: "Analyst Pawel Swidlicki of the Open Europe research organization says that could get worse unless the United States stops spying on Germany. 'German public opinion will only continue to harden against the U.S., which would have very negative implications for quite crucial issues, like the EU-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, currently under negotiation,' Swidlicki said."

Stars and Stripes
The reminders of World War II still permeate the air in Europe today. Less than three months ago, on April 25, 2014, nearly 30,000 residents of nearby Vicenza here in Italy were evacuated due to the discovery of a humongous "Blockbuster" bomb dropped during WWII by the British, found, ironically, in the Peace Park next to the recently-expanded US military base -- expanded to the outrage of the residents, who created Peace Park to block further expansion. How the citizens of Vicenza feel about the USA in their midst:

Peace Park... today continues to be a social laboratory of participation that combines anti-militarism with an affirmation of common goods. But the park is not the only result. Vicenza is no longer the same, and the United States has to reckon with a city ever less hospitable, so much so that holidays once important for friendly encounters with the local community—such as the Fourth of July or Halloween—are now occasions when the sites under the Stars and Stripes close up, forced to guard themselves against the antagonistic citizenry.

The damage that has been done by the United States must be repaired immediately before moving toward the future. As has been illustrated time and again, the USA has infuriated the entire world with its disrespect and interference. We have learned the USA has tortured, assassinated, used punitive psychiatry, used extraordinary rendition, droned women and children, killed innocent civilians and is spying on completely innocent people going about their everyday lives. I, myself, have been targeted on a personal level, and I can attest that the USA has trampled on my rights to an outrageous extent. Like an alcoholic in denial, the USA seems incapable of realizing the damage it is inflicting on the rest of the human race. That is the reality of the situation, and it must be addressed, not covered-up and avoided. It is dysfunctional behavior, and it needs drastic intervention.

Even before Germany kicked out the CIA station chief, Angela Merkel kicked out Verizon.

Snowden Asylum in Germany? Support Grows for NSA Whistleblower After Merkel Cancels Verizon Contract

Support is growing to grant Edward Snowden asylum in Germany. Perhaps that is the solution that is needed. He seems to know a bit about technology:), and has proven that he has integrity and great concerns about security and privacy. If the United States refuses to grant him asylum, it is a waste of talent to keep him in Russia when he has knowledge that could help create a solid foundation for a technological future in Europe. If Europe wants an edge, offering a safe haven to the rest of the world where innocent data and innocent personal lives are free from governmental interference would be a way to start.

The Internet of Things
If we are seriously talking about a new $19 trillion "global opportunity," then that opportunity must be founded on sound moral principles, trust, transparency and integrity, otherwise it will be a world in which no one wants to live, no matter how perfectly toasted our bread is.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Perfect Evening in Venice - A Venetian Affair at Venice Music Project

Andrea di Robilant with Venice Music Project at Church of San Giovanni Evangelista
(Venice, Italy) If you have ever been in Venice when the spirits of the past make an appearance in the present, you know how wondrous it can be. On Friday, June 27, all the elements came together to create a magical evening when Andrea di Robilant, author of A Venetian Affair, told the story of his ancestor, Andrea Memmo (1729-1793) and his clandestine love affair with the alluring Giustiniana Wynne (1737-1791). The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista where the Venice Music Project is based was the venue. Interspersed perfectly between the story were Baroque melodies played by the Venetia Antiqua Ensemble on original instruments, with soprano Liesl Odenweller bringing alive arias that were composed during the same era.

Andrea di Robilant - Venice Music Project
Andrea Memmo was the oldest son of one of Venice's oldest, wealthiest and most powerful families -- he was Andrea di Robilant's great-great-great-great-great grandfather. In 1919, the author's grandfather, also named Andrea di Robilant, inherited Palazzo Mocenigo, one of Venice's most magnificent palaces. Andrea's father, Alvise, found a carton of letters up in the attic, and they turned out to be be love letters written by Andrea Memmo to Giustiniana Wynne -- in secret code. Father and son worked together and broke the code, but Andrea's father was murdered during the project, and Andrea carried on alone, resulting in the New York Times notable book,  A Venetian Affair - A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century.

Giustiniana Wynne was the illegitimate daughter (her parents later married) of a British father, Sir Richard Wynne, and Greek-born Venetian mother, Anna Gazini. Giustiniana was the oldest of their five children, and was raised solely by Anna after the death of Sir Richard.

Giustiniana met Andrea Memmo at Palazzo Balbi, the home of Joseph Smith, the British Consul and Canaletto patron, and the two fell passionately in love; she was not quite 18; he was 24. (Giustiniana called him Memmo, and I will, too, since there are an abundance of Andreas in this story.) When Giustiniana's mother, Anna, learned of the affair, she forbade it, wanting to preserve her daughter's reputation. Venetian society at the time dictated that the oldest son of a patrician family must marry into Venetian nobility. But Memmo was head-over-heels in love, as was Giustiniana, as their letters reveal. To communicate, the young couple developed a written secret code, as well as a sign language, and bombarded each other with love letters delivered by a boy named Alvisetto. They dashed all over town, hoping for a glimpse of one another. Anyone familiar with Venice can picture the scene depicted in one of Memmo's letters:

Yesterday I tried desperately to see you. Before lunch the gondoliers could not serve me. After lunch I went looking for you in Campo Santo Stefano. Nothing. So I walked toward Piazza San Marco, and when I arrived at the bridge of San Moisè I ran into Lucrezia Pisani! I gave her my hand on the bridge, and then I saw you. I left her immediately and went looking for you everywhere. Finally I found you in the Piazza. I sent Alvisetto ahead to find out whether you were on your way to the opera or to the new play at the Teatro Sant'Angelo so that I could rush to get a box in time. Then I forged ahead and waited for you, filled with desire. Finally you arrived and I went up to my box so that I could contemplate you -- not only for the sheer pleasure I take in admiring you, but also in the hope of receiving a sign of acknowledgment as a form of consolation. But you did nothing of the sort. Instead you laughed continuously, made loud noises until the end of the show, for which I was both sorry and angry -- as you can well imagine. 

Venetia Antiqua Ensemble www.lieslodenweller.com
The music performed between the intervals in the story moved the action along seamlessly. Pieces composed by Vivaldi, J.A. Hasse and Benedetto and Alessandro Marcello provided the soundtrack to the love story. Memmo desperately wanted to be with Giustiana, and tried several schemes to make that happen. When the elderly John Smith's wife died, Memmo directed Giustiana to seduce the old man in the hopes of making a marriage, thereby opening up the possibility for Giustiana to be seen in the company of gentlemen -- since she would be a properly married woman. At first Giustiana was outraged, then saw Memmo's logic, and made the attempt. She writes:

I've never seen Smith so sprightly. He made me walk with him all morning and climbed the stairs, skipping the steps to show his agility and strenth. [The children] were playing in the garden at who could throw stones the furthest. And Memmo, would you believe it? Smith turned to me and said, "Do you want to see me throw a stone further than anyone else?" I thought he was kidding, but no: he asked [the children] to hand him two rocks and threw them toward the target. He didn't even reach it, so he blamed the stones, saying they were too light. He then threw more stones. By that time I was bursting with laughter and kept biting my lip.

Amazon
 My favorite letter was the young Memmo's sexual fantasy about his beloved:

As I lay in bed alone for so long I thought of the days when we will be together, comforting each other at night. This idea led to another and then to another and soon I was so fired up I could see you in bed with me. You wore that nightcap of yours I like so much, and a certain ribbon I gave you adorned your face so sweetly. You were so near to me and so seductive I took in your tender fragrance and felt your breath. You were in a deep sleep -- you even snored at times. You had kept me company all evening long with such grace that I really didn't have the heart to wake you up... but then a most fortunate little accident occurred just as my discretion was exhausting itself. You turned to me at the very moment in which you dreamed of being in my arms. Nature, perhaps encourage by habit, led you to embrace me. So there we were, next to each other, face to face and mouth to mouth! Your right leg was leaning on my left leg. Little by little the beak of the baby dove began to prick you so forcefully that in your sleep you moved your hand in such a way the thirsty little creature found the door wide open. Trembling from both fear and delight, it entered oh so gently into that little cage and after quenching its thirst it began to have some fun, flying about those spaces and trying to penetrate them as far as it could. It was so eager and made such a fuss that in the end you woke up.

It was not long before Memmo's scheme was found out -- Venice being the gossipy town that it is -- and Smith, furious, banished him from Palazzo Balbi. Undeterred, Memmo then plotted to marry Giustiana secretly in the church, and the church was happy to oblige, eager to capture such a notable young nobleman. But when Memmo seriously considered what he would lose -- his entire life and career -- he reconsidered.

He next decided that he would marry Giustiana legally, in front of the entire world -- all he needed to do was to change the law itself. He was not the only young man who wanted to move the oligarchy into modern times; there were other aristocrats in the same spot, and Memmo had the wealth and power to do it. He came very close to persuading enough nobility to join his cause until a document was found in the Archives revealing that Giustiana's mother, Anna, had been deflowered by a Greek in her youth, and that was the end of that.

Andrea di Robilant and Liesl Odenweller
In the end, both Memmo and Giustiana married others, but remained lifelong friends; Giustiana even went to Memmo's daughter's wedding. Memmo became governor of Padua and Ambassador to Constantinople; Giustiana married Count Orsini-Rosenberg, the Austrian Ambassador to Venice, and then became a writer. Although they have been gone for more than 200 hundred years, their great love story lives on.

Titian's Assumption at the Frari
Coda: As we left San Giovanni Evangelista and headed toward dinner, a chorus of angels filled the night air. The door to the Frari was wide open, and Titian's Assumption of the Virgin glowed as if it were lit by heaven itself. We entered the enormous basilica and learned it was a free concert -- a perfect coda to a perfect evening in mystical, magical Venice.

Click for Venice Music Project
Click for Andrea di Robilant
Click for Liesl Odenweller

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

ART NIGHT VENEZIA - Venice Celebrates Summer Solstice with Free Art

“Art or Sound”- Fondazione Prada
Photo: Attilio Maranzano - Courtesy Fondazione Prada

(Venice, Italy) Art Night Venezia, the night Venice throws opens her doors and invites the public to view her treasures for free, is now in its fourth edition, and it gave me the chance to revisit some of the city's hippest happenings, plus take in a few I hadn't had the chance to see. This year, Art Night Venezia fell on June 21, the summer solstice, and it was invigorating to see masses of people strolling about the city until all hours, making the rounds to museums, galleries, foundations and other notable venues, clambering up and down the steps of ancient palaces to feast on a boundless supply of contemporary creativity.

“Art or Sound”- Fondazione Prada
 Singing Bird Cage With Clock, circa 1785 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz
Orchestrion Accordeo Jazz, circa 1920 by Amelotti
Photo: Attilio Maranzano - Courtesy Fondazione Prada 
I was at the cocktail reception for "Art or Sound" over at the Prada Foundation on June 4th, and it seemed like everyone in town for the opening of the architecture exhibition was there, too, so I welcomed the opportunity to visit under calmer circumstances.

In June 2011, the Fondazione Prada reopened part of Ca' Corner della Regina, the 18th-century palazzo that was built on the ruins of the palace where Catherine Cornaro (1454-1510), the Queen of Cyprus (and one of Venice's most fascinating historical figures) was born, after an impressive restoration. With "Art or Sound," the public finally has access to the stately second floor.

Curated by Germano Celant, the exhibition is like wandering into grownup fairytale with two floors of the palace packed with more than 180 artifacts based on sound -- paintings and sculptures, musical clocks and birdcages, a fairground organ and music machines, real and imaginary musical instruments that date back to the 1500s, and up through today. The craftsmanship of a stunning white marble with guitar with intricate black marble-paste inlays (1680) by Michele Antonio Grandi made me marvel at the exquisite capacity of human beings to create.

The exhibition examines the influence of sound on art for the past 500 years or so; particular attention is paid to artists of the 20th century. Ulf Linde's 1963 replica of Marcel Duchamp's ball of twine With a Hidden Noise (1916) is there; Man Ray's photograph of a metronome Indestructible Object (1923) is there, as is Salvador Dali's chalk-on-paper Métronome (1944); John Page's musical score for Variations I (1958) is there; one of the coolest objects is Laurie Anderson's phone booth, Numbers Runners (1979) where a line of visitors wait their turn to pick up the phone and listen to what's on the other end of the line.

"Art or Sound" runs through November 3, 2014 and is a MUST SEE. Click for more information.

Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
I didn't have time to visit my favorite island, the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, during Art Night Venezia, but I had practically been living there during the opening of the architectural exhibition; the superb exhibition The Santilanas at the Stanze del Vetro is always free. Hiroshi Sugimoto's "The Glass Tea House Mondrian" is located in front of the Rooms of Glass; both were open late during Art Night Venezia.

Glass Tea House Mondrian by Hiroshi Sugimoto
During the press conference on June 4th, Pasquale Gagliardi, the Secretary General of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini emphasized that the mission of the foundation was to be a bridge between the East and the West, and The Glass Tea House does just that, bringing the ancient Japanese tea ritual to Europe. Sugimoto, who lives in New York, said that the Japanese were very different from Americans, who put all their wealth in their house. When invited into a Japanese tea house, only a very few select art objects are on display, precisely selected by the host for the guest. There is no talking; it is a graceful, silent ballet performed on one's knees as the tea is prepared and then drank.

Hiroshi Sugimoto
According to Sen no Rikyu, the Buddhist monk who established the tea ceremony rules in the sixteenth century, the basic principles are harmony, seen as proportion and relation; respect, seen as dignity and communion; purity, seen as openness and willingness to welcome and serenity, seen as meeting and sharing.

Sugimoto designed a limited edition glass tea bowl specifically for the exhibition, which was blown by the Murano maestro Simone Cenedese. Sugimoto has agreed to return to Venice in the fall to work with the Murano glass blowers.

Click to go to the Stanze del Vetro for more information.



The Goldoni Experience
I finished up Art Night Venezia over at the Teatro Goldoni for the free 10:00PM performance of The Goldoni Experience, which I previously wrote about here.  Carlo Goldoni, the famous Venetian playwright, specialized in poking fun at his fellow citizens. The play is set on the last evening of Carnival, and the last night before the playwright, in the form of one of his own characters, the merchant Anzoletto, leaves for Paris. For anyone interested in Venetian culture and commedia dell'arte, it is a MUST SEE. The show is in the Venetian language, but it has English subtitles -- actually super-titles, as the translation is projected above, not below, the action -- which makes viewing the production a bit of a challenge, but opera fans should have no problem.

I really enjoyed watching all the Venetian machinations that don't seem to have changed much to the present day; it is in the Venetian character to conspire and manipulate; I think they are born that way. Servants plot against themselves and their masters; aristocrats cheat on their wives; wives plot revenge. After all the comical exploitations, the show ends on a dramatic note as the fourth wall breaks down and the 21st Century bursts onto the stage. It is a heartbreaking love letter from the Venetians to the world.

June through September:

Every Tuesday at 7pm
Every Friday at 8pm

Click to go to the Teatro Goldoni for more information, or read my previous post:

Venetians Put on a Show(s) - Ancient Designer Sunglasses, a Playwright and a War Hero 

 

Art Night Venezia
Art Night Venezia 2014 included more than 400 free events, with about 100 cultural institutions opening their doors for free, and was organized by Ca' Foscari University and the City of Venice. With strong solidarity, the cultural institutions of Venice united and gave everyone in town a night to remember. The website of Art Night Venezia is in Italian, but if you click the word sedi at the top, that will take you to the venues or locations, and if you click the word eventi... well, that is the same word in English -- events -- except that the male plural in Italian uses an "i" instead of an "s."

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, June 16, 2014

Venetians Put on a Show(s) - Ancient Designer Sunglasses, a Playwright and a War Hero

18th Century Goldoni-type Sunglasses with Mocenigo Coat of Arms (Vascellari Collection, Italy)
(Venice, Italy) Two hundred years before John Lennon made wearing round lenses all the rage, Venice was busy setting a fashion trend all its own. Long before the rest of the world discovered the danger of ultra-violet rays in 1870, Venetian opticians were 120 years ahead of the curve, producing emerald-colored sunglasses to protect the eyes of the nobility and Commanders da Mar (of the sea) from the harmful glare of reflected light as they navigated the waters that surrounded them.

For the first time in the history of spectacles, the exhibition "Spectacles Fit for a Doge" at the majestic Sale Monumentale in the Marciana Library gathers together glasses from museums and private collections to examine a vital point in the history of eyewear.

The Doge was the ruler of the Venetian Republic, and a pair of sunglasses, complete with carrying case, which bear the Coat of Arms of the aristocratic Mocenigo family are featured in the exhibition, dating back to the time when Doge Alvise Giovanni Mocenigo was the leader from 1763 until his death on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1778.

Goldoni-type horn-rimmed spectacles with eyelet-shaped temple pieces and silk sunguards. Venice, 1760. (Vascellari Collection, Italy)
Venetian opticians were the first in Italy to produce eyeglasses with temple pieces that reached to the ear, holding the lenses more comfortably on the nose. To offer more protection, pieces of silk were attached to guard against the sun. No one knows for sure why they were called "Goldoni" glasses, but it is assumed that Carlo Goldoni, the famous Venetian playwright, was known for sporting a pair of the hip glasses as he tooled about town, much like John Lennon did two centuries later.

Oval lady’s-glass painted in Venetian lacquer colors using decoupage technique already fashionable among Venetian carpenters at the end of the 17th century. (Ingrid and Werner Weismueller, Germany)

The vetri da gondola or da dama (for ladies) were mounted in a frame similar to a hand-held mirror, and probably evolved from a monocle; they were modified to be used by wealthy women and children to protect their eyes while on outings in a gondola. The exhibition also features glasses created solely for entertainment, such as the vetri da avari (glasses for misers) with a kaleidoscope effect that turns one coin into many,  and the "Parisian," scissor-type lorgnettes named after Parisian dandies that stopped people on the street and blatantly gave them the once-over through a pair of comical lenses.

"Spectacles Fit for a Doge" is curated by Roberto Vascellari.

Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana Sale Monumentali
SPECTACLES FIT FOR A DOGE
Sunglasses in Eighteenth-Century Venice
June 14 to July 13, 2014
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, "Sale Monumentali"
Click for more information

Promoters and Organizers
Comitato Venezia
Museo dell’Occhiale
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
Stazione Sperimentale del Vetro


Teatro Goldoni
Meanwhile, over at the Carlo Goldoni Theatre, another all-Venetian production is getting underway. The "Goldini Experience" is an homage to the great Venetian playwright, Carlo Goldoni. Set on the last night before the scribe left for Paris, and the last night of Carnival, Giuseppe Emiliani, who directs the show, has taken chunks of Goldoni's own text and compiled the prose into a collage of comical encounters between Goldoni and people who stumble into his orb. Using the original Venetian language, the show will also have English subtitles, making it accessible to both locals and tourists alike.

The Goldoni Experience opens on June 21, Art Night Venezia, (when most of Venice's museums, churches, galleries and foundations will stay open until 11pm or midnight with free entrance!), with free two shows at 7:30 and 10:00PM, and runs throughout the summer, with additional shows in October and November. After June 21st, full price tickets are €35, with sizable reductions for residents, students and families and may be purchased at Teatro Goldoni and Hellovenezia.

Press conference for the GOLDONI EXPERIENCE
Schedule

June through September:

Every Tuesday at 7pm
Every Friday at 8pm

June 21 - 7:30pm and 10pm
June 24 - 7:00pm
June 27 - 8:00pm

July 1, 8, 15, 22 at 7:00pm
July 4, 11, 12, 18 at 8:00pm

August 5, 12, 19, 26 at 7:00pm
August 1, 8, 15, 16, 22, 29, 30 at 8:00pm

Sept. 2 at 7:00pm
Sept. 5, 6 at 8:00pm
Sept. 7 to be announced

Oct. 31 at 8:00pm
Nov. 2 to be announced

THE GOLDONI EXPERIENCE
Fresco of Venice
Scenes of Daily Venetian Life in the 18th Century
Teatro Stabile del Veneto Carlo Goldoni
Click for more information

Bust of Sebastiano Venier by Alessandro Vittoria
"Many small things make many great things."

Sebastiano Venier (1496-1578) is one of Venice's most beloved historical figures. After defeating the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto, he became Doge. They say he died of a broken heart when a fire heavily damaged the Doge's Palace. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Venice Club of the International Inner Wheel, one of the world's largest women's organizations, the marble bust of the Venetian hero has been restored and stands proudly once again inside Palazzo Ducale over the Staircase of the Censors, in front of the door of the Armory. Manuela Savoia Rizzoli, the President of the Venice Club expressed the desire that Venetians return to their heritage and said, " It's a small thing, but, for us, it's a big thing."

Palazzo Ducale - Doge's Palace
Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2014 Venice International Architecture Festival - Rem Koolhaas Resets the World

The Sky Over Nine Columns by Heinz Mack
(Venice, Italy) Giorgio Orsoni, the Mayor of Venice, was arrested for corruption on June 4th, the same morning I was arrested by the golden grandeur of The Sky Over Nine Columns by Heinz Mack on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, one day before the preview of the 14th Venice International Architecture Festival. The divine beauty of the monumental columns was an enlightened contrast to the dark forces that constantly seek to debase Venice, the most beautiful city in the modern world. When asked to comment about the mayor's arrest during the opening press conference, Rem Koolhaas, the Director of the Architecture Exhibition, said, "It is an incident that fits perfectly in the overall picture."

Winner GOLDEN LION for Nat. Participation  - Republic of Korea Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
This year, for the first time, the 65 nations that participated were asked to focus on a common theme: Absorbing Modernity 1914 - 2014. Koolhaas said that he wanted to take the liberty to look at subjects that are not normally examined. Each nation had complete freedom within the theme. As the research progressed, it became clear that every single nation had been destroyed and rebuilt at least once, and that absorbing modernity was more like absorbing the blows of an opponent.

South Africa Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
I've grown to love the architecture exhibition -- over the years it has developed into something wondrous. As a lay person living in Venice who knows next to nothing about architecture, it is fascinating to take a glimpse into that world. Every other year, when the architects descend upon Venice, they breathe fresh, creative life into the city: businesses stay open late, hotels and restaurants are packed with interesting and exciting energy, the streets are filled with zippy conversations -- even the vaporetto driver popped open the front window and started singing as he zoomed across the lagoon. From yachts to backpackers, wizened wise ones to the mini-skirted chic, the joint is jumping with openings, cocktails and parties. It is a stark contrast to the armies of zombies dumped off by the monstrous cruise ships who follow mindlessly behind a guide holding a contrivance-on-a-stick.

Winner SILVER LION for National Participation - Chile Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
How to create an architecture exhibition that appeals to both the professional and the general public has always been a challenge. It's not like film, music, theater or dance, mediums where an audience is used to being entertained. By incorporating those elements of La Biennale -- theater, film, music and dance -- plus focusing on research and a common theme, Koolhaas and La Biennale have found a genius solution to create an exhibition that appeals to all.

Special Mention: Canada Pavilion Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15
Koolhaas made an interesting remark during the press conference -- that the nations found working together on the same theme a "relief," and that it became an orchestra of different voices. After wandering around the exhibition, I began to understand what he meant. Each nation found a way to tell their own story about the events that had occurred in the past 100 years that shaped them into what they are today, and which is reflected in the architecture -- dreams that were never completed, compromises that were built, and the occasional creation that fulfilled the original idea. Subjects that have been taboo for decades were openly addressed. The heavy hand of war and politics upon existing cultures that, in turn, affect architecture was emphasized. I was struck by how much influence governments and their policies had upon architecture, something I've never really thought about before.

Special Mention - France Pavilion. Modernity: promise or menace?  Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
The Russians were hilarious, all decked out in hot pink, mimicking an international trade show called "Fair Enough," with sales people and stalls that showcased 20 different Russian companies, such as a travel agency that organizes international tours which focus on the influence of Russia around the globe, or a company that specializes in contemporary "neo-Russian" architecture. I loved the "Dacha Co-op," a company that believes "that all people deserve storage space that they can live in that's customizable to their own tastes and located in a relaxing atmosphere outside the city." In other words, a tiny second home. I spoke to an architect from New York, and she said she thought Russia was the best exhibition she'd seen; in fact, everyone seemed to appreciate the sense of humor -- because, really, with Russia's critical situation in the world today, a little humor goes a long way. The jury seemed to agree, and gave Russia a Special Mention "for showcasing the contemporary language of commercialization of architecture."

Special Mention - Russian Pavilion Fair Enough: Russia’s past our Present
As as American, I was riveted by the US pavilion, OfficeUS. Its mission is to "critically reflect on the production of US architectural firms abroad, while simultaneously projecting a new model for global architectural practice open to all of us." The pavilion is set up like an office, in fact, is an operating office, its walls lined with hundreds of folders in chronological order detailing US projects abroad during the last 100 years. The curators say it is “an active, global, experimental architecture office that researches, studies, and remakes projects from an onsite archive of 1,000 buildings and the 200 U.S. based architecture offices engaged in their construction.”

US Pavilion. Image © Nico Saieh
I was born in 1955, so I opened a folder and began to read an article from the January 1955 edition of Architectural Forum, a publication now defunct (1892-1974):

"The year 1955 finds the US building industry hard at work in almost every country of the free world. Our architects and planners are creating whole new towns from teeming India to tiny El Salvador. Our engineers and contractors are building new dams and power plants in Turkey and Afghanistan, new refineries in Sumatra and Ceylon, new highways in Columbia, new hospitals in Iran and Peru. We have opened gleaming new embassies and consulates in a dozen capitals, big luxury hotels in a dozen more. 

What is the significance of this tremendous activity?

First, it means we are building up the basic welfare of other nations, creating climates unfavorable to communism, readying countries for industrialization and democratic independence, making them prosperous enough to buy more of our products.

Second, our industry and commerce are expanding in search of new sources of raw materials, new markets for finished products. To serve increased travel and trade, hotels and stores are springing up along the new commercial routes.

Third, we are helping build defenses for ourselves and our allies.

And fourth, we are keeping up strong governmental and public relations through our official missions: new embassies, consulates, libraries, information services."

WHOA.  I could not believe that I was reading about a scheme in a publication written nearly 60 years ago that clearly and precisely outlined what the United States was doing abroad -- it seems like it would have "Confidential" marked all over it today. The sections called ECONOMIC AID and POINT FOUR were especially pertinent to current affairs in Afghanistan:

"By late 1948, thanks to the Marshall Plan, Europe fairly crawled with members of the US construction industry. Architects went abroad to advise on the planning of industrial plants and housing to give the benefit of their experience in expanding the US wartime industrial machine.

... In some instances, the various US aid programs overlap. For example, in Afghanistan, a $75 million project calling for construction of two dams was largely funded with Export-Import loans while Point Four financial assistance to the same country has been showing previously nomadic Afghans how to use the 400,000 newly irrigated acres that dams will create. 

This project, begun in 1947 by Morrison-Knudsen, is just winding up and is typical of the kind of situations that US firms find themselves in when they work on aid project. Examples: 1) M.K. used 60 local workers for every US national employed and had some unusual problems to contend with as a result. For instance, the Afghan version of the coffee break consists of two prayer periods each day on company time in addition to three prayer sessions on the workers' own time. 2) The transportation difficulties were enormous and getting 17,000 tons of equipment into the middle of this backward Asian nation accounted for about 25% of the project's cost. 3) Despite Point Four work in Afghanistan, M.K, found it necessary to start its own model farm in one area just to show local farmers how to use the new land -- certainly an unusual venture for a construction crew."


Which particular businesses were booming abroad?

"...In the field of manufacturing and assembly plants, General Motors is probably the leader of all US investors abroad with its 27 plants in 17 nations and its $191 million expansion plan for Europe alone. Other fields marked by other blue-chip investors: Pan American (through Intercontinental Hotels) with its 15 foreign hotels, Readers Digest with its publishing plants in 14 countries, E.B. Squibb (today Bristol-Myers Squibb) with 17 factories around the world and (my personal favorite) Coca Cola with its ubiquitous bottling plants."

HOW BIG THE FUTURE? pretty much sums up the Foreign Policy of the United States of America back in 1955 -- not much seems to have changed:

"Although the scope of our private operations abroad seems large, it is actually small when measured against the undeveloped state of most of the world and the prewar investments made by Britain when she occupied our present position as leader of the Western Alliance."

The curators say, “We are setting a stage for the architects and visitors to address and respond to the most pressing architectural anxieties of the last one hundred years," and I found their attitude refreshing. Looking at the policies of the United States abroad in terms of history really gave me a new perspective on why our country is in the position that it is in today.

Sonnets in Babylon by Daniel Libeskind - Venice Comune
Despite the mayor's arrest, the opening of the Venice Pavilion, Sonnets in Babylon by Daniel Libeskind went smoothly. Libeskind is a Polish Jewish architect and artist, who holds both US and Israel citizenship, and is the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. "Some never-before-exhibited drawings by Libeskind, created by hand from pen and sepia-toned washes of coffee, comprise the principal element of the pavilion." Libeskind said his exhibition was dedicated to the citizens of Venice, "the most fantastic city in the world," and emphasized that "cities are made out of people."

Fundamentals, the Venice Biennale 14th International Architecture Festival directed by the brilliant Rem Koolhaas runs from June 7 to November 23, 2014. Click here for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog