Thursday, July 30, 2015

Will the Seminole Tribe of Florida & Hard Rock Buy the Venice Casinò?

Chief James Billie (center) with Hard Rock Cafe staff in Venice
(Venice, Italy) Chief James E. Billie, Chairman of the Seminole Tribal Council, is a colorful character -- gutsy, outspoken, warm and sincere, a Native American whose culture rings from his heart. Leader of the only unconquered Native American Tribe in the United States, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, who own Hard Rock International, Chief Billie served 22 years as Chairman/President of the tribe, from 1979 to 2001, "the longest tenure of any elected leader in the Western Hemisphere, other than Fidel Castro." The Seminoles are the only tribe that never signed a formal peace treaty with the United States.

Chief Billie's mother belonged to the Bird clan; his father was was a white sailor who went to Europe during WWII without knowing of the pregnancy. As an infant, Seminole medicine men wanted to kill Jim Billie the traditional way -- by stuffing mud in his mouth and leaving him to die in the Florida Everglades -- because he was a half-breed. His mother, Agnes Billie, who died when he was nine, and Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, another half-breed -- who went on to become the first and only tribal chairwoman -- put a stop to it. To earn money, Jim Billie went on to wrestle alligators for tourists, as well as build chickee huts.

Chickee hut at Big Cypress Indian Reservation
Chief Billie is one of the people responsible for giving birth to the Indian gaming industry in the United States by pushing through a contract to operate high-stakes bingo on the Seminoles' Hollywood reservation in 1979, and then leading the tribe when it won a US Supreme Court 1996 decision upholding the sovereign rights of tribes to conduct gaming on their reservations. Like many Indian tribes, the Seminoles were heavily dependent on federal welfare, which Billie believed were used to keep Indians "down, uneducated, inexperienced in the business world."

When the money started gushing in, Chief Billie became a thorn in the side of the Florida government and big business, insisting on behaving like a Native American by refusing to put toxic dumps and landfills on Seminole land, and being uncooperative about pipelines, flight paths, roads and telephone towers. No American Indian has been more investigated by the US government than Chief Billie-- including by the FBI and the IRS -- yet no agency has brought a single criminal charge against him. When he started to criticize his fellow councilmen's spending habits, and brought in an outside administrator, Chief Billie rankled the Seminole ranks, who began to block him. However, what actually brought him down was a woman scorned, who later said she had been coerced into filing suit against Billie for sexual misconduct by other Seminole leaders. Chief Billie was impeached by the Seminole Council in 2001, and started, once again, to build thatched chickee huts in South Florida, waiting for his opportunity to make a comeback.

Hamish Dodds, Chief Billie & Pablo Castrogiovanni - Hard Rock Cafe, Venice
In 2011, at age 67, James E. Billie defeated Mitchell Cypress, the previous two-term chairman, by a landslide to return, once again, as Chairman of the Seminole Tribe... which is why he was here in Venice at the Hard Rock Cafe on Monday, July 27 -- which also happened to be my birthday.

Cat Bauer with Seminole Chief Billie at Hard Rock Cafe, Venice
With James E. Billie was Hamish Dodds, Hard Rock International President and CEO, as well as Chief Billie's wife, Maria, 13-year-old son, Eecho, 12-year-old daughter, Aubee, and other members of the tribe including Josh John, Nancy Willie, Danny Tommie and Trishana Storm, a descendant of George Storm, the man who had taught Jim Billie how to wrestle alligators. It was a tight group.

As President and CEO of Hard Rock International, Hamish Dodds, a Scotsman, oversees all aspects of the global enterprise, and is responsible for strategic development. Previously, he worked as CEO for Cabcorp, and then in the upper ranks of PepsiCo. He said that Italy was a very, very important market for Hard Rock, and spoke of the passion the Seminole owners have for their own brand. Dodds said that it was not easy to do business in Italy, but that he thought that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was trying to make it easier.

Ca' Vendramin Calergi - Home of Venice Casinò
Dodd said he had been looking into investing in the casino here in Venice for about five years, but back then the environment was not conducive. Hard Rock is interested in buying the casino out by the airport and turning it into a Hard Rock Casino. When it comes to Ca' Vendramin Calergi, the casinò here in Venice on the Grand Canal -- the world's oldest casino -- Dodds said it was a beautiful, historic building that needed to be preserved, and they would be interested in an operating partnership with Venice, but do not want to put the Hard Rock name on it.

At that point I was bursting with excitement -- I had come to the conference hoping for the opportunity to discuss just that topic, and here the CEO of Hard Rock was presenting it himself! To me, if the Hard Rock transformed the casino by the airport into a Hard Rock Casino, yet was behind the scenes at Ca' Vendramin Calergi, it would bring much needed wealth and positive energy to Venice. Venetians and Seminole Indians under the leadership of Chief James E. Billie are a good fit. I THINK THIS IS A FANTASTIC IDEA.

Seminole Indians at Hard Rock Cafe, Venice
Chief Billie then told the story of how he had always loved rock and roll, especially Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, and plays himself (he was even nominated for a Grammy for his song, "Big Alligator"). He got back from serving in Vietnam, and kept seeing Hard Rock Cafe tee-shirts everywhere. So he bought a tee-shirt. Then, his tribe opened the first high-stakes bingo on the land of a sovereign Indian nation, and they got some money. One day he found himself sitting next to a guy named Pete on a first-class plane trip, who ended up being Peter Morton, who, together with Issac Tigrett, had founded the Hard Rock Cafe. They spoke about doing business together -- Chief Billie said he thought something along the lines of Hard Rock garb and a franchise, nothing like buying the company, which happened when he was not on the council.

Several times Chief Billie said how grateful and thankful he was. He taught us the Seminole word "Sho Na Bish," which means "thank you," and wants to put that on all the Hard Rocks, too, in addition to the LOVE ALL - SERVE ALL put there by Issac Tigrett.

When the conference was over, Hamish Dodds said that anyone -- the press, the employees, the kitchen staff, anyone -- could ask them anything. He was immediately interrupted and told that a list of questions had already been prepared. He responded that it would lose the spontaneity, but acquiesced. They were then asked several innocuous questions by the translator; for example, to Chief Billie: 'Why do you think the word "Hard Rock" is so successful, and what do you like about it?" To which he replied, "You can probably answer that yourself," and then went on to say it was a romantic word, a sexy word.

Maria, Chief Billie's wife, and Cat Bauer
Chief Billie also spoke about how much he loved his wife, Maria, and how grateful he was that she was here with him. He said that the Seminoles were good hunters, and that now they hunt for businesses instead of animals. He said that running into Hard Rock was a good hunt.

Chief Billie ended the conference by saying that back when the Seminole used to fight the military that they called themselves the unconquered, and that he had discovered that Venetians call themselves unconquered, too. Then he exclaimed: "Sho Na Bish!"

From the press notes:

With a total of 202 venues in 64 countries, including 154 cafes, 21 hotels and 10 casinos, Hard Rock International is one of the most globally recognized companies. Beginning with an Eric Clapton guitar Hard Rock owns the world's greatest collection of music memorabilia, which is displayed at its locations around the globe.

Visit www.hardrock.com for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Spirit of the Music of Venice - Lo Spirito della Musica di Venezia

Juditha Triumphas directed by Elena Barbalich at La Fenice
(Venice, Italy) The third edition of The Spirit of the Music of Venice concluded last night after zapping the beginning of summer with some profound and impressive events. Organized by the Teatro La Fenice, in collaboration with the University of Ca' Foscari and the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello, this year focused on Venice as the center of cultural, musical, economic and philosophical exchanges between the different civilizations and cultures of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Here are a few selected events:

Judith Triumphs directed by Elena Barbalich at La Fenice
Judith Triumphs by Venetian hometown composer Antonio Vivaldi was performed for the first time in Venice in 1716 in the Church of the Pieta by the all-female singers of the Church of the Pieta. The new production at La Fenice under the leadership of hometown director Elena Barbalich was breathtaking. The lighting by hometown lighting director Fabio Barettin allowed the audience to use their imaginations to magically transport themselves to another place and time. The sets by Massimo Checchetto and costumes by Tommaso Lagattolla were exquisite in their simplicity. The La Fenice Orchestra directed by Claudio Marino Moretti was in fine form. And the singers -- again, all female -- were dynamic and authentic in their roles. Judith Triumphans tapped into the energy from the heavens -- pure, elegant and true; I thought it was simply divine.

Mare Nostrum at Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi
The Mare Nostrum trio presented a program entitled From Venice to Constantinople at the Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi. The three musicians - singer Stefano Albarello on zither and lute; Giovanni De Zorzi on flute and Fabio Tricomi on drums -- delighted the audience with classical Ottoman music composed between the 17th and 18th centuries.

Ute Lemper at La Fenice
Ute Lemper, the international German singer and actress wowed the crowd on the day of Redentore at La Fenice, belting out a trail of melancholy tunes that led from the Weimar Republic to Editih Piaf to Bertolt Brecht and beyond. In collaboration with the Venezia Jazz Festival, the program took the audience on a journey through dark and light periods in human history. My favorite was the music Lemper had composed herself using the words from the poem "Bluebird," by the troubled German-born American poet, Charles Bukowski, an artist with "a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out... but I'm too tough for him, I say, stay in there, I'm not going to let anybody see you..." And Ute Lemper can play a mean brass using only her lips!

Dimitri Naiditch Trio
The Music of the Soul of Venice ran from June 15 to July 26, and was packed with more than 40 inspiring events, ranging in a price from €220 to free, allowing Venetian residents and tourists alike to experience some exotic entertainment in unique venues.

In collaboration with LVMH, last night at La Fenice Lo Spirito della Musica di Venezia concluded with the enthusiastic and upbeat Mozart in Jazz by the Dimitri Naiditch Trio, led by the France-based Ukrainian pianist Dimitri Naidith, accompanied by Gilles Naturel on double bass and Athur Alard on drums. The trio transformed the classical musical of Mozart and Bach into contemporary jazz. Naiditch declared that he loved Mozart and felt that he knew him, that he had a beautiful, childlike soul, and that if he were alive today he would be a jazz musician. The encore was Bach, which received a standing ovation, a perfect conclusion to the cornucopia of music living in Venice's soul.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fireworks in Venice - Redentore 2015 + Harlequin Serves Two Masters at the Goldoni Theater

Redentore 2015 - Venice, Italy
(Venice, Italy) Venice is exploding with Venetian energy these days, with Arlecchino - The Servant of Two Masters opening at the Goldoni Theater this past Thursday, and fireworks bursting over the lagoon last night for the Feast of Redentore.

Marco Zoppello as Arlecchino
Giorgio Sangati, the dynamic young director of Arlecchino, cleverly adapted Carlo Goldoni's classic 1746 comedy so that it is more accessible to contemporary audiences, yet maintains its original zest. The wild antics of Harlequin as he tries to serve two masters without each of them finding out delighted the opening-night audience, which was filled with a hodgepodge of humanity --Venetians, tourists, grown-ups and kids.

Rehearsal room press conference
At the press conference -- held in the rehearsal room, which I just loved; it gave the whole event an extra flavor -- we got a peek into the tremendous amount of effort that had gone into creating the production. The script, the actors, the costumes, by the renowned costume designer Stefano Nicolao, the specially-designed masks by Donato Sartori of Centro Maschere e Strutture Gestuali, the music, which included old Venetian folk songs arranged by Veronica Canale, the sets by Alberto Nonnato and the lighting by Paolo Pollo Rodighiero -- all the elements of the production had been deeply researched and thought out as a team.

Marco Zoppello
Giorgio Sangati said he wanted the audience to enter the Goldoni Theater and see a Goldoni play performed in the actual theater where the great dramatist worked. He wants tourists to have a real Venetian experience, and to know Venice, not just Palazzo Ducale. The play is in Venetian, with English and French subtitles, so the wacky plot is understandable to a wide audience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The actors were superb, the pace was quick -- there is no intermission -- and the action was easy to follow. It's a fun evening out for the whole family -- the kids were laughing harder than anyone. Arlecchino Il Servitore di due Padroni runs all through the summer of 2015 up until October, but not every night. Click HERE to go to the Goldoni Theater for more information.


If you are a regular reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you know I have written about the Feast of the Redentore nearly every year. Here is a link from 2013:

Fireworks in Venice - Redentore 2013

 

Floating bridge to the Church of Redentore
For centuries, Venice has constructed a floating bridge from the historic center to the island of Giudecca, where the Church of Redentore was built to implore the Redeemer to give relief from the deadly plague. Every year since 1577, Venice has held a celebration to commemorate the day.

On Giudecca

2011 - Feast of the Redeemer


Venetians eat typical food and wine with friends and family, topped off by the best fireworks on the planet. This year the fireworks climaxed with a blazing explosion of gold that seemed to fill the entire sky with a million tiny comets. It was simply awesome.


Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, July 6, 2015

Peek into the Private Lives of Venice Aristocrats - Pisani Moretta Family at Ca' Rezzonico

Curator Alberto Craievich with Amorino alato by Antonio Canova

(Venice, Italy) For centuries, the Pisani dynasty was synonymous with wealth and power in Venice. The family divided into two branches in the 14th century. The Pisani dal Banco, who were located in Santo Stefano district, were responsible for building Villa Pisani in Stra, "The Queen of the Venetian Villas." Over on the other side of the Grand Canal were the Pisani Moretta, who acquired the majestic Pisani Moretta palazzo in San Polo in 1629, one of the most impressive palaces in Venice that is still privately-owned.

The exhibition The Pisani Moretta Family - History and Collecting at Ca' Rezzonico, home of the Museum of 18th Century Venice, allows the public a gander at some of the goodies that have passed through the famous family over the centuries.

"Palazzo Pisani Moretta (Venice)" Photo: Didier Descouens

Like any good tale about Venetian aristocrats, the story involves a scandal over an inheritance. In 1721, at the age of 17, Chiara Pisano, the only child of Francesco Pisani, married Gerolamo Pisani of the "dal Banco" branch. Her father died in 1737, and the then 33-year-old Chiara inherited a substantial fortune. Her husband died the next year; making Chiara an enormously wealthy widow with six kids. Flush with funds (and no father or husband to accommodate), Chiara decided to restore her palace. She added a third floor complete with terrace overlooking the Grand Canal, and hired some of the most renowned artists and artisans to decorate it, including Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Toilet set by Augsburg silversmiths

Meanwhile, the kids grew up. Pietro Pisani, Chiara's oldest son, married Venetian noblewoman, Caterina Grimani, an excellent catch -- her father was a Procurator of San Marco, the second most prestigious life appointment in the Republic -- after the Doge, who happened to be her uncle.

However, Vettore, Chiara's younger son, fell in love with a woman who was not a member of the Venetian aristocracy. He secretly married her, which meant that any children he had would not be eligible to be in the ruling class. Chiara stepped in, and convinced Vettore to have the marriage annulled. But it was too late -- the undesirable bride was already pregnant with Vettore's son (who would eventually be recognized and given the name Pietro Vettore). The boy-who-would-be-known as Pietro Vettore was shipped off to an exclusive boarding school in Rome.

The Pisani-Moretta Exhibition

Chiara Pisani died suddenly in 1767, leaving her entire estate to Pietro, the eldest son, who had by then been given his father-in-law's job as a Procurator of San Marco. Unfortunately, Pietro and Caterina were childless.

However, younger brother Vettore came through and married a second, more suitable wife named Cornelia Grimani (yes, both brothers' wives had the same last name), and hopes for preserving the Pisani line were raised. Cornelia conceived, and, in 1774, had a baby... girl. Who was named... Chiara. After her deceased grandmother.

Then Vettore died suddenly! Leaving no male heir! Except, of course, for Pietro Vettore, his first-born child from the unsuitable bride, who was down in the boarding school in Rome. Uncle Pietro, the first Chiara's first-born son, became the guardian of both his deceased brother's children -- Pietro Vettore, and his half-sister, Chiara II.

Baby carriage

Uncle Pietro was now the lord of the Pisani-Moretta Palazzo, and he is the one who hired Antonio Canova, the famous Venetian sculptor, to execute some statues, one of which was his masterpiece "Daedalus and Icarus," which was in the entrance hall of the palace, and is now in the Correr Museum.

Daedalus and Icarus by Canova - Correr Museum

Meanwhile, Pietro Vettore, Vettore's son, had come of age and came barreling up to Venice from Rome, making it very clear that Uncle Pietro was going to have a battle on his hands. Pietro Vettore wanted his rightful inheritance, and hired some powerful lawyers to present his case. (Since his uncle was a Procurator, which was supposed to be the second most powerful job in Venice, this was no easy feat).

[An aside: the Office of the Procurator of San Marco was never abolished at the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797. It still exists to this very day. There are seven procurators these days, and they are responsible for administering the assets of the Basilica of San Marco under the authority of the Patriarch of Venice.]

The Farewell between Hector and Andromache by Luca Ferrari (1605-54)

The legal battle began in July, 1783, and it was the Trial of the Century. The boarding school in Rome had transformed Pietro Vettore into a charming, well-bred, likable young man, and the masses were rooting for him. Not only did he win his rightful share of his father's inheritance, he also got a title -- the Count of Bagnolo, located out in the Province of Rovigo. Running low on the supply of Venice-born aristocrats, the Venetian Republic had passed a law in 1775 allowing the nobility from the Veneto terra firma acceptance into the Venetian patriciate, so just like a real-life fairy tale, the once-unwanted Pietro Vettore was now a wealthy member of the ruling class.

Pietro Vettore made a brilliant marriage to Laura Zusto in 1785. Unfortunately, Napoleon had already conquered the Venetian Republic by that time. When Pietro Vettore died in 1847, he left his son, Vettor Daniele, as his legal heir. Vettor Daniele had five children, two of whom were male; both died young, wiping out the male Pisani line. Vettor Daniele's daughter Laura married into the noble Giusti del Giardino family, who left the Pisani Moretta palace to their Sammartini relatives in 1962, who own it today.

Pendant - Venice

According to the Venice Civic Museum site, "the Pisani -- and their heirs -- have for more than a century sought to ensure that a number of the extraordinary works of art in their collection remain within the city of Venice." Thanks to the generous support of the heirs, about one hundred works that once belonged to the Pisani Moretta are now on display at Ca' Rezzonico through October 19, 2015, documenting not only the precious works of art that belonged to the family, but allowing a peek into the daily life of one of Venice's most prominent families.

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILY
History and Collecting

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice
http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/

July 4 - October 19, 2015
Ca' Rezzonico
Museum of 18th Century Venice

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice

http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice

http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/THE

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice

http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice

http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice

http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice

http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice

http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/

THE PISANI MORETTA FAMILYHistory and collectingJuly 4 – October 19, 2015Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th century Venice

http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/mostre-en/mostre-in-corso-en/the-pisani-moretta-exhibition/2015/03/7590/pisani-moretta-history-and-collecting/


CLICK for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Venice Biennale Dance 2015 - Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and The Golden Lion

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Tale Dolven in FASE - La Biennale Danza

(Venice, Italy) Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, the Belgian dancer, choreographer, and founder of the Rosas dance company, was the recipient of this year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for Dance awarded by the Venice Biennale. De Keersmaeker is so original that Beyoncé "borrowed" some moves to create the dance steps for her Countdown video. Here are the two dancers side by side:

 

When De Keersmaeker got a Facebook message about the Beyoncé videoclip -- which is the way she learned that her work Rosas danst Rosas had zapped its way into pop culture -- she commented:

...People asked me if I’m angry or honored.Neither, on the one hand, I am glad that Rosas danst Rosas can perhaps reach a mass audience which such a dance performance could never achieve, despite its popularity in the dance world since 1980s. And, Beyoncé is not the worst copycat, she sings and dances very well, and she has a good taste!

On the other hand, there are protocols and consequences to such actions, and I can’t imagine she and her team are not aware of it.

To conclude, this event didn’t make me angry, on the contrary, it made me think a few things.Like, why does it take popular culture thirty years to recognize an experimental work of dance? A few months ago, I saw on Youtube a clip where schoolgirls in Flanders are dancing Rosas danst Rosas to the music of Like a Virgin by Madonna. And that was touching to see. But with global pop culture it is different, does this mean that thirty years is the time that it takes to recycle non-mainstream experimental performance?And, what does it say about the work of Rosas danst Rosas?

In the 1980s, this was seen as a statement of girl power, based on assuming a feminine stance on sexual expression. I was often asked then if it was feminist. Now that I see Beyoncé dancing it, I find it pleasant but I don’t see any edge to it. It’s seductive in an entertaining consumerist way.

Beyond resemblance there is also one funny coincidence. Everyone told me, she is dancing and she is four months pregnant. In 1996, when De Mey‘s film was made, I was also pregnant with my second child. So, today, I can only wish her the same joy that my daughter brought me.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Tale Dolven

De Keersmaeker's extraordinary performance on Saturday night, June 27, of her 1982 piece FASE, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, received a standing ovation. According to Biennale, "this piece exploded onto the scene and is still considered to have been the starting point of the contemporary dance movement that developed in Flanders during the eighties."

De Keersmaeker was born in 1960, which made her about 22-years-old when she created Fase 33 years ago (when Beyoncé was about one-year-old:). Fase is a sophisticated masterpiece, danced to complex phasing music created by minimalist pioneer, Steven Reich.

Before the show - Outside Teatro alle Tese, Arsenale

To appreciate how extraordinary the evening was, we must first understand what phasing means when applied to music. According to Wikipedia:

Phasing is a compositional technique in which the same part (a repetitive phrase) is played on two musical instruments, in steady but not identical tempi.

Steven Reich experimented with this technique back in 1967 to create the first piece of the evening, Piano Phase, which is easier to define by listening, rather than explain with words, but the folks at Wikipedia give it a shot:

Reich's phasing works generally have two identical lines of music, which begin by playing synchronously, but slowly become out of phase with one another when one of them slightly speeds up. Reich had previously applied this technique only to sounds recorded on magnetic tape, but experimenting in his studio, he found it was possible for humans to replicate the effect.

In Piano Phase, he has the two pianists begin by playing a rapid twelve-note melodic figure over and over again in unison (E4 F4 B4 C5 D5 F4 E4 C5 B4 F4 D5 C5). After a while, one of the pianists begins to play his part slightly faster than the other. When he is playing the second note of the figure at the same time the other pianist is playing the first note, the two pianists play at the same tempo again. They are therefore playing notes at exactly the same time, but they are not the same notes as they were at the start of the piece.

The process is repeated, so that the second pianist plays the third note as the first pianist is playing the first, then the fourth, and so on until the process has gone full circle, and the two pianists are playing in perfect unison again. The second pianist then fades out, leaving the first playing the original twelve-note melody. They then seamlessly change to a similar melody made up of eight notes. The second piano fades in again, only this time playing a different eight-note melody at the same time. The phasing then begins again. ...

Anne Teresa De Keermaeker, Dance Director Virgilio Sieni, Biennale President Paolo Baratta - Golden Lion

Now just try dancing to that. De Keersmaeker and the more-than-20-years-younger Tale Dolven started off in unison as if they were both pendulums on two different clocks, perfectly in sync. As the dance progressed, the women spun in a circle, skirts twirling, moving slightly out of sync, as did the music, until they were directly facing each other... The mathematics and skill involved were riveting. They never missed a beat. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is a woman who is tapped into the mystical, sensual female energy that never grows old, but teems with eternal life. No wonder Beyoncé stole her moves.

Dirty Hands and Beauty by Cesc Gelabert in Campo Sant'Angelo

Meanwhile, throughout Venice, Virgilio Sieni, the Director of the Biennale Dance Section, scattered the Biennale College of Dance in strategic campi, allowing tourists and locals alike to stumble into performances choreographed by masters on the international scene. I was impressed with the quality of the students -- I thought most of them were not only talented, but daring and courageous.

Tiny dancers

But what moved me the most was the amount of children -- the under 5-set -- that spontaneously moved into the empty campi just before the shows, in front of the eyes of the adults, and simply started dancing.

Ciao from Venezia,CatVenetian Cat - The Venice Blog

 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Melissa Conn Honored with Titian + Michelle Obama in Venice

Melissa Conn & St. Mark Enthroned with Saints Cosmas & Damian, Rocco & Sebastian by Titan
(Venice, Italy) Michelle Obama and the female contingent of her family were here in Venice on Friday, June 19, 2015, the same evening that Melissa Conn, Director of the Venice Office of Save Venice, was honored with a Titian that had been restored in her honor.

Saint Mark Enthroned with Saints Cosmas and Damian, Roch and Sebastian was one of Titian's earliest works, thought to be his first independent commission (1508-9). The great Venetian artist lied about his age, so we are not exactly sure how old Titian was when he painted it -- he was born about 1488, so around 20-years-old, which seems astonishing given the sophistication of the work. At that time Venice was worried about being stricken by the deadly plague, which was viewed as divine punishment, so not only was Saint Mark the Evangelist evoked, but also four other saints known for their abilities to ward off illness. The painting was originally executed for the Church of Santo Spirito in Isola, but transferred to the Madonna della Salute, one of Venice's most spectacular votive churches, in 1656.

Saint Mark Enthroned with Saints Cosmas and Damian, Roch and Sebastian by Titian (1508-09)
Saint Mark is the patron saint of Venice, of course. Saints Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers; both were doctors and, more importantly, Christians -- Christians who worked for free -- "unmercenary physicians" -- during the time when the Emperor Diocletian was targeting Christians who did not comply with Roman religious practices, around the year 300. Diocletian was a conservative right-wing Roman who was determined to crush the expanding infidel, which, at that time, were Christians. Refusing to recant their faith, Cosmas and Damian were tortured: hung on a cross, stoned, shot with arrows and then beheaded.

Cosmas and Damian
Saint Sebastian lived around the same time as Cosmas and Damian. Sebastian was one of Emperor Diocletian's bodyguards -- the emperor obviously did not know Sebastian was actually a Christian. So when Diocletian would haul in someone who would refuse to sacrifice to the Roman gods, Sebastian would convert them to Christianity on the sly. When Diocletian found out one of his own guards was converting prisoners to Christianity, he had Sebastian shot full of arrows, which is how he is often portrayed in works of art. However, Sebastian did not die. He was rescued by Irene of Rome, who nursed him back to health. Sebastian then went straight back to a staircase where Diocletian was passing and condemned the emperor for targeting Christians, which did not go over too well with Diocletian --not only was Sebastian not dead, he had not learned to keep his mouth shut. Diocletian had Sebastian clubbed to death and thrown into a sewer. As the centuries went on, people would pray to Sebastian as a defense against the plague, which is why he is in Titian's painting with the doctors.

Roch and Sebastian
Saint Roch did not come along until about a thousand years later, around 1300. He was a French nobleman from Montpellier, the son of the governor, who gave up his worldly goods to tend to the sick. He came to Italy during the plague, and could heal the ill with just the sign of the cross or the touch of his hand. When he himself became ill, he went to the forest, where he was tended by a hunting dog who brought him bread (and eventually his owner). When he became well, Roch returned to incognito to Montpellier, where his uncle, now the governor, (not knowing who Roch was) threw him in prison for being a spy, where Roch died. But Roch, too, had become a popular figure invoked for deliverance from the plague -- even though he was not a proper saint. The Venetians brought Roch's body to Venice in 1485, where a church, hospital and confraternity were erected in his honor. Roch was not officially canonized until Pope Gregory XIV came along in 1590, so when Titan painted him in this painting around 1510, Roch was a saint-in-waiting. His body is here in Venice in the Church of San Rocco.

Melissa Conn Honored with Titian at Salute
Saint Mark Enthroned was restored "thanks to a contribution of David and Ellen Rosand in honor of Melissa Conn with an anonymous contribution in honor of David Rosand." David Rosand was a revered art historian who died last August, as well as the project director of Save Venice, Inc., an American organization that restores precious works here in Venice. Rosand's specialty was 16th-century Venetian art; Titian in particular.

That David and Ellen Rosand have honored Melissa Conn with the restoration of a Titian in her name illustrates the high esteem in which she is held not only within the organization, but within the city of Venice itself. Melissa herself selected which painting would be restored, which she said was a "tremendous responsibility." The powerful Saint Mark Enthroned was a wise choice -- a compelling votive painting inside a formidable votive church. With such illustrious saints watching Saint Mark's back, the freshly-restored painting should hold the Lord's attention for another thousand years.

First Lady Michelle Obama arrives in Venice
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama, daughters Maila and Sasha, and mother Marian, arrived in Venice after a trip out to the U.S. military base in nearby Vicenza. After visiting the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale in Piazza San Marco, apparently they had to hole up in the Molina Stucky Hilton due to a glitch in the satellite signal that provides security for the First Lady. However, on Saturday morning (after a hearty breakfast of cereal:) they did manage to make it out to the Biennale International Contemporary Art Festival, where they met Joan Jonas, the artist of the award-winning United States Pavilion, and curator Paul Ha. Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, accompanied them across the bridge for an impromptu visit to the pavilions of Syria, Egypt and Poland. Michelle exclaimed that she thought the exhibition, "amazing." She said that a lot of her friends told her that she had to see the Venice Biennale, and that she was very happy to be here.

Joan Jonas with Michelle Obama & the gang at Biennale
Next it was out to Murano to visit the Cenedese glass factory, and lunch at B Restaurant (the former Vecchia Pescheria) where they enjoyed a fresh, healthy meal of local Venetian delights. Because of another satellite glitch, they were not able to go to the lace-making island of Burano, or the Cini Foundation, or the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, but returned to the Molina Stucky Hilton.

Michelle Obama at Restaurant B
Also on Saturday, I saw a superyacht named Limitless in the lagoon, docked over by Giardini where Michelle and the gang were visiting La Biennale. Limitless was flying a large American flag and creating an extremely high profile. Curious, I googled the owner, who turned about to be Leslie Wexner of The Limited and Victoria's Secret fame, and the richest man in Ohio. One could spend hours reading about Les Wexner's activities, which are related to Israel, strong support for the war in Iraq, fund raising for Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign and long ties to Jeffrey Epstein -- in other words, he did not seem to be in the Barack Obama camp. Perhaps his superyacht just happened to be in the neighborhood...

Superyacht Limitless in Venice lagoon
Saturday night, June 20th, was also Art Night Venezia, a glorious night when many of Venice's museums and art galleries remain open late, and the town is filled with vibrant energy. Then, Michelle and the gang did manage slip out of the Stucky to take a night ride on the Grand Canal, and visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection after it had closed to the public, where they had a chance to view the superb Jackson and Charles Pollock exhibitions now on show.

Michelle Obama Leaving Venice
After sprinkling American goodwill all over Venice, on Sunday morning, Michelle and the gang hopped back on Air Force Two, which was parked out at Marco Polo Airport. Michelle Obama declared that she had fallen in love with Venice, and that she would be back soon with Barack. The energy she left behind was so dazzling... it gave me a new appreciation of what subtle power the First Lady of the United States of America can wield.

Here is one of my favorite Michelle Obama moments: the #GimmeFive dance challenge with Ellen DeGeneres. How great is it that we have a First Lady who can dance?



Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

THE RAPE OF VENICE + Create Your Own Scent at Palazzo Mocenigo

Rape of Venice

(Venice, Italy) The strong words: THE RAPE OF VENICE is the title of an installation by the Venetian multi-media artist Andrea Morucchio on the ground floor of Palazzo Mocenigo, the former residential palace of the San Stae branch of the prolific Mocenigo family that gave Venice seven doges. Opened to the public in 1985, Palazzo Mocenigo is now part of the Civic Museums of Venice, and is dedicated to fashion, fabric and fragrance. The elegant palace was completely restored two years ago, in 2013, with the enthusiastic assistance of the Venetian Vidal family and Mavive, their international fragrance company.

Mavive

Mavive uses provocative marketing to sell some of their brands like Police, Replay and Zippo Fragrances. Mavive is also the sponsor of The Rape of Venice by Andrea Morucchio, who was inspired by words from Joseph Brodsky's Watermark: "To be sure, everybody has designs on her, on this city. Politicians and big business especially, for nothing has a greater future than money. [...] The goal of all that is one: rape."

The installation bombards the senses. It features actual headlines like VENICE IS SINKING UNDER A TIDAL WAVE OF CORRUPTION from international newspapers that stream by on two large screens, accompanied by a cacophony of underwater recordings of maritime traffic in the lagoon. The ancient tiled floor of the Basilica of San Marco has been reproduced and recomposed with disjointed elements. The air is filled with the scent of the Essence of Venice especially created by Mavive for the installation, inspired by Brodsky's description of utter happiness after arriving in Venice, which radiates "the smell of freezing seaweed." (I am wearing the scent right now, and it is bewitching.)

Mavive's own Marco Vidal has written an excellent essay for the slim catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, which powerfully clarifies the situation Venice finds itself in today. Here it is in its entirety:

"I have always thought that Venice could become a model city in the world for its quality of life and a human and social dimension now lost in most modern cities, where meeting in the street and sharing public spaces has become something rare and sought after.

Marco Vidal

 

Having the chance to travel I have often had confirmation of this. The most advanced cities try to create pedestrian and social spaces within them. The more enlightened public administrations and town planners tend to try to create residential areas where social life is encouraged, with meeting places often enriched by fine architectural surrounds, offering museums and green 'lungs' where the external noise, pollution, advertising pressure and chaos are neutralised.

Thirty years ago this could have been the starting point for a new Venice projected toward the future; a place where this dimension already existed, enriched by a unique architectural and artistic heritage and an absolutely extraordinary environment, its lagoon.

The challenge was economic, to give the resident population prospects in terms of jobs, differentiated work sectors and fast connections with the surrounding district compatible with the speed of modern life.Thirty years ago, for example, it would probably have been possible to convert the Porto Marghera area in such a way that it could have accommodated the many extraordinary, non-chemical production plants that were scattered throughout the Veneto region in those years of economic growth. An economy related to Venice as its vital heart, in a few words, could have been able to present us as an advanced city.

This was a big lost opportunity for Venice. The political choices of the last thirty years have focused on an economic and social model contrary to what I have described above, a model based solely on the uncontrolled exploitation of Venice's land and beauty.

The only economy to which Venice opened its doors was tourism, but without any organisational or management plan that would draw on its proper value. Year by year the uncontrolled flows have grown to a level that seems to be 30 million visitors. I say 'seems' because not even the statistical analysis of the flows has been institutionalized, perhaps to arouse less concern.

But in these last twenty years as tourism grew to the point of reaching 30 million visitors, what happened to the city of Venice? Did the tourist economy correspond to any wealth for Venice?In the same years as the tourist boom there was a drop in the resident population from 93,000 in 1981 to 56,000 in 2014: about 40% fewer residents in the last thirty years.

Entire generations of young people born in Venice, or who have graduated from the prestigious Venetian universities, have been forced to pack their bags to find a job and a house to build themselves a future, away from Venice. Here there is no work outside the tourist sector, and the property market has surged due to the demand for holiday homes and space for tourism.

Every year tens of thousands of square metres of residential space once intended for residents have been the subject of a change of use allowed by the city council for tourist reception activities, room lets, B&Bs and hotels.

In the last three years the Venice city council has accumulated a budget deficit of several hundred million euros against the growth of the tourist economy, necessitating the cutting of some fundamental services and an increase in council taxes, which are now among the highest in Italy. The city council has for years not had the money to maintain Venice and its monuments, and has been obliged to sell its own prestige property holdings to cover only part of the hole in the balance, and to use the facades of the most significant monuments for advertising campaigns that can sustain restoration costs.

 

In addition to the flight of the resident population, thousands of historic Venetian activities and public and private offices have moved or closed down: all unable to maintain their base in Venice because of the property prices swollen by tourist demand and the pool of users now cut to the bone.

 

Alongside, commercial activities are now in the hands of big brands owned by luxury multinationals on one hand and of souvenir bazaars on the other, defined as Venetian but made in third world countries. Neither of these kinds of activity leads to any extended redistribution of local wealth; most of the goods sold in Venice to the 30 million tourists are not made in the area, residents are seldom employed in their sale and often their owner is not even a physical person.

 

The land is then exploited without any logic of organisation or flow distribution, with the result that Venice suffers overcrowding at various times of the year, while other parts of the council's territory have been completely forgotten: the Lido di Venezia, antique pearl of elite international tourism, is in a state of abandon; Porto Marghera, which was one of the biggest industrial areas in Europe, is now empty, does not offer jobs and is a decaying industrial desert. After thirty years Mestre is still in search of its own identity.

These are the results of political choices made and supported for decades in Venice by a local political class that has been distinguished by numerous corruption scandals, the squandering of public money on pointless public works, favours in exchange for patronage votes and insufficiency on all sides.

This political class is certainly supported by a population that is in some cases compliant, in some myopic and in others resigned, but certainly needs replacement with new lifeblood from outside.

Because of the active rejection I feel towards this model that is killing Venice, as an entrepreneur and citizen of Venice I support Andrea Morucchio's work and his political message.

It is a message that starts with the hundreds of articles in international papers dealing with Venice that genuinely report the outrage every person feels in knowing the condition towards which the most beautiful city in the world seems destined.

 

An exposé of the shame we feel at having to read all over the world about scandals that concern us directly, from the big ships that continue to sail undaunted through St. Mark's Basin, to the corruption of a political class that in any case continues to govern the city, and the depopulation of a city that is becoming a themed amusement park.

 

Venus Anadyomene by Titian (1520)

But it is not a resigned message. Together with the artist, it is precisely the path of smell that marks a call to what is the essence of Venice and around which the future of the city must be built. This primordial perfume, extrapolated from a passage by Brodsky defining the essence of Venice as that of algae frozen in winter, a mixed green and vegetal perfume, takes us back to the natural and primordial essence of the 'Anadyomene' city, born from the water like Venus Anadyomene.

 

In order to create this essence we made use of a great Italian 'nose,' Maurizio Cerizza of AFM, a highly experienced master perfumer who has created hundreds of successful perfumes during his professional career. On a winter's day we accompanied him by boat to immerse himself in the smells of Venice and the most unpolluted part of the lagoon in order to perceive the same smells that inspired Brodsky's piece and recreate them for our installation. We then made a very limited production of it for those wishing to possess the 'essence of Venice.'

 

Morucchio's work is intended to recreate a synaesthetic atmosphere that envelops the visitors' senses, striking their sight in strong tones with the shocking headlines of international papers exposing the speculation on Venice, and their hearing with the sound of underwater recordings of maritime traffic in the lagoon. But finally, through smell, the visitor is recalled to the primordial essence of Venice, a smell that leads the mind to its water, its vegetation, its delicate and most real dimension.

And with respect for its natural dimension and appreciation of this unique heritage, the artist and all of us who worked on the project entitled The Rape of Venice want to attract the attention and active involvement of all those who will synaesthetically experience the work in favour of Venice."

Inside Palazzo Mocenigo
Inside Palazzo Mocenigo

In 1900, Marco Vidal's great-grandfather, Angelo Vidal, created a small perfume laboratory at San Stae, in the center of Venice. He began by manufacturing household products, then went on to create soaps, and finally perfumes and cosmetics. In keeping with tradition, Mavive is offering 2-hour perfume composition courses inside the majestic Palazzo Mocenigo, where participants will learn the basics and then create their own scents. The €80 price of the course includes the kit and perfume, requires a minimum of six participants, and can be held in Italian, English or French. The link to book doesn't seem to be running yet, but it will be found at mocenigo.visitmuve.it.

Venice Lagoon Bird Strikes "La Fenice" Pose

Like Marco Vidal, I, too, have always thought that Venice could become the model city of the world, with solar-electric hybrid boats inside the lagoon, and green areas where people can relax, children can play and dogs can romp -- even a baby park like the one in the Hudson River Park in Manhattan. If the State and the City of New York can work together to create an immense 550-acre park which transformed the decrepit area along the Hudson River into something splendid, then surely the Region of the Veneto and the City of Venice can do something similar here in Venice.

I recently attended a Webinar conducted by the International Center for Climate Governance entitled Impact of Climate Change on the Venetian Lagoon. I was amazed to learn that Venice could have the capacity to produce its own energy due to the natural gasses produced by the salt marshes in the lagoon. Venice could even sell the energy for a profit:) The focus of the conference was:

"The importance of protecting and restoring coastal wetlands and specifically salt marshes, mangrove forests and seagrass prairies will be discussed during the seminar, using the Venice lagoon as an example. These ecosystems have a direct ability of mitigating climate change since they are able to sequester large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and store it in the soil (blue carbon) as organic matter and peat. Once the peat is stored underground, the preservation of these reservoirs should be a priority, since these areas, once drained and cultivated, become an important source of CO2. The example of the Bacino Zennare, a very productive agricultural area in the South basin of the Venice Lagoon, will be presented during the seminar and the hypothesis of re-wetting the basin will be discussed, also showing the results of a costs-benefits analysis."

Joseph Brodsky also said that Venice is "the greatest masterpiece our species produced." Venice is a great work-in-progress, a masterpiece that needs to be restored, and then transformed into a shining example of a model city for all humanity.

The Rape of Venice runs through November 22, 2015. Click for more information.

CLICK to read the My Art Guides interview with Andrea Morucchio.

Ciao from Venezia,

Cat

Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog