Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flashback Summer! Robin Williams has Flown and Mary Ascends to Heaven

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupérye
(Venice, Italy) Robin Williams left this planet under the energy of the Supermoon, leaving the rest of us stunned, yet full of deep, warm memories of a genuine human being, a man bursting with joyful cosmic energy during his time here on Earth. He was alive, worked hard, and kept the rest of us awake and on our toes. If anyone was The Little Prince personified, it was Robin Williams, and it was lovely that his daughter, Zelda, shared a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic book:

  “You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if al the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You – only you – will have stars that laugh.”

Rest in peace, Robin Williams
Tomorrow is August 15, Ferragosto, a holiday created by Emperor Augustus in 18BC, which means "August's rest." Long before the Romans decided it was better to join 'em rather than beat 'em and convert en masse to Christianity, the day was celebrated to give workers a much needed rest after their long labor, and to celebrate the Diana, the goddess of the moon, women, birthing and the hunt.

Assumption of the Virgin by Paolo Veronese (1586)
Centuries later, the Catholic Church declared it was also the day that Mary zoomed straight up to heaven, and that is where we will take up the story for Flashback Summer! with a post I wrote just about six years ago on August 16, 2008 (and many times after that):

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mary Ascends to Heaven and Pala D'Oro, The Golden Cloth - Venice

(VENICE, ITALY) Yesterday, I found myself in a miraculous position -- alone, on my knees, on the high altar of the Basilica in front of the tomb of Saint Mark, the brilliant gold of the Pala D'Oro shimmering in the background.

August 15th is Ferragosto here in Italy, and also Assumption Day, the day that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was assumed into Heaven. It is an ancient pagan festival combined with a Catholic holiday.

From Wikipedia:

"Ferragosto is an Italian holiday celebrated on August 15. Originally, it was related to a celebration of the middle of the summer and the end of the hard labour in the fields. In time, the Roman Catholicism adopted this date as a Holy Day of Obligation to commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary—the real physical elevation of her sinless soul and incorrupt body into Heaven.

Before the Roman Catholic Church came into existence, however, this holiday was celebrated in the Roman Empire to honor the gods—in particular Diana—and the cycle of fertility and ripening. In fact, the present Italian name of the holiday derives from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti (Fairs of the Emperor Augustus)."

Many Catholic holidays and images can trace their roots to already established Roman celebrations. This year, the full moon also coincides with the holiday. Combine that with a partial lunar eclipse later on today, and we have some heavy duty cosmic energy.

As I've said before, some of the inspiration for my novel, Harley's Ninth, came from my fascination with feminine solar energy, which, to me, is dynamic, creative and sensual. I have never been comfortable with the image of the Virgin Mary presented to me in my youth, and spent a long time researching the changing image of the female throughout the millennium. In fact, my young protagonist, Harley Columba, creates a new Madonna out of oil and canvas, and names her the Madonna of the Sun.

Yesterday morning, I heard the church bells ringing, loud and long, commanding everyone to come to church -- or at least remember that there was something else to do that day except have a barbecue on the beach. Without planning it in advance, I threw on a dress and headed to the Basilica. That, too, is a little miracle -- that I can dash off to the Basilica of San Marco if the mood strikes me.

I caught the tail end of one service, and decided to stay for the next. I asked one of the ushers for some candles so I could light them at my favorite Byzantine icon, the Madonna Nicopeia, who also stars in Harley's Ninth. The Madonna Nicopeia used to march at the head of the army of the Holy Roman Empire, so I think she is not a shy girl.

I gazed at all the images inside the magnificient Basilica and thought about the state of the feminine in this day and age. To me, it feels like we are about to start spinning in another direction -- that the heavy hands that have been driving the world are about to lose their grip on the wheel.

Here is a blurb from Stephan A. Hoeller's The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead about how Carl Jung (one of my heroes) felt about Pope Pius XII's decision in 1950 to declare Assumption Day a dogma of the Church:

"Toward the end of his life Jung perceived a sign of the times of great significance in the declaration of the assumption of the Virgin Mary made by Pope Pius XXII. At the same time when Protestant theologians, and even some Catholic ecumenicists, threw up their hands in horror because of this new evidence of old papal mariolatry, Jung hailed the Pope's apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, as an evidence of the long-delayed recognition on the part of Christendom of the celestiality, if not outight divinity, of the feminine. In Answer to Job he went on record, writing that this recognition was welling or pushing upwards from the depths of humanity's unconscious and that it could have a deeply beneficial effect on human affairs in terms of world peace. The elevation of the Virgin, he said, was an evidence of a very real 'yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul,' and it would act as a needed compensation to the 'threatening tension between the opposites.'

I'm with Jung on that one. I think it would be nice to make August 15th an international holiday.

In any event, it is a rare occasion when the Pala D'Oro faces out toward the congregation, and something awesome to see -- if you are ever in Venice on one of the high holy days, I strongly recommend you make an effort to see it.

From Wikipedia:

"Pala d’Oro (literally, "Golden Pall") is a high altar retable of the Basilica di San Marco in Venice. It is universally recognized as one of the most refined and accomplished works of Byzantine craftsmanship."

It was quite an honor to kneel at the tomb of San Marco, directly in front of one of the Pala D'Oro, one of the world's most sacred icons, which is about 900 years old. The sheer power of a wall of gold beaming at me... I felt all that power, all that sacred energy wash over me.. it was like taking a cosmic shower... I am optimistic for the future.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Flashback Summer! Mystical Madonna in Corte de Cà Sarasina - Venice

Corte de Cà Sarasina, Venice
(Venice, Italy) Six years ago today I wrote a post about Corte de Cà Sarasina, the very first neighborhood I lived in when I first moved to Venice back in 1998, which happened to have a miracle Madonna right outside my door. In fact, within that post, I included the very first article I had ever written for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, which was published on January 12, 2001 when Italy still had lire and 9/11 was a nightmare waiting in the future. So this is a flashback within a flashback -- we are zooming back 13 1/2 years. But Corte de Cà Sarasina lies in a Venetian time warp; not much changes there (except a lot more people seem to know about it). I don't think you will find Rosie waiting to make you a gondola out of lace anymore, but there is still laundry flapping from the windows, and the mystical Madonna still works her magic...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Miracle Madonna in Corte de Cà Sarasina - Venice

(VENICE, ITALY) I haven't always lived on the Grand Canal. When I first moved to Venice back in 1998, I lived way down in Castello in a tiny ground floor apartment in Corte Sarasina, off Via Garibaldi. It was sort of like living in the Bronx, I imagine. I had just moved here from Hollywood, and thought doing my own laundry would be romantic. (It has since lost its charm.) Corte Sarasina is important because it has a Madonna that works miracles, and I can personally vouch for her authenticity:)

Ten years ago, the people of Corte Sarasina did not have many Americans living among them, so I was kind of a novelty. They were friendly, warm, good-hearted people.They spoke Venetian dialect, not Italian. I didn't speak a word of Italian, let alone Venetian, but somehow we managed to communicate with our hearts.

Every afternoon the old women would put their chairs out in the corte, do their lace work, and chat -- their lace-making style was different than Burano because they were from Pellestrina. They took good care of me. Once I decided to wash my sheets. I asked my neighbor if I could use her laundry line. Since it was a ground floor apartment, you had to hang the laundry with clothes pins, then sort of hoist it like a sail. Well, I couldn't hoist it up, and blocked the entire corte. The old women came and took my laundry away from me, and told me to go away -- I had an appointment close to Piazza San Marco. You have to understand that even though it's only about 15 minutes by foot from Via Garibaldi to Piazza San Marco, some people in Castello haven't been to San Marco for thirty years. So, to them, I was going on this great adventure. While I was up there, I bought them a box of chocolate to thank them.

When I got back to Corte Sarasina, all my laundry was flying from their windows! It was a sight to behold. They had divided it up and shared their laundry lines. (That image you see is not Corte Sarasina, but it looked sort of like that.) After it was dried and neatly folded, they sent over a representative, Rosie, to deliver it. I offered the chocolates, but Rosie refused. Then five minutes later she was sent back to get the chocolates. You can just imagine that conversation: "What? You didn't take the chocolates? Get your butt back over there and get them."

Next, I saw Rosie sitting out with the others, making something new out of lace. I asked her what it was, and she went on and on in Venetian dialect. Of course, I had no idea what she said. I thought, "She's either making a gift for her granddaughter's First Holy Communion, or a fish." It turned out that she was making a gondolier rowing a gondola for ME!!! I am looking at it right now, and if I had a camera (which I promise I will buy), I'd take a photo of it and show you. It's one most precious gifts I've ever received.

The very first article I wrote for the International Herald Tribune's Italy Daily was about this Miracle Madonna of Corte Sarasina -- in fact, it's how I got the job. I did a quick search to see if there are any images of the Miracle Madonna available, and it turns out that there are! All the images you see here (except the clothesline) are from a blog by a woman named Anne called, "Churches in Venice," and can be found at:

Apparently Anne wants to know what's up with this shrine, too. Since I own all my copyrights, I'll post what I wrote (with a little editing) back on Friday, January 12, 2001. (But I did NOT write that headline:) So, let's take a little trip into the past...

Cocktails and Prayers Answered in VeniceThe Castello Neighborhood Holds a Mystical Madonna, a Mystifying Accent and a Proud, Venetian ApertifTucked away in a quiet section of Venice, there is a Byzantine Madonna who answers prayers, or so the story goes. She's been gazing down on Corte de Cà Sarasina for centuries, dating back to the beginning of the 1600s.

Corte Sarasina is off Via Garibaldi in the Castello district of Venice. It's one of the few remaining neighborhoods where Venetians outnumber the tourists. Every morning, locals scramble to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from a boat docked in the canal at Fondamenta Sant'Anna, and haggle over fish at the little market at the entrance to the Public Gardens.

Back in 1807, Via Garibaldi was transformed into a rio terra, a canal that was filled in and turned into a street, by Napoleon's invading forces. On the right-hand corner, at No. 1643, there is an inscription commemorating the home of the famous navigator, Giovanni Caboto, otherwise known as John Cabot. This where Via Garibaldi -- and a whole other Venice -- begins.

Castello is a working-class community, originally inhabited by fisherman, shipbuilders and lace-makers. Laundry flaps across the calli and the canals. Men gather around newsstands; mothers promenade with their babies, stopping to chat and coo.

A fun place to eat on this colorful boulevard is Trattoria Giorgione, on the right side of the street. Lucio Bisutto serenades his customers with Venetian folk songs while his wife, Ivana, cooks some of the best fish, risotto and vongole in town. A little further down on the left is Bar Mio where patrons sit outside and have a spritz, a drink rarely ordered outside Venice. It's usually sipped during lunch or after work at around 7 P.M., but is available anytime, especially for those on vacation.

There are at least three kinds: "spritz con Select," "spritz con Aperol" or "spritz con bitter." The spritz con bitter consists of white wine, Campari and a "spritz" of soda water. Those who prefer a sweeter drink ask for Aperol. A spritz con Select (the accent lies on the first syllable) is sweeter still. Any self-respecting spritz arrives accompanied by a cube or two of ice, an olive, and a lemon or orange peel, together with a little bowl of chips or nuts.

Stumbling on the scene, Corte Sarasina would seem inhabited mostly by elderly women who spend warmer afternoons sitting outside on folding chairs, chatting and stitching lace. They speak Venetian with a thick Castello accent, the same undulating rhythm as the water lapping in the lagoon. "Rosie" is the ringleader, and she is in charge of the wish-granting Madonna, tending to the fresh and artificial flowers around it and straightening the altar.

A wood painting protected by a sheet of glass, the Madonna of Corte Sarasina greets the faithful from inside a grande sacello, a small brick and plaster structure with a typical Venetian red tile roof. On her head is a crown imbedded with imitation gemstones. A strand of white beads dangles around her face. She is surrounded by statues of Jesus and various saints, the plaster type found in a mortuary store.

Every morning, Rosie shuffles out of her apartment a few doors away and unlocks the shrine. The Madonna is open all day from 8 A.M. to 7P.M., seven days a week, although at lunch time the Madonna takes a nap like most of the folks in Garibaldi. If you arrive during lunch time, visitors need only unhook the little chain that latches the double green doors, swing them open, say a prayer, deposit their lire and close her back up. There is a small wooden box on the inside of the left-hand door to make contributions. A suggested donation is 1,000 lire (one euro by 2008 standards:), which goes to purchasing fresh flowers and maintaining the sanctuary.

No one knows who created this peculiar Madonna, but many believe it was the work of a madonnaro, or street artist from the early 1600s, and was a traditional way for the living to remember the dead. To this day, she is very much a part of the local community.

About a year ago, the locals took it upon themselves to restore the shrine. Lino Scarpa, a friendly, wise fellow, said the elderly women of Corte Sarasina begged him to do the restoration. "I repainted the doors, the statues, added some color to the lips, that sort of thing," he said.

Amazingly, many of the locals say they haven't made the trip from the Castello district to Piazza San Marco in years, even though it's only a 15 minute walk away. "Everything a person needs is down here on Garibaldi," Mr. Scarpa said. "Fish, vegetables, good places to eat, good bars, good people. The gardens are here, the lagoon is here. The sea is a quick boat trip away."


So, there you have it. It's the work of a street artist, maintained by the locals. Sometimes I've wondered whether one of the major restoration groups around town should restore her, but she might loose some of her magic.
Many times aspiring writers ask me for advice. I'll tell you my secret -- all you have to do become a published author is give the Miracle Madonna of Corte Sarasina one euro, and you're on your way.

Ciao from Venice,

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Flash Back Summer! July, 2008 at Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog: 500 Years of Palladio

Church of Redentore
(Venice, Italy) In these hazy, crazy days of summer, I am going to be lazy and publish a rerun of a post I wrote just about six years ago in July, 2008 -- the year I first created this blog -- before most people in Italy (and other parts of the world) knew what a blog was. I've had other blogs before this one, but Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog was when I decided to blend what I used to do when I wrote for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, with my personal thoughts. These days, you can throw a rock out the window and hit someone who is writing a blog about Venice, but back then, there were only a few...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

500 Years of Andrea Palladio - Palladian Gala - Save Venice, Inc.

(VENICE, ITALY) When the Director of the International Center for the Study of the Architecture of Andrea Palladio in Vicenza begins his lecture with a not-very-flattering quote by John Ruskin about his subject, you know you're in for an exciting ride.

Professor Guido Beltramini did just that in the Giorgio Cini Foundation's Palladian refectory yesterday, and it was one of the most fascinating lectures I've heard in a long time. He was part of the Save Venice, Inc. Palladian Gala, which culminates at Hotel Cipriani's Granai tonight with the celebration of our most beloved Venetian holiday, the Festa del Redentore, complete with fireworks. (Each one of these topics could be a blog in itself, so I am going to give you a brief overview, and delve more deeply in the future.)

Professor Beltramini said that last year on November 30th, the kick-off of the 500 year anniversary of the renowned architect's birth, many local architects in Vicenza held an anti-Palladio demonstration. The projection screen then flashed up a picture of Andrea Palladio that had been doctored to give him horns! Professor Beltramini said it was about time we had a look at this part of Palladian architecture, and the dark forces that generate the upper harmony. The windows that are eyes; the doors that are mouths are countered by the belly of the building. He spoke about the "heart of darkness" and the unconscious, and showed us a photo of a brutish faun on the floor, saying no visit to a Palladian villa would be complete without a visit to the underground vaults. The lecture covered the Villa Rotunda in Vicenza, the nobility who supported Palladio, his early life, and much, much more.

It is the ancient argument -- who is more powerful? Man or Nature? Does Man impose his Will on Nature? Does Man work together with Nature? Does Nature impose her Will upon Man? Or, most importantly, what is Man anyway? Who are we and what are we doing on this planet?

People constantly ask me why I moved to Venice, and I reply that Venice is a magnetic center. The more you study Venice, you will find it is not just about canals and gondolas. The palaces and churches were designed with esoteric principles. As was the Art. As was the Music. As was the Literature. Etc.

This is from the website of Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio at

"Andrea Palladio was born in Padua on St Andrew’s Day, 30 November, 1508. To celebrate this quincentenary, the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, Vicenza and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), are mounting a major exhibition. It will open in Vicenza, (palazzo Barbaran da Porto, 20 September 2008 – 6 January 2009), it will then move to London (Royal Academy of Arts, 31 January – 13 April 2009) and will close in the United States of America in Autumn 2009. ...
Jefferson’s house at Monticello will be presented."

Well, apparently we have run out of money in the United States of America, and the Washington D.C. leg of the exhibition has not been confirmed, and may well be cancelled. Makes you wonder... doesn't it? Well, I most definitely intend to go to Vicenza to see it this fall, and strongly suggest you all try to catch it either here or in London.

Another interesting tidbit about Palladio: as hard as he and the nobility who supported him tried, he didn't make it into Venice until he was about 60-years-old, and even then, he only designed buildings on the outskirts of town, like the Churches of Redentore, Zitelle and San Francesco dello Vigna -- which, if you remember, I have written about before:

After the lecture, the Save Venice, Inc. folks bravely climbed into a wild boat, rearing against its ropes, docked outside on the Island of San Giorgio. It was pouring rain, and the waves were ghastly, but off we chugged to the Church of Redentore itself, where I have spent a lot of time behind the scenes with the Capuchin friars, an Order close to my heart. (In fact, you will find a Venetian Capuchin friar in Harley's Ninth:) We were given a brief tour of the interior by the scholars Professor Deborah Howard of Cambridge, and Professor Frederic Ilchman of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Now, you might think that scholars are stuffy, but I actually hang out with them, and they always amaze me with their wit, humor and ability to bring the past alive.

The Church of Redentore was built in honor of Christ the Redeemer to save Venice from the plague, which wiped out ONE THIRD of the population, including Titian himself. Professor Howard said we must remember the time it was built, and what, exactly, were the sins from which the Venetians thought they needed redemption. One was that they did a lot of trading with the Muslim countries. (I can think of several others:) The Venetians had tried everything, and as we know, when all else fails, the only thing left to do is to pray. In any event, it WORKED! The end of the plague on July 21, 1577 is what we are celebrating tonight with what is usually the best fireworks in the entire world exploding over the lagoon. Venetians from all over the Veneto arrive in their boats to watch the show. The fondamenta on the Giudecca is lined with tables and Venetians eating traditional food. Terraces and balconies are filled with revelers. The Lido has their own party going on over there. It's a big Venetian party, and deserves its own blog, which perhaps I will give it in the future.

After the Church of Redentore, it was onto the Church of Zitelle, and then a lunch at the newly restored Zitelle convent, now the magnificent five-star Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa. I have known the Chair & CEO, Francesca Bortolotto Possati for a long time -- and no, I am not related to the Bauer Hotel:) But I saw the convent many years ago, long before Francesca restored it, and I will tell you that she did an amazing job (the photo you see is the garden where we had lunch -- the rain had stopped and the Sun came out!). She is also the International Chairman of Save Venice, Inc.. Something you should know about Francesca -- she puts her whole heart into all her projects with the purest intentions, and works tirelessly to help this city. For instance, despite all odds, she launched the very first solar-electric boat on the Grand Canal, which runs from the Bauer Hotel in the historic center, across to Zitelle.

Here is a little excerpt from something I wrote about Zitelle for the International Herald Tribune's Italy Daily years ago:

"Santa Maria della Presentazione, or Le Zitelle, was once a home for maidens famous for their skill in creating punto in aria Venetian lace. Founded in 1599 on the premise that impoverished, good-looking virgins were doomed to a life of sin unless someone intervened, the convent had strict entry requirements: the virgins had to be between the ages of 12 and 18, very healthy, very beautiful, and have a graceful, lively demeanor. The girls received training that prepared them not for the nunnery, but for marriage. The three-story structure, built on a Reformation model with a cloister behind the church and two wings near the Giudecca Canal, is currently undergoing restoration. Plans exist to convert it into a hotel and conference center, retaining much of the original structure, and to bring the large botanical garden back to life. The wellhead in the courtyard bears the coat of arms of the aristocratic Loredan family, and dates from the early 14th century when the Loredans were granted possession of the property by the Venetian Senate."

And something you should know about Save Venice, Inc. -- I have never seen the organization more vibrant and alive. There is a new contingency from the West Coast in the United States, which I strongly recommend those of you out there support, plus the Old Guard from New York, Boston and the South, etc. If you're looking for a charitable organization to stash your cash, your dollars will not only beautify Venice and its structures, but the soul of Venice itself.

Ciao from Venice,
P.S. I am back from Redentore. At the last minute, I decided to watch the fireworks with the Guardia di Finanza in honor of Bruno Abbate. Bruno was a renowned boat builder in a traditional family business, and he made some boats for the Guardia -- their party was next door to Save Venice over at Cipriani's. Bruno died last week at age 57. His birthday is one day before mine. We are Leos. Last year about this time, I had the great honor to be with Bruno on his yacht you see there during his Primatist Trophy with a group of friendly folks -- seriously, I was taking the Sun on that very cushion in the back of his boat. It seems incredible that he is now gone. Last year was the first time I had met him... he was such a generous man; he enjoyed sharing his great wealth. We zoomed all over the coast of Sardinia during the morning, paused for lunch and a swim, then zoomed some more in the afternoon to the next stop. Every evening there was some kind of spectacular. Bruno genuinely loved human beings from every walk of life. He created an enormous family called Primatist People, providing lots of jobs and lots of fun. When Bruno showed up, the world came alive with helicopters swirling overhead, and music, music, music -- he was like fireworks personified. The great explosion at the end of Redentore tonight reminded me of Bruno... Even though I didn't know him well, when you spend a week on someone's boat, you form a kind of bond.... he touched so many lives... Thank you, Bruno, for granting me the privilege of being one of the Primatist People, if only for a moment.

After the fireworks, I was swept back into another world -- the Cipriani Olympic-size pool where there was music, food, drinks, dancing.... It was strange... one of the first articles I had ever written for IHT Italy Daily was about the Redentore party at that very pool, back in 2001 -- it seemed almost frozen in time with the same stock characters wearing the same outfits.... as if that party has been going on for centuries during Redentore, and will continue for centuries in the future.

Tonight, however, I met a vibrant woman from Los Angeles, Francesca DeMarco, who had never been there before. She said: "I've seen fireworks at the Rose Bowl. I've seen fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl. But I've never seen fireworks like these!" I said, "Francesca, I am going to quote you. Are they the best fireworks you have ever seen in your life?" Francesca said, "YES!"

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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,