MUSIC IN VENICE – A PRIVATE TOUR
Venice, St Mark
MUSIC IN VENICE
Highlights of this tour:
St. Mark’s Basilica
Church of La Pietà
Gran Teatro La Fenice
“When I seek another word for music, I always find only the word Venice.”
(Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo)
Our tour begins in St. Mark’s Basilica, once the private chapel of the Doges’ Palace. Aware of the sound delay caused by the distance between opposing choir lofts, 16th century composers (like the Flemish Adrian Willaert) started to write antiphonal music, where opposing choirs would sing contrasting phrases of music, united by the sound of organs.
Artists like Cipriano de Rore, Gioseffo Zarlino, and Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli created great works suited to Venice’s unique cultural and religious traditions, and received international acclaim.
Our second stop will be the Ospedale della Pieta’, the most famous institution for abandoned and unwanted children in Venice. It was for this orphanage that Antonio Vivaldi, employed for many years as the violin teacher for the ‘figlie del coro’ wrote a good deal of his music while also writing music for the many opera theaters in town. Here we will see original instruments played by members of the coro, and handwritten musical scores by Vivaldi. We’ll also visit the Church of La Pieta’, where the girls (hidden behind tall metal screens) performed their celebrated concerts.
We’ll complete our tour with a visit to the great opera house, Gran Teatro La Fenice. From the beginning of the 19th century, with composers like Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, La Fenice acquired a European reputation. The premieres of Attila, Rigoletto, La Traviata, and Simon Boccanegra by Guiseppe Verdi all took place here. Maria Callas made her debut here in 1949, and Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress was first performed in 1951.
On January 29th, 1996, for the second time in its history, La Fenice was completely destroyed by arson. La Fenice was rebuilt in the 19th century style on a design by architect Aldo Rossi, and using still images from the opening scenes of Luchino Visconti’s 1954 film Senso. It reopened on December 14th, 2003 with an inaugural concert. The first opera performance was La Traviata in November 2004.
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Music in Venice was everywhere, and is demonstrated by hundreds of paintings that depict men, women, and angels holding musical instruments, regardless of their social class.
The ducal orchestra played every day for an hour in St. Mark’s Square, and all public festivities were accompanied by music. Virtuosos frequently played in private homes and gambling houses. Church masses, accompanied by music and choir, lasted a few hours. The orphan girls in the public “Ospedali” were given an excellent musical education, and performed in the churches.
Due to its importance in international trade, by the 16th century Venice had become the capital of music publishing and instrument making. The first opera house ever opened to the public, Teatro Tron in the parish of San Cassiano, dates back to 1637. The long-lasting presence of Claudio Monteverdi, the first great opera composer, was crucial, and the success of this new form of entertainment in Venice spread to other Italian cities, becoming a global phenomenon.
By the 18th century Venice had lost most of its political and economical power, but had acquired international fame as one of the top destinations in the Grand Tour. People came, attracted by the long Carnivals, boosting the occasions for music and the number of virtuosos: Vivaldi, Albinoni, Galuppi, and Marcello, to mention a few composers whose music is still successfully performed today. Music, both sacred and profane, permeates the soul of Venice like the water in its canals.
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