Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Viva Venice - Day 2 - Afternoon

 La Fenice, Italian for the Phoenix is a large opera house in the middle of Venice. I have wanted to visit it since I came to understand the meaning of its name and a little about its history. Like the phoenix that it is named after, this theatre has been reborn from it ashes, after suffering three fires, the last of which was a case of Arson in 1996.

The front of the building is white and honestly very unimposing. It had white Corinthian columns that hold up a balcony from which swing the flags of several nations. It wasn't very easy to find when like myself you are un-familar with the back streets of Venice or the amount of reconstruction work that is under way in the surrounding area.

We actually came up behind it, at a point where the canal meets a sort of back way in. I could imagine people arriving to the theatre in gondola's, dressed in their finery to see a Puccini Opera or a performance of the ballet.

It is inside the theatre where you get to see Italian grand design at work. I was surprised by the colouring in actual fact. A pastel pink colour tinted everything, the walls and the floors, especially significant in the large marble floors and the tall marble columns.

This picture I took (sneakily might I add as photo's are prohibited inside, a way to get you to buy the postcards in the gift shop) show the grand foyer, the left hand side, the side that is unmarred by the gift shop and the counters where you purchase tickets to take the tour. For a small exchange of ID you are provided with a plastic vaguely phone shaped device that will narrate the history of the theatre by pressing certain numbers as you see them on signs around the building.

This second picture is taken from a small balcony that over looks the stairs up to the third floor of the theatre, several function rooms called the Apollo rooms. These rooms, including a grand ballroom were where theatre goes would retire during the intervals of performances to take tea or other refreshments and to mingle with those others in society that could afford tickets to see any gala. It wasn't hard to imagine ladies in Edwarian gowns, strolling from room to room, with their escorts on their arms, fanning themselves and whispering in corners over the latest piece of scandal.

The interior of the theatre itself is very grand and while listening to the audio tour you learn a lot about why the colour scheme was chosen, about the art on the walls, the ceiling and the decorative use of gold on almost everything. I thought it was a real shame that you can't go into the stalls or onto the stage during the tour, although the stage was set up so something more than the curtain was visible from the parts you are allowed to enter. In the main auditorium, as it were, you see mostly rich velvet reds, pale peach and gold fronting to the many boxes that make up the walls, along with frescos painted across each tier of the boxes. The ceiling is painted in circles to make it look like the sky, the tour claims you can be fooled that the theatre doesn't have a roof, although I was sure it had one, I was surprised to find the roof was in fact flat, not domed like the paint work made it appear.
The details around the ceiling are a mix of white marble relief's and twisted gold designs that are breath taking to look at, even from the distance you are from them. The only box you can enter, is the royal box, placed squarely centre in the middle of the second floor and noted for having the best view of the stage.
The royal box is the most lavish of all of them for obvious reasons, it was meant to house the most illustrious of guests. The entire box unlike the others is draped in red velvet and outline with gold. In each corner on top large column's as if they are almost holding up the ceiling are cherub like statues each with a musical instrument in white marble. On both the left and the right walls opposite each other are two large mirrors. This creates the wonderful gallery affect, an infinity tunnel of reflection that not only make the box seem larger but reflect you again and again until you cannot see the end of it. Its quite a dazzling thing.

The main reason for including La Fenice on my tour of Venice was because I wanted Cassandra to go there. As a phoenix herself I thought it a very interesting idea to take her to a building that shares something in common with her. Describing the setting is going to be a challenge, as finding the words to bring justice to its decoration will be hard. I decided after just stepping into the box that it would be the one I seated them in. The sheer opulence of it screamed that vampires should sit in it to watch an opera. I closed my eyes and could see them there in the dark, enraptured by the performance. I got so many idea's for book eight just wandering around. I wanted more time in the box, I wanted to capture the very feeling of sitting there so I could accurately portray it later but the guards were very pushy, moving you on all the time because they thought you were trying to linger for nefarious reasons. Is planning to write a book nefarious?

Check back soon for more about my trip.

Two photo's (Glass Sculptures) taken by Sonnet O'Dell - copy right 2013

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