Posted by: jeanne | February 14, 2015

a night at the opera (sorry)

with all respect to the marx brothers, our night at the opera was nothing like theirs.

marie took us to musica a palazzo as her special treat, so we hired a babysitter as ours, and all went out for our first actual dinner in venice.  after being here for a month.

musica a palazzo is a real treat, because they perform an opera in very intimate surroundings, basically in your lap, and inside a palazzo, which is always cool.

but let’s start with dinner.

no, let’s start with the babysitter.  we asked our landlord for help in finding a babysitter, and passed this task off to his assistant, who consulted the agency, and made a recommendation.  at 15 euros an hour… but she was wonderful, showed up on our doorstep with a big bag of things to do, including giant bubbles, glow sticks, watercolors (not ours), and all sorts of kid things.  she had him out on the swings, they painted, they played all sorts of games until well after 9 in the evening.  and she loved him.  she even spoke italian with him, which is an achievement for a kid who says ciao with a southern accent.

we left the house at 5 and went down to santa maria del giglio on the vaporetto, then went to find dinner, because the doors didn’t open until 8.  marie was in venice last year with her mom, and after an epic hunt for somewhere to eat, they found this little restaurant around the corner from la fenice opera house.

i’ll summarize the epic story – marie’s mom had a foot operation sometime back, and was good to walk, but not for very long.  and there happened to be a vaporetto strike on, so instead of going from one site to another, they had to hoof it.  going along the streets was fine, going up the bridges was okay, coming down was hell.  and they had a rather ambitious itinerary, and followed it.  but around dinnertime, marie’s mom started to balk.  she wanted to eat.  totally cool.  but she wanted to eat cheap, and that’s hard to do in venice.  mostly the venetians stand at the bar and eat, because they charge (double) a cover charge if you sit at a table.  and finally marie had to say chose one, cheap or seat, and they ended up at this great little place that serves wonderful food and not too much of it, like they do at home where i can only eat a part of my meal and dine for two days off the to-go box.  here we cleaned our plates, even jim, who eats like a statue.

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they served marie and her mom a great wine, called geodoro, which was fruity, almost sweet, with bunches of body.  we had it, too.  she asked for it, and when i saw the look on her face, i ordered a glass, too.  marie had the lasagne, which was what her mom had last time, and it’s the best lasagne she’d ever had.  i had sea bass in a pepper sauce, jim had sole.  we had some veggies with it, grilled and melt in your mouth, and we also had dessert, tho jim opted for hot chocolate.  the restaurant is named vino vino, and it’s on calle vesta, right at the bridge over rio de la vesta.  all the other restaurants around were 20% more expensive, at least.

anyway, the food was wonderful, the restaurant was full of tourists, especially a large party that seemed to speak many languages, so i couldn’t be sure they weren’t german, but anyway, we left with half an hour to get to the palazzo, which with our map app was reliably nearby.  we ended up going down calle larga xxii marzo, the fancy shopping street, where we keep stopping by an art gallery that had competent, but possibly photoshopped tourist scenes of venice and carnival.  they read like photos, anyway.  we stopped to scorn, as artists will.

we had to wind our way down the side of a small canal and into a blind alley, where we waited with a bunch of other people for the doors to open.  we climbed up some nice marble stairs into the first floor (the ground floor is not the first floor) where we entered into the salon, where they had a quartet set up next to the big windows, a piano, 2 violins and a cello, or bass, i’m not sure.  it was mostly tourists, a good number oriental, and we all filed into folding chairs set up at the dark end of the salon.

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i was struck by the size of the room.

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in pictures i’ve seen of palazzo rooms, they’re cavernous, going on forever, dwarfing the furniture and humans inside.  but this was really intimate, almost small.  okay, the ceilings were 15′ high and the room went on for 50′, but it was all in scale, and therefore very intimate and cozy feeling.  it held 60 spectators with no problem.  did i mention the traditional venetian floor?

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the stage was the whole area, really, but mainly the open space between the seats and the quartet, and first one of the ticket takers went and opened a bottle of prosecco, and another one went and lit all the candles, and then the quartet played the introit to the opera, which was la traviatta, the plot of which, as marie put it, was a ho falls in love with a rich son, whose dad gets upset, and then she dies.  the same plot as camille, as many many other versions.  a happy story, really.

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the actors, singers, were a soprano – the girl, a tenor – the beau, and a baritone – the dad.  and they sang at full volume the whole time, as if we were in la fenice instead of somebody’s drawing room.

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a nice drawing room, really, built in the 14th century, with all sorts of inlaid wooden doors and handpainted frescos and amazing plasterwork on the walls, all sorts of antique furniture, and those 15′ ceilings.

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very cozy, as i mentioned.

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and the singers were competent, and very loud.  i couldn’t stop my ears, because that would have put them off their singing, but i did wish for a touch of deafness to temper the volume.

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the funny part of this tragedy of an opera was the quartet.  i don’t know if it’s just the italian way with music, but they were so animated, it was funny.  especially the leader – the pianist – who had such gestures, such airs, such enthusiasm for the music that if i go the next time i’m smuggling in the gopro and take pictures of him, especially during the third act, when the girl dies.  of course, you can mark this down to verdi, who was a bit histrionic with his orchestration, but the guy couldn’t have been more active in his seat if he were doing meth.

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anyway, the presentation did a great deal to improve my impression of opera, which until now has been distaste, based on my tenor/alto opinion of basses and sopranos.  and this opera had a soprano, but she wasn’t screechy, and a tenor, but he was way loud.  it was the setting, in our laps – handing the spectators glasses of wine, giving some of the men pats on the shoulder and rubs on the face (to show she was a ho, after all), as if we were all at the party with the actors.

they moved to a different room with each act, so we sat in the salon, a drawing room of some kind, and a bedroom, where the third act was.  i had a really good view of the quartet during the third act, and mainly watched them, because i don’t speak enough italian to catch the nuances of what they were singing about, and death scenes always tend to drag on in operas, like they finally run out of breath and just collapse.  all that volume will kill you.

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anyway, we enjoyed the hell out of it, and since we bought memberships rather than tickets (like dragoncon), we get to go back with whichever of our houseguests want to go see intimately presented opera.  they might all do, and that’ll give me the chance to film the orchestra…

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and the canals at night.  i’d never been out and around in venice at night, because we tend to go down with the sun, but venice turns even more magical at night.  we got home around 11, paid the babysitter and thanked her, and then fell into bed.  the next day, marie got up at 5 and went out to take pictures of costumes at san marco.  today we all went down, and i’ll have to post about that next.  hint:  connor was the hit of the morning.

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