I was recently in Venice...Thais
playing at the new/temporary La Fenice. I stayed at the same
hotel as last time. The old man has died, his children taken over,
but still a great place. Our local restaurant has been turned into
a boutique hotel, symbolic of what's happening to Venice, overtouristed
and overpriced to buggery, traffic jams on the canals as the package
tourists wait in line for their gondola rides, etc., etc.
St. Mark's Square is totally flooded at high tide, amazing...a big
tourist rip-off, Venice, but still unique and, most important, traffic-free!
I am currently in Palermo, Sicily. The Scarlatti Festival is on;
the faithful princess at the opera house. It's a superb production,
best seats are only 15 bucks, huge 19th-Century house with a stage
higher than it is wide, six (!) tiers PLUS a gallery on top of that.
Here we are in Palermo, conquered at various times by the Phoenecians,
the Carthaginians, the Normans, the Moors, the Spanish and now the
Hear the FREE 18th-Century music of world standard in 14th-Century
churches, weep at those falling cadences at the end of exquisite
recitatives, visit the opera house and see where Callas finally
starred in her own opera, donning her best party frock and throwing
herself off the balcony into the orchestra pit in protest of an
unfeeling world's lack of appreciation of her genius. Experience
the bizarre autumn weather, where the sirocco, the terrific, hot
wind from Africa, sweeps in at night, uprooting trees and toppling
Now in Morocco, Casablanca, once
the white but now the grimy, still full of fabulous 1920s and '30s
buildings, street system based on roundabouts and squares like Paris,
first night of Ramadan.
This morning found a coffeeshop open, discreet venetian blinds screening
the evil non-fasters (mostly old French Moroccans, probably Christians)
from the street, continental breakfast, hooray! so could survive
till meal at friend's place. He and I are flying to Rome this Friday
for three or four weeks of wandering, me to hit a few operas, he
to relax from the hot weather.
Casablanca, streets totally deserted at sundown as everyone heads
home to break the fast together with traditional soup and dates.
I speak fluent French, so I handle the black market
currency stuff for friend. Currency exchanges are run from deep
within the carpeted recesses of an up-market tourist souvenir shop
by a charming Muslim lady swathed in skirts and veils; it's like
performing criminal transactions with a nunillegal but squeaky
clean at the same time...very strange.
opera season is not like Vienna's, with different operas every night
of the week. From the November/December listings under operissimo.com,
in Italy you can only see a lot of operas by moving from town to
town, the faster you go, the more you see. I'm happy to travel like
this, but the friend likes to hardly move at all. Our styles are
very different; the result will be interesting. I want to see small
old houses.....still think La Fenice the most beautiful house I've
To be continued...