CARNIVAL, THE CITY’S ANCIENT SPIRIT

The Republic of Venice was often described throughout its long history also due to its many festivals, which made up an active part of its cultural heritage. They have often been described in detail and with curiosity, both in reports by foreign travellers and in artworks by painters and engravers, which may now be admired among the collections at the Correr and the Ca’ Rezzonico museums, and at the Querini Stampalia Picture Gallery.

Carnival is undoubtedly the most famous among them, and the one that used to last most: from the day of Saint Stephen or Boxing Day, up to Ash Wednesday, it embodied the highest expression of freedom and provocation, during which everybody, absolutely everybody, from high prelates to the Doge, to the populace, used to go around in disguise wearing the tabarro cloak and the bauta mask, a disguise which was granted even to the women since 1756.

Everybody was both a spectator and an actor within a location which, more than any others, represented a perfect stage. Its squares, framed by houses like theatrical wings, the Grand Canal, flanked by lavish palaces hosting balls and parties, the spectacular Piazza and its vast water-basin reflecting majestic architecture, everything in town morphed into a performance. 

A lot changed over time, and Carnival was forgotten for almost two centuries. 

What remains today is the timeless allure of a city where anybody may still feel immersed within that ancient spirit of involvement, and where everybody, without any distinctions at all, may play and have fun, thus breaking free… from day-to-day masks. 

Waiting for Carnival…

What will Carnival be like this year? That is the question many are asking themselves. 

Of course, it will not feature the format which many know about, with full-immersion crowds in Saint Mark’s Square, but it will not however be last year’s one, sadly cancelled due to the pandemic.

So how will it be then? What will its formula be during a period which, despite its first signs of optimism, stays bound to due precautions?

The mayor and the city are at work to send out an important signal, about the festivity taking place in any case.

One thing is certain, there will not be any major events at Saint Mark’s, the traditional Marys’ Procession will not take place, and neither will the Venetian fête on water along the Cannaregio canal. 

Starting from 12 February until 1st March there will instead be lots of small scenic spaces where it will be possible to watch shows, snippets of Commedia dell’Arte and music performances, within the suggestive setting of certain squares.

Naturally, it will be possible to wander around in fancy-dress and to take part in a competition, the one for the “Most beautiful costume”, going online this year, and supported by a scenic machine in the Piazza.

Parties are among the Venetian Carnival’s signature aspects: from the private ones inside the palaces to the ones in the hotels, up to the appealing Dinner-shows at the Casino set up inside the sumptuous halls at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi. 

Those too will be subject to some changes and to particular care (a Green Pass will be needed and probably it will not be possible to dance) but… they shall happen.

Lastly, a calendar is being prepared for evening events inside the museums, to flank the ones for the theatres, plus a double show on water inside the Arsenal.

We shall offer a full space for those dates on our website pages www.unospitedivenezia.it and within the “Carnival Special”, as featured in the following pages, plus the entire programme which will be announced a few days before the event.

In addition to the possibility of downloading the event calendar, tickets may be purchased on the website for parties and events in the programme.

One thing is certain: it will not be a Carnival the way everyone knows it, but it will still be a fête, above all, once more, it will be… the Venice Carnival.

We have mentioned Carnival, but the city’s offering goes even further.

Its extensive museum heritage (we are listing the details of practically all the museums in town within one section) is accompanied by the showcasing scenario offered by the art exhibitions. Within this ambit, it is inevitable to recommend the exhibition which best represents the city, Venice 1600, births and rebirths, organised by the City Museums for the occasion of the 1600th anniversary of the foundation of Venice at Ducale Palace.

This exhibition is flanked by other ones (please check the specific section). However, as regards glass and design, we should like to point out Wirkkala and Zuccheri for Venini at the Rooms of Glass; the one on Giampaolo Babetto, a well-known exponent of goldsmithing, inside the splendid church of San Giorgio Maggiore; the one on British sculptor Tony Cragg, laid out in the venues at the Museum of Glass; the retrospective on Ernani Costantini at Palazzetto Tito; the special layout for Baselitz at Palazzo Grimani; photographer Claudio Gobbi at the Oriental museum; and finally, the one dedicated to Romano Barbaro and his well-known art restaurant, at the Querini Stampalia.

Then there are shows, enriched this month by the programmes at La Fenice Theatre and at the Carlo Goldoni Resident Theatre. The first is presenting a series of concerts for the Musikamera cycle and a concert for Veneto Jazz, at the Apollonian rooms; symphonic concerts conducted by Riccardo Forza and Francesco Lanzillotta; a pop music concert by Roman singer and songwriter Claudio Baglioni at the Malibran Theatre; plus an unprecedented musical version drawn from the famous Le Baruffe chiozziotte play by Carlo Goldoni. The second will offer four productions to the public, three of them in original language. 

All accompanied by concerts inside churches and palaces too, and as regards the Biennale, a series of vintage screenings for “Classics beyond the Festival” at the Rossini Cinema and its traditional Kids’ Carnival at Ca’ Giustinian.

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