Hidden Palace Opera in Venice
Of all the places we visited in Italy, we were most unsure about Venice. With the gondolas, the serenading, the much-photographed pigeon squares, we worried that we knew too much about the city, that the endless onslaught of we tourists would have robbed the city of its natural charm.
We were wrong. The low-lying islands have survived much worse than rabid outsiders with rigid expectations. Where else can you ride a wooden commuter boat past 13th Century Basilicas, 16th Century Synagogues, Palazzo after Palazzo? We savoured the food, be it fresh fruit from a street market or a triple prawn dinner splurge at the stunning San Clemente Palace Hotel, a former monastery and ‘asylum’ on its own island.
One of the most unique experiences started with hesitant steps into an out-of-the-way dark alley. Musica A Palazzo was up some crooked stairs and into a beautiful, crumbly, Venetian Gothic mansion – a palace, actually. Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto, built in the 15th Century, has three halls looking out at the Grand Canal, and three looking at the Rio Zaguri.
Wandering room to room, we admired the heavy, pleated drapes, plush antique sofas, gilded chandeliers, and intricate stucco work of Carpoforo Mazzetti, aka Tencalla. Particularly striking were the ceilings, walls and overdoors adorned with paintings from Francesco Fontebasso, Jerome Mingozzi and Giovanni Batista Tiepolo, whose work we feature here.
The small group of us took our seats in the Portega, or central hall, waiting for the excerpts from La Traviata to begin. When Violetta emerged, the audience discovered that we were playing guests who would enjoy a toast with the courtesan before she met the high class Alfredo. When Violetta emerged, we also discovered that we were at the mercy of enormously talented Italian singers and musicians. These were top-notch professionals in a remarkably intimate setting.
After a prosecco break, we moved to the Sala Tiepolo for Violetta’s inner struggle before advancing to the bedroom for her death.
It felt wonderful to be be enveloped by the power of this uniquely Italian musical experience in such a gorgeous setting. On other nights, you can come to the Palazzo to be immersed in performances of Rigoletto or The Barber of Seville, as we see below.
Written by Elizabeth Newton
Rinaldo Enchanted by Armida. Giovanni Batista Tiepolo. 1742-45
The Glorification of the Giusetiniani Family. 1783