Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Theatre of Venice



(Venezia by J.M.W. Turner. Source: Google image)


(Photos taken on the boat)

It's my first time in Venice. Before the visit, the city for me is nothing but Turner's painting and Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. Together, it's all the floating fabulousness, or "half fairy tale and half tourist trap," as Mann called.

To better understand this magnificent city, I should have done more research before the visit. But it's almost impossible given my tight schedule and short stay in Venice. However, without much ex-ante knowledge and opinions, I can touch Venice in a directly sensual way. My overall impression is that Venice is a grand theatre.   

Please take your seats. In this play, Venice assumes a dual role. There is Venice the city where people live and Venice the city tourists visit. "Lighting, sets, and costumes are so beautiful the heart aches, but the plot is full of confusion, the ending uncertain. One thing is certain: Everyone is madly in love with the title character." (Cathy Newman, National Geographic)

Really, it is a huge theater. The city is flooded with tourists. In 2007, the number of Venetian residents is 60,000 whereas the number of visitors is 21 million. I haven't seen such a high intensity of tourists in any other place. Demographers predict that by 2030, there won't be a single full-time Venetian resident left. The city that was once an anchor of the 19th-century Grand Tour is at serious risk of becoming an empty façade with as much life as a Venetian carnival mask.

So how do you avoid feeling ripped off?

Here are some quiet moments I want to share with you.


As well captured in Turner's paintings, Venice (Venezia) is a city with luminous atmosphere and dreamlike ambiance. The gondolas by the riverside, are young bridegrooms in the setting sun. Their reflections on the shimmering waves  always linger in my heart.



Venice has more than its fair share of world-class churches, squares and museums, and though St Mark's and the Doge's Palace et al are obviously worth a gander, for me the labyrinth of medieval alleyways and canals is what makes the city so special. Getting lost among it all (a small square here, another beautiful bridge there), and snatching the odd moment of solitude, is hopelessly romantic.




There are so many different ways to combine the details as to make infinite the possibilities of how to read one place, one floor, one palazzo...




--- 卞之琳·《断章》

When you watch the scenery from the bridge, the sightseer watches you from the balcony.

The bright moon adorns your window, while you adorn another’s dream.

So what role will you play in the theatre of Venice?


Photographed by Jennie Bai.
Copyright ©Jennie Bai. All Rights Reserved.

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