Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Peek Inside La Fenice's Sale Apollinee

Your faintly intrepid reporter listens at the door to Brahms' Sonata op. 78
I'm embarrassed to admit that I showed up late for last night's inaugural performance of the concert series Scenari della Lontananza, dedicated to Ca Foscari's Giovanni Morelli and inspired by his book of the same title on 20th-century music. The ticket office at La Fenice had closed a good 20 minutes before I arrived and the only reason I managed to get in was because admission to last night's performance was free to all Veneziani and I was able to flash my resident's card in lieu of a ticket.

I arrived at the start of the second movement of Brahms' Violin Sonata no. 1, performed by the 21-year-old wunderkind Davide de Ascaniis and, on piano, Daniele Rinaldo. I'd missed the opening movement, designated Vivace, which was probably just as well as having rushed to get to La Fenice I was feeling vivace enough already.

The large double doors into the performance space of the Sale Apollinee--into which I'd never been before--were firmly closed. I ducked into a door before and off to one side of them, from which I'd clearly heard music, and found myself in a large mirrored room awash in gold flowered wallpaper, gilt trim, chandeliers, wall sconces--and music. I hadn't heard live music of any sort for months and suddenly it was like I'd dropped into an ocean of it.

And I had it entirely to myself.

For there, just a few feet from me on the other side of double doors, were the performers on stage, while on my side of the double doors there were only the most docile of quadripeds: side chairs and settees.

I knew I probably wasn't supposed to be in that room, but I reminded myself, "This is Italy. At Carnegie Hall I'd probably be arrested for wandering into someplace I didn't belong and charged with terrorist activity, but here I'm hardly worthy of my resident card if I'm too timid to regard a door ajar and the sound of so much beauty as anything less than an invitation."

But did I dare go right up close to the door to listen and watch? The musicians' backs were too me, but what if the page-turner saw me?

Well, it was during Brahms' searching Adagio that I realized fully how much one's enjoyment of classical music can benefit from a certain illicitness.

Seated in the institutionalized propriety of, say, La Fenice or Carnegie Hall, it's impossible to believe that The Rite of Spring could ever have caused anything like a riot. But up close, by yourself, lurking someplace where you're probably not supposed to be and where no one can see you, the music reaches you with a renewed immediacy.

Or at least, it did me. Perhaps the immediacy is always there for those who are knowledgeable about music as I am not. But I wonder if even folks like those wouldn't like sometimes to be free to do whatever they like while listening to a live performance: lie on their backs on the stage, pace the aisles of the auditorium...?

I didn't lie on my back in my large private listening room, but by the Allegro molto moderato I did find it quite enjoyable to be able to walk around as I liked, closer or further from the performers as I was moved to.

But at the end of the Brahms, succumbing to a sense of propriety nevertheless, I thought it best to enter the main sala and take a regular seat along with what turned out to be almost a packed house.

The works by Fano, Szymanowski, and Franck that followed, as well as two truly spirited encores by De Ascaniis and Rinaldo, were marvelous--though my experience of them, from the back of the approximately 170 seat auditorium, was not quite the same.

But it turns out I happened to leave what I'd come to think of as my own private sala at just the right time as, in reality, "my sala" turned out to actually be the backstage of the performers, who retreated to it at the end of each piece.

The schedule of the Scenari della Lontananza concert series appears below the photo.

The relatively intimate space of La Fenice's Sale Apollinee
5 May: Alessandra Ammara, piano

31 May: Roberta Canzian, soprano
               Roberto Bertuzzi, piano

10 June: Roberto Prosseda, piano

15 June: Rocco Filippini, violincello
              Andrea Bacchetti, piano

Tickets are 15 euro (10 euro reduced), and a complete program of works to be performed may be found at:


  1. "Faintly Intrepid Reporter" no longer fits you. I think you have graduated to Yvonne's status of a full fledged IR. Not only were you late and breezed on in, you were in a room where you did not belong AND managed to take some great photos!

    Well done Sig. IR!

    I really enjoyed the tour of La Fenice. Well worth the time and €.

    1. I'm flattered to be thought of as anywhere near as Intrepid as Yvonne! Now if I can only approach her in terms of Indefatigable Reporter... I have a ways to go.

      I've often wondered about that tour, but never followed up on it. It sounds like maybe I should.

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  3. Welcome to the wonderful world of the IR, Siggie! What an absolutely exquisite experience you had; I am wildly jealous, but since it's you, good on ya!

    The admission price for the concerts is unbelievably reasonable.

    So, where to next, Sig. IR???

    1. I guess there are sometimes entirely unmerited rewards to running behind schedule. (Though I guess not for those electricians who, running behind their own work schedule, may or may not have burned down La Fenice in '96.)

      Yes, I thought the price was not bad at all for what looks to be a very interesting series. The 1st performance was certainly enjoyable.

      As for where next? Chissa? America's Cup is in town, but I'm sure other bloggers will have a lot more interesting things to say about that than I do. I'm happy to learn about it from them.