Venice, 7 February 2011

Finally I’ve spent a few days “at home”… At home being Venice, where otherwise some of my clothes and books live full time. Winter in Venice is a special time. My favorite, I think. Lots of shops and cafés are closed of course, but there is this fantastic calm and relief that settles over the city, within and without.

On my second night here, I was walking the dog down the Zattere around to Salute at about 11.30PM. The sky was clear and starlit and the streets were empty except for a couple of loners clearly on their way home. I had a strange but familiar feeling in my bones as my shoes settled more firmly into the stones underfoot. I am always aware when in Venice, of the age and history of the buildings and streets. You can’t escape the experience of being one of many generations that have inhabited the place.
But the thought that hit me was one that made sense of my feeling of comfort in this relatively foreign city. Given the amount of time (or lack thereof) that I have spent here, it seems I shouldn’t feel this much a part of it — or have it feel this much a part of me.
The thought was that Venice in the winter is like a dark theater. Everybody who is there has a job to do, belongs there, “owns” it in one way or another, and everybody savors the calm of the off-hours, the purpose of which is eventually to put on a great show. Audiences come and go, and we appreciate them for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that they keep the city alive. And, to anyone who has worked in a theater, there is this very special feeling once you have become part of it. It is as if the place itself, the stones, the floorboards, the doors, the feeling and sound of a door handle as you turn it, the stairs – they all know something about you. It’s as if your innermost secrets and dreams, the ones you don’t breathe a word about in daylight hours, have a home in a dark theater. In a dark theater there is always the hope of magic, and the hopeful planning for it. It doesn’t happen often, but it is the very reason people buy tickets to a show — they’re hoping for that one in a thousand nights when everything aligns and sparks fly and for a fleeting moment, that place and that moment seem like the very reason all of us exist. The very reason we live through so many “other” kinds of moments and places.

Venice always holds that promise, I think. Why else would it attract all those newlyweds and couples trying to put love back together again? Why else the revelers during Carnivale? It isn’t the food (go to Bologna or Toscana!)… It isn’t the hotels or the low prices…(!!) And as cynical as this might sound, an awful lot of the tourists really aren’t there to see the art or the architecture.

I believe it is the promise of magic!

I’m realizing I am probably a little bit of a magic-junkie. I have given my life to a career in the theater; I “live” in Venice; and I am still, maybe more by compulsion than will, holding out for a partnership that has both substance and… yes, you guessed it, magic!

Sometimes the Universe gives you one of those moments — A moment when energies align, miraculous and ingenious individuals show up to partner with you, you grow into something better than you thought you might, people around you seem to “get it” and they show their appreciation…

Singing Tosca with Kirill Petrenko conducting is one of those times.

Magic — in the theater… and for my little junkie alter ego too!