Parlando: The COC Blog

8/26/2010

Where In Venice is Death In Venice?

Death in Venice is set, of course, in Venice, and the title alone is enough to conjure up lots of imagery: the Piazza San Marco teeming with pigeons; ornate, arching facades; lavish restaurants and casinos; murky and mysterious canals. Yoshi Oida's production doesn't attempt to recreate La Serenissima in a realistic way, however. A pool of water, a brick wall, wooden boards, and video projections will be used to suggest, rather than reconstruct, the famous scenery. Even so, the locations of Venice are a haunting presence in this story.
 
The majority of the action takes place on the Lido, a long and narrow sandbank separating Venice from the Adriatic Sea. Around the turn of the 20th century it became a popular beach resort, but until that time it was largely undeveloped. Crossing from the Lido to the city of Venice is a ten-minute ride today on a vaporetto (waterbus), although Aschenbach is taken there early in the opera by the Old Gondolier. The Lido itself is full of public and private beaches, including the beach where the titular death takes place. The island has also long been home to the Venice film festival, founded in 1932 and held every year in late summer.  
 

Also on the Lido is the Grand Hotel des Bains, the famous luxury hotel where Aschenbach spends his final days. The hotel was built in 1900 and attracted a star clientèle, but 110 years later its days of playing host to film stars and tourists have come to an end. The hotel has been closed, and the building is now being converted into luxury apartments for sale and rent.

Aschenbach and the Polish Family also visit the city of Venice, including what might be its most famous attraction, the Basilica di San Marco. But the opera can hardly be described as an inducement to tourists to visit the famous city - everywhere Aschenbach detects the scent of disease, even at the famous Basilica. "Incense and sickness mingle in the air," he sings, while observing the Polish family at their prayers. Even so, Aschenbach is overtaken by its beauty. When preparing to leave the city, he sings:

"Shall I never see these columns rise again?
Never see the marble brows
upon each curving bridge?
O Serenissima!
Why did I yield so quickly to my fears?"

Photo via flickr user asw909.

Posted by Cecily Carver / in 2010/2011 / comments (5) / permalink

Kat (8/26/2010 4:49:00 PM)
Lovely evocation of the opera! Thank-you!
Cecily (8/26/2010 5:03:00 PM)
Kat: Glad you enjoyed it! It will be interesting to compare the mood of the opera with that of the real-life Venice.
Gale Martin (8/27/2010 8:31:00 AM)
Very interesting piece. Loved the photo--so massive, grand. So, you've been to Venice then?
Cecily (8/27/2010 8:56:00 AM)
Gale: Yes, I have been to Venice, but only for a day and a half. Did most of the standard tourist activities, and found it to be very beautiful but strange. How about you?
Gianmarco (8/31/2010 10:38:00 AM)
The Lido in the off-season is a very mysterious, almost bleak kind of place. I've sat on the beach there in April, with absolutely no one around, and a chilly wind blowing. You could certainly understand how in those circumstances, one might be tempted to contemplate the meaning of life in a serious way!

Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001