Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Henze, in his own words

Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012 - see below for a personal tribute), in his own words...
(from Music and Politics, Collected Writings 1953-1981)

My certainty lies in my wavering. My wavering is ambivalence about a world that has populated itself with people whose papers are all in order. is one meant to congratulate, to applaud them? (1957)

Art is constantly in danger and must incessantly be re-invented, to ward off the encroachment of mechanical processes. (1959)

Old forms, like classical ideals of beauty, seem to me no longer attainable, but they still may be seen in the distance; they stimulate memory, like dreams, but the path to them is filled with the great darkness of our age; this path to them is the most difficult and impossible. It seems to me the only folly worth living for. (1963)

I needed to be entirely alone, like a hermit, in order to find out what music represented for me, how it is tied to our existence, what its meaning might be, and what the cultural tasks might be for the composer in human society.

Music as speech: a discourse, a syntax, a means of communication and instruction.

Music is not musicology, and the logic of a work resets on a unique constellation of incident, encounter, experience, agreement; it transcends inherited rules, construction, calculation… illuminations and discoveries take place in dreams, not in the laboratory. Not, however, in a state of haziness, but in the wakefulness of sleepwalkers, where facts are perceived with abnormal clarity. (1964)

On Auden & Kallman’s libretto for The Bassarids, quoting Aurora Ciliberti:
Culture is for Auden not scholasticism, but a real knowledge of the facts; its core is faith; it is not something one wears like a piece of jewelry, but what makes a human being.

The charm and the fascination of the theatre lies precisely in the multitude of possibilities with which it can reflect life in ever new shapes and forms.

Fundamental human and existential problems give rise to music.

I have on occasion said that music drama interest me because for me music is a language that people have not yet mastered, and about which they do not yet know enough. Today [1975] there is a terrible danger, as people are bombarded with music everywhere they go, that this situation will harden into a kind of paralysis of the ear and the organs of sound perception. So instead of the human psyche and intellect being developed to understand music as a language – as a part of the sign-system of our civilization – there is a total idiotization, an impoverishment of the possibilities of perceiving the true meaning of musical signs. A major part of my efforts is concerned with communicating the language of music as such, and as a language that comes from the history of our civilization, that has an origin, a present and a past, and will have a future for which we, the composers, are responsible.

Forms in art are in fact also forms of behavior as between people – modes of communication… Art is living and essential only where it is involved with people’s needs and problems. (1975)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The "rich & strange" music of Thomas Adès...

On the occasion of the Met "Live in HD" broadcast of The Tempest
by Thomas Adès, here's a poem inspired by one of his orchestral works.

Simon Rattle paired Mahler's 5th Symphony with Adès' 4-movement symphonic tone poem
Asyla (the plural of Asylum) for his first program as the new director of the Berlin Philharmonic a decade ago. It's 3rd movement is a symphonic evocation of club music, and its title, Ecstasio is as rich a play on word as is Asyla.


III. what is this
sound coming

out of even
the stems

of these

and is
this ecstasio
palpably real

as Hamlet’s wound
or doubt
or disgust…

IV. so much

depends upon
a piano

tuned to another
key like

the crossed
purposes of
lovers or


or gods.

thing is


to find it.
(after Adès)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

In Memoriam: HWH: 1926-2012

In Memoriam: Hans Werner Henze, 1.VII.1926-27.X.2012

We just learned yesterday that one of our favorite composers - and one of the most vital, original and prolific composers of the last 60 years - Hans Werner Henze, died October 27 at age 86.

I met Maestro Henze at the US premiere by the New York Phil of his anti-fascist 9th Symphony, based on Anna Seghers searing novel, The Seventh Cross. He signed my study score of his 5th Symphony (written for Bernstein and the NYPO in the early '60's). We talked briefly about the importance of music like his - music that is full of humanity and consciousness; art that performs, enacts or enables the act of memory.

Excellent obituaries can be found online at the Guardian, Musical America and the NY Times. YouTube has an extensive Hans Werner Henze playlist, featuring excerpts from some of his 2-dozen operas, 10 symphonies, dozen ballets, and many of his hundreds of other vocal, chamber, choral and orchestral works. He was a visionary, an iconoclast and an eccentric, and his music reflects his character. He is at once a late romantic, an expressionist and impressionist, a member of the avant-garde and one of its scourges. Like his beloved Whitman, Henze contains multitudes. Below are some quotes from a book of his essays, followed by poetic tributes I penned in his honor.

The charm and the fascination of the theatre lies precisely in the multitude of possibilities with which it can reflect life in ever new shapes and forms.

Fundamental human and existential problems give rise to music.

I have on occasion said that music drama interest me because for me music is a language that people have not yet mastered, and about which they do not yet know enough. Today [1975] there is a terrible danger, as people are bombarded with music everywhere they go, that this situation will harden into a kind of paralysis of the ear and the organs of sound perception. So instead of the human psyche and intellect being developed to understand music as a language – as a part of the sign-system of our civilization – there is a total idiotization, an impoverishment of the possibilities of perceiving the true meaning of musical signs. A major part of my efforts is concerned with communicating the language of music as such, and as a language that comes from the history of our civilization, that has an origin, a present and a past, and will have a future for which we, the composers, are responsible.

Forms in art are in fact also forms of behavior as between people – modes of communication… Art is living and essential only where it is involved with people’s needs and problems.

(from Hans Werner Henze, Music and Politics, Collected Writings, 1953-1981, Faber)


I. You must be laughing with Selim and Suleika in the Spirit world,
As your disciples, devotees and lovers left behind mourn
Your passing and celebrate your prodigal gifts to music, art
And humanity. Thank you, Hans for singing such rich and strange
Songs across the tempestuous decades after the War. Your
Voice may echo only faintly in hardened quarters; it quavers
In between the heartstrings in the enchanted forest you
Composed to life, and it sings an ecstatic descant above the
Ravaged world over which you ranged, explored and excavated.

I owe you a large portion of my conscience, a hearty store of
Imagination and an ever-renewing source of inspiration from
Your polyphonic symphonies, your visionary operas, your sui generis
Concertos and evergreen ballets, the beautiful palette of your tone poems;
Songs, chorales and chamber works of floral intimacy and fluorescent
Luminosity. Your voice is missed already, but it will resound as long as
The bards hymn, the dancers fly and the singers soar ethereal…

II. With whom shall we commune in the dreamworld today, Hans?
Sebastian or Percy? Lady M or Jean G? Where is Rudi? Natasha?
The Cimarrón and the Pigs who should have drowned with the Medusa?
(Mustn’t hold the bitterness in the mouth; it sours the wine…)
Where are Peter and Ben? Chester and Wystan, Willie, Ingeborg, Christopher?
I haven’t heard your love letter to Fausto and I miss the Greyhounds almost as much
As you do. Persephone, Antigone, Orpheus! Selim, Suleika, Rimbaud and Walt!
Pentheus & Dionysus, Apollo & Hyacinth, Phaedra, Daphne, Manon!
The Prince and King Stag, the Young Lovers and the Hoopoe! The English Cat,
Undine and Fonteyn! Have they cut down the 7th Cross and censored your
Requiem? Fear not, we will dance like the Maenads and Dithyramb a storm for those
Whispers of the Heavenly Death. The West Wind will carry the intoxicating scent of
The Miracle of the Rose and only the fascists will be thrown in the Labyrinth.
We give Thanks you were not burned at the stake like Bruno for your
Praise to the Infinities. The Sicilian Muses and Neapolitan Songs and the ethereal
Cantata of the Ultimate Fable – Your beautiful eccentric life’s work, é vero?
We’re joining Aristaeus for the Barcarola with the Ferryman, singing
Nocturnes and Arias with abandon, Being Beauteous, Behind the Wire, like
Swann in Love with Tristan. Ciao, Caro. Bis bald.

Monday, October 8, 2012

To E.A.P on the anniversary of his death

In honor of Columbus day and the anniversary of the death of America's most original and visionary romantic, Edgar Allan Poe (d. Oct 7, 1849) here is a little ditty incorporating all of the titles of Poe's mature poems. It is dedicated to the young apprentice artists of Opera Roanoke. We began rehearsals yesterday for our upcoming Masques of Orpheus scenes program entitled "Tempests, Ghosts & Mad Queens." Edgar Allan himself will be the host of this ghoulish entertainment Nov 2 & 4 in Floyd and Roanoke, respectively.

To E.A.P on the anniversary of his death
(7.X.12 | Roanoke, VA)

What fantastic images of yore –
What haunted images of yours,
Edgar Allan shall we today conjure?

Shall we visit The Haunted Palace
“Ah, nevermore!” Serenade Ulalume, sing
To Helen or meet Annabel Lee in
Dream-Land by The City in the Sea that is
An Enigma tolling like “the tintinnabulation
that so musically wells” from The Bells
or the “double life” of Silence in The Valley of Unrest?

“I saw thee once” in A Dream Within a Dream
To One in Paradise - The Sleeper reads a twisted
Valentine of The Conqueror Worm
One of numberless unfinished Scenes from Politian
In The Coliseum, a Hymn from IsrafelTo My Mother
(in Eldorado) – ah, Lenore – or
To Helen, Eulalie, “blushing bride”
on the “Isola d’oro” when we fled
To Zante and sang our Bridal Ballad
For Annie, To F – S S. O – D, To F - -, To - -

Quoth The Raven: “Nevermore…”

N.B. The Italicized words are the titles of Poe’s poems;
the words in parentheses are quotations from them.
Very little in this so-called poem is therefore original. – H.L.M.

(Manet's illustration for Mallarme's French edition of "The Raven")

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Interpretation, or reading the lines & what is or is not between them…

16.IX.12/Roanoke (for James, on his birthday)

We call a hole a grave if we value what goes into it, a mine if we value what comes out.

The instrument at hand. (The instrument. The hand.)

No snide experiment. A broken filament like a pearl must be drawn from the lip of a bruised music.

from “What Is a Threnody” in Archicembalo by G. C. Waldrep (Tupelo, 2009)

Poetry and opera may be the two most “specialized” forms of “classical” art in human culture. Each inspires a cult-like devotion and a seemingly exclusive obsession among its practitioners, amateurs and patrons alike. To those ignorant or suspicious of poetry or opera, such ritual stylization may be an obstacle to the exploration of these rarified genres.

One of the signifiers and qualifiers of greatness is its ability to reward repeated readings, hearings or viewings. Shakespeare’s plays continue to enrich and enthrall – and even entertain – us as we spend more time with the Bard and his work. Cervantes rightly observed that Don Quixote should be read across the span of a lifetime. A young man might marvel at the adventures while one in mid-life will laugh at human folly and an old man will cry with recognition, regret and the compassion borne of wisdom.

At the risk of over-generalization we would submit the majority of great art – poetry, literature, music, theatre and the so-called “visual” or “plastic” arts of painting and sculpture – is “accessible,” approachable and immediate in its appeal.

Let’s examine this essay’s epigram above. G. C. Waldrep’s musical gamut of cryptic poetry is not as “hermetically sealed” as an initial reading might imply. Titles – like names – are important clues. That Wagner’s rootless sea-faring wanderer Der Fliegende Holländer (the Flying Dutchman) is known by a legendary title rather than a name is hugely significant to who he is. Likewise, Waldrep drops clues across the lily pads of his "leapfrogging" poems. A threnody is literally a song of lament (from the Greek threnoidiathrenos = lament; odia = ode). This is clue number one.

The first line from which we’ve drawn our epigram is an example of one of poetry’s sharpest blades: the proverb, aphorism or dictum. We call a hole a grave if we value what goes into it… One of the paradoxical parallels and contrasts between Wagner’s Dutchman and the romantic archetype of the “undead” (familiar in the trope of the Vampire) is found in their distinctive “crypts.” The vampire sleeps in a coffin, representing her earthly origins and the grave out of which she arises. The ghost pirate descends into the bosom of the sea itself. We are also intrigued by the frequency with which vampires in their coffins are transported by ship across the sea. This reinforces the parallels between the varying types of “undead” in romantic and gothic art…

Waldrep’s line, A broken filament like a pearl must be drawn from the lip of a bruised music is lyric poetry first – musical, melodic and possessed of a sensuous beauty that is best appreciated by being recited aloud. Like opera, its physical sound alone is central to whatever its “meaning” or “interpretation” is. The poetic sentence is bookended by adjectives of vulnerability – broken, bruised – which evoke a wound that may be both real and symbolic. Both readings reinforce the lamenting song of the poem's title.

We believe many potential lovers of poetry and music – the oldest forms of art we know, predating the drawings which among other activities depict music making – get stuck in a quicksand of the imagination. The false myth that these forms require advanced degrees and a specialized knowledge to be enjoyed persists. One may prefer “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” to Waldrep’s verbal and musical experiments, but to dismiss poetry as an opaque or difficult or nonsensical genre says far more about the ignorance of a would-be amateur afraid of an unfamiliar genre than it does about the qualitative differences between traditional sonnets and modern verse. Likewise, the number of potential opera patrons who have never experienced a great opera live yet maintain they “don’t like opera” will always confound us even if it has ceased to surprise.

The Flying Dutchman is an example of a great opera around which much false myth stubbornly clings like kudzu preventing many an eye from appreciating the beautiful details that have always been present. One 19th century conductor said the wind from Wagner’s romantic seafaring adventure story whips one in the face every time one opens the score. Indeed, its defining motive – the mirror inversion of the arresting leap with which Beethoven launches his great 9th Symphony (the “Ode to Joy”) – will be familiar to not only opera lovers but to anyone who’s listened to Bugs Bunny’s and Elmer Fudd’s hilarious operatic send up, “What’s Opera Doc.” (Yes, it’s on YouTube. The 4’ minute “music video” features a pastiche of Wagner from The Flying Dutchman to Die Walküre, Siegfried, Tannhaüser and back again…)

Let us conclude with another demystifying clarification we may later explore in more depth. The plots of operas are frequently fantastic and require the same willing suspension of disbelief necessary to appreciate many works of fiction in media as varied as film, theatre, television and all kinds of literature. As the scholar Robert Donington puts it, “it is the opera we are enjoying and not just the music.” Wagner was among the first composers of music drama to refer to his written scenario as a poem (an operatic libretto is like a script or a screenplay). The Flying Dutchman was his first masterpiece and major success. It was the operatic ship that launched an extraordinary and endlessly fascinating body of work. This singular marriage of poetry and music in the theatrical medium of opera is among the most immediate and most powerful of artistic media human creativity has imagined.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mythical thrillers, parable art & serious entertainment...

I have been writing about Wagner and The Flying Dutchman on my opera blog. This is a more philosophical essay about serious music, referencing Wagner and his "parable art" music dramas rich in mythological content and meaning.

A mythical tale is a thriller of intelligibility. – Pier Paolo Pasolini

A general misconception about Romanticism is that it is about feelings of romance… It is a radical state of being at odds with the world. – V. Jurowski

Mortuos plango, vivos voco [I lament the dead, I call the living]. – J. Harvey

There must always be two kinds of art: escape-art, for man needs escape as he needs food and deep sleep, and parable-art, that art which shall teach man to unlearn hatred and learn love. – W.H. Auden

Auden’s 1935 assessment of the needs for our cultural diet has become more potent with the passing of the subsequent seven decades. A poet, librettist, critic, philosopher, Anglican and activist, Auden was one of the 20th century’s most important voices. A “Renaissance man” polymath, Auden could be breezy and profound, witty and serious at once. A deep thinker and engaged citizen, he maintained a lyrical style that was against the grain of the modernist avant-garde. Impossible to pigeonhole, he was an iconoclast and independent working from within the “ivory tower” of academia. As a member of the academy he was well positioned to challenge its propensity towards myopia. A near-sighted interest in self-preservation prevents individuals and organizations from opening to their full potentials. The infamous seven deadly words – “we’ve never done it that way before” epitomizes a close-mindedness that will always struggle in the quicksand of fear. This anxiety about the unfamiliar is a wall as high as Rapunzel’s tower. It keeps many a system or institution closed. And it prevents a broader audience from experiencing many a genius and great work.

Great art – serious art – parable art – “high” or “classical” art is always at some level against the grain. It challenges an establishment that usually prefers escape to depth and chooses “easy listening” over anything that hints of the difficult. This is why “deep” poets like Rilke remind us – not without a sense of urgency and passionate intensity - “that we must hold to what is difficult.” When he writes, “You must change your life,” the poet is naming a place where meaning is found. Growth does not occur without “growing pains.” Challenges, obstacles, problems, conflicts and tensions contain the seeds of possibility and newness. Why does our so-called “culture” run the other way to distraction, diversion, “safety” and the bland anesthesia of the comfortable and familiar? And why do we passionate romantics get so worked up about it?

We shall try to cease the Sunday sermonizing and take up the theme of that “thriller of intelligibility” Pasolini found in myth. This leitmotif is one serious artists have translated in various media across the ages. We believe opera is the most complete medium in which to find this engaging – and entertaining – depth. Opera has nurtured an intimate connection with myth and “parable art” across its 400+ years of existence. We have recently quoted on more than one occasion from the poet & librettist Dana Gioia’s excellent essay “Sotto Voce” (an epilogue in the Graywolf Press edition of his libretto for the contemporary gothic opera, Nosferatu). Gioia summarizes opera’s unique power. Opera lovers who have not thought analytically about why they respond so viscerally to their beloved art form smile, nod and verbalize affirmation after hearing Gioia’s insights.

Opera demands intense lyric compression… What opera excels at is presenting peak moments of human emotion… Better perhaps than any other art form, it can represent the full emotional intensity of a specific moment… (p. 72)

This compression – like any concentrated form of energy – packs a punch. And that “emotional intensity” triggers a response from the receptive participant. I started to write “listener,” but the totality that is opera – music and poetry, story and stagecraft and more – makes it unique. Wagner wanted to create “music dramas” in the mold he saw as the ultimate and essential form, the Gesamtkunstwerk – the “total work of art.” One of Opera Roanoke’s current tag lines is: Hear the Drama. See the Music. The other is Opera: Life with a melody. Both capture these essential qualities of opera’s totalizing and “larger than life” power that is at once “over the top.”

As the poet William Meredith rhetorically asks,
Isn’t this how we’ve always longed to talk?
Words as they fall are monotone and bloodless
But they yearn to take the risk these noises take.
(from About Opera)

Back to Gioia: Opera tends to explore the extremes of human experience, especially the limits of suffering. Tragic opera remains the only theatrical form still unabashedly committed to Aristotle’s notion of emotional catharsis through pity and terror (p. 73).

Wagner’s operas are the epitome of this ideal. Indeed, he is the only non-Italian in the list of 19th century “romantic” greats Gioia names as the operatic equivalents of “Sophocles’ Athens or Shakespeare’s London.” Again, I find Gioia’s pronouncements right on target. One of the highest compliments we pay an opera is to call a role and / or performance “Shakespearean.” The two composers most often awarded such acclaim are Verdi and Wagner. Through that “special lyric intensity” and by exploring those “extremes of human experience” opera is both “larger than life” and true to it. The artist’s ability to represent or recreate, to translate or “express” a particularly human state of mind, heart or being is what makes art the highest form of human creativity (this recognition might give us pause to consider the place of the artist in society, but that is another book).

Wagner’s successor in German opera was Richard Strauss. Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal created some of the 20th century’s greatest music dramas of timeless myth with Salome, Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow). Writing of Hofmannsthal, Gioia cites the poet’s task…was to create ‘the myth of our time.’ Opera in particular fascinated him with its expressive power and ritualized action.

I am no longer surprised when I learn that a prospective patron who claims to not like opera has never attended one. Many liken opera to an “acquired taste” – which, like coffee, “ethnic” cuisine or certain sports may be just that (for some). I was struck as if by a lightning bolt the first time I heard an “opera singer” live and up close. It affected me immediately and has not relaxed its grip on my imagination. Nor has it ceased to touch my heart, and with its magical charms it continues to penetrate the very core of my being. I have always responded to the grand dramas and lyric tragedies of every type of stage. Comedy is escape art which I enjoy as an occasional break from my preferred diet of meaning and substance, poetry, philosophy and the melancholy beauty of antiquity, the Renaissance, the Romantics and their modern day bards and translators.

Like Gioia, I believe “music can make fantasy and myth, symbolism and expressionism credible.” And not only “accessible” but palpably real and immediately appealing. The “thriller of intelligibility” that great myths, tales, fables and legends are drives opera and gives this most original of “mash up” art forms staying power. But if it were “only” this ability to make symbols and archetypes intelligible – as “period” dramas and “epic” films also attempt – the genre’s appeal would be more limited. I believe all music has a spiritual value. The creative act itself is an affirmation of life and the human spirit. Even the darkest of tragedies arises from this affirmative source of creativity.

One of music’s primary themes is the cycle of renewal. So many musical forms – from theme & variation to sonata form, song or “bar” form to the rondo – enact this very cycle of regeneration. Whether interpreted as rebirth or a symbol of resurrection, this eternally returning cycle is at the heart of epic trilogies and tragedies. It enlivens the symphonic repertoire and has always been a leitmotif of grand opera. And no composer enacted this cycle of life, death and rebirth – or curse and redemption – more so than Richard Wagner.

Wagner recast the sacrificial death of the martyr – most familiar to Western audiences in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus – as the Liebestod or love-death. As we have noted in other essays about Wagner, the Liebestod most famously occurs in Tristan und Isolde and in Brünnhilde’s immolation in Götterdämmerung, the final chapter in Wagner’s epic Ring of the Nibelungs, one of the crowning achievements of Western civilization. The road to Wagner’s Ring begins in earnest with Der Fliegende Holländer. The Dutchman’s & Senta’s love is a doomed one; they meet in death as Senta throws herself into the same waves the ghost ship and her captain have entered. We do not see this dark love’s consummation on stage, but we hear their belated union in the music as the opera’s themes meet and resolve in radiant harmony. This is romantic opera at its most gripping, a thriller of intelligibility and a myth for all time.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mediterranean Serenade: photo journals of our recital tour

Morning in Rome at the Pyramid and the cemetery Acatolico ("Non-Catholic" or the so-called "Protestant" cemetery, where Shelley & Keats are buried...)

Shelley's tomb, quoting Shakespeare's Mediterranean "enchanted Island" adventure, the Tempest...

The imposing statue of Mazzini, whose style of beard was most famously worn by Verdi...

An aptly named restaurant at Naxos Bay, Sicily, just beyond the famed Strait of Messina, where Odysseus, Aeneas and the ancient heroes sailed between the original "rock and a hard place," the sirens turned sea monsters Scylla & Charybdis...

A plaque commemorating the great Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio in the world heritage site of the Trulli village of Alberobello...

St Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the only Trulli-style church in the world (and a reminder of one of our favorite Mahler songs, "Antony of Padua's Sermon to the Fishes")

Approaching Kotor, Montenegro, site of our first recital ashore...

The ever-present Lion, reminder of Venice's reach across much of the Mediterranean...

The Medieval church in Kotor, founded in the year 809, host of our recital...

Incomparable beauty in an amazing sacred space...

Happy after serenading a gracious audience of fellow travelers and guests in the packed sanctuary...

On Amy's birthday in Dubrovnik - the port Byron called the "pearl of the Adriatic" we enjoy the beautiful harbor and ships that could fit a Flying Dutchman set!

A perfect sunset preceding a birthday dinner...

Our favorite destination on our tour, the beautiful Croatian island of Korcula

Natural wonders abound...

Final day of the tour: recital at the Teatro Tartini in the hometown of the great Baroque virtuoso violinist & composer, Giuseppe Tartini

Inside the gorgeous theatre...

And outside around Tartini square...

Singing makes one thirsty...

(There be pirate flags here?!?)

Buon viaggio...

Travel pictures: photo journal of Venice...

Travel journals: pictures from Venice

(outside the Eurostar hotel Cannaregio)

(the most poetic bridges in the world)

a reminder of our favorite Italian director, the man who "made" Callas...

(one of many sobering memorials around the Jewish ghetto)

with the photographer Paolo Renier in front of one of his images from the Egyptian ruins at Abydos in the Scuola Grande of S. Giovanni Evangelista

Amy, bringing some class to the Ponte de le Tette (the "Bridge of Tits," so-called because the Venetian ladies of the night gathered in this quiet corner around the corner from a nobleman's palazzo...)

Tintoretto's church, Madonna dell'Orto, where Judas is included among the 12 disciples in the facade of the Gothic cathedral (and a legend says one of the 30 silver pieces is with him...)

Amy, outside Tintoretto's house

Tintoretto's workshop, a thriving art center where painters still practice their art

The "House of Spirits" on the lagoon, where Venetian legends say the spirit world comes alive in the air at night...

The facade of the hospital, in the neighborhood where the ghosts of Doges haunt the alleys and where Vivaldi lived and worked...

Along the side of the hospital, the fleet of Venetian ambulances: yellow boats...

One of a series of statues commemorating three brothers cursed for their treacherous treatment of a Venetian woman... It is said that one pure of heart can feel the heart beat inside the statue of the third brother.

The deathly hallows in the cemetery of Venice, the epitome of the "Isle of the Dead," Isola San Michele, final resting place of Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Tiepolo, Ezra Pound, Joseph Brodsky & Luigi Nono...

One of the watch-keepers of San Michele...

The cloisters of the church on the island cemetery...

From the pizzeria across the lagoon from San Michele...

The brick heart tucked away behind a sottoportego, commemorating the mermaid Melusina and her love for a young Venetian fisherman...

The bust of Vivaldi and the certificate of not only his baptism but also the exorcism the priest performed on the tortured infant...

One of the countless "lions of Venice" but the three at the Arsenal, according to Venetian myth, came to life because of an ancient curse (a century or two after Dante's Inferno referenced the Naval port...)

Verdi and Wagner standing guard in the public gardens near the Venice Biennale pavilions...

The awesome statue of Giosue Carducci, Italy's first Nobel poet, an iconoclast against the grain...

More shadowy figures, reminders of Venetian mysteries and the palpable spirits in the air and over the water...

Along the Grand Canal as the gloaming heralds another magical Venetian twilight...

The most striking modern bridge, by Calatrava...its rib-like structure honoring Venice's heritage as a center for shipbuilding and design...

A marker of Wagner's Venetian residence, ironically enough it is now the Casino of Venice...

A glimpse of the famous Rialto bridge...

...and Byron's house, just around a bend in the canal from Wagner's...

Ah, Venezia...


Leone di San Marco...

Notte in La Serenissima