Venice: city of music


During my holiday in Venice, I had hoped to go to the opera. I’d followed the fortunes of the La Fenice opera house since my teenage days when Italian opera was one of my ruling passions. Sadly, as usual, my Italian trip just managed to miss the opera session.

Luckily though, I noticed a poster advertising an orchestral concert at the opera house with the La Fenice orchestra billed eye catchingly as a “concerto straordinario.” It was, indeed, extraordinary – a Tchaikovsky night with three of his most well-known works. You can’t get more of a Tchaikovsky night than this: 1812 Overture, First Piano Concerto and the Pathetique Symphony. I was a teenaged Tchaikovsky snob and I would never have bought a ticket for a Tchaikovsky Night in those days. I have mellowed over the years and now I think the 1812 Overture is exciting  fun and that the First Piano Concerto and the Pathetique are truly great masterpieces on the classical repertoire. All together in one programme it was a wonderful way of reassessing the great Russian – especially as his music was played with such operatic Italian vroom.

I say Italian because the orchestra and the conductor were as Italian as you get but the pianist was the young Chinese prodigee, Chen Guang. The twenty-year old made a brave and exciting go of the piano concerto with a lot of noise in the right places but a lovely silvery tone when Tchaikovsky wants to melt our hearts. I wish him well.


Chen Guang

The conductor, Alberto Veronesi, is a man of passionate extremes and he took the orchestra on a perilous journey where fast meant very fast indeed and where slow was all about the longest of long legato lines. Sometimes, he was asking too much of his band or was it that he sometimes forgot that conducting isn’t all about about feeling the music, it is also about giving the orchestra the beat? He was always fun to watch especially when in the 1812 Overture‘s most dramatic  climax when his feet literally left the ground in his enthusiasm. I felt for the orchestra though and realised why one of the violinists crossed himself and winked before starting the Pathetique.


Alberto Veronesi


For me, the star of the night was the opera house itself. Now fully restored after it was destroyed by an arson atttack in 1994. The perpetrators were builders working on the site who had got into financial difficulties and who are now serving prison sentences. La Fenice is, after-all an opera house where melodrama is at home. I was thrilled to be there and to enjoy its splendidly clean accoustic. Next time I come here, it has to be for an Italian opera.

Later on my holiday, I decided, loving Tchaikovsky as I do these days, I really ought to hear some Italian, even Venetian music. I went to the deconsecrated church of San Vidal near to one of the liveliest of Venice’s squares, the Campo San Stefano.

I was supicious that some Vivaldi concerts in Venice are hurriedly put together for relatively undiscerning tourist audiences but this was anything but true of  the exciting Baroque ensemble, Interpreti Veneziani, who were scheduled to perform Vivaldi concertos along with music by Galuppi and Rossini – pretty Italian then.


It was  my last night in Venice, and this music on such a hot night was perfect. Vivaldi, forever popular, is loved because he’s so good, I’ve decided. The musicians, a small tightly controlled group did him proud finding the excitement and passion as well as all the notes. They really looked the part too.


Here they are rehearsing in San Vidal – I think you’ll see why I had such a good time. They’re playing Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin and Cello in B-flat major, RV 547. The church bells in the middle add rather than detract from the Italian atmosphere.


My novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, was published  on 31 October 2013. It is the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.
It is now available as a paperback or on Kindle (go to your region’s Amazon site for Kindle orders)
You can order the book from the publishers, Ward Wood Publishing:
…or from Book Depository:
…or from Amazon:’s%20Summer%20Of%20lovefeature=mhee


Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love
Ward Wood Publishing
October 30, 2013

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The Blotter
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In The Night Count The Stars
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March 1, 2014
An “uncommon anthology” of images, fragments, stories and poetry.


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