Souvenirs de Venise

Souvenirs de Venise

Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)


In Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice, a celebrated writer who is failing in inspiration resolves to rejuvenate his waning creative energies by visiting Venice. Gustav von Aschenbach (as portrayed by Anthony Rolfe Johnson in an important production of the Benjamin Britten opera based on the book) surrenders to the lure of the south. The joyful abandon with which he embraces the idea of going to Venice is typical of the way in which refugees from the cold north have always welcomed the spiritual and aesthetic prizes available to the visitor who has the heart and the eye to find them. Venice is, and always has been, the visitors’ city – a place where countless artists and personalities have come to wonder at the marvels of this jewel set like a precious timepiece in a bracelet of shimmering water. The imaginative traveller can turn the clock back as far as he likes in a city which was an anachronism even in the eighteenth century and is an enduring miracle in the twentieth. He will still find the same Venice which has been mostly loved but also vociferously hated by the teeming touristic multitudes. Montaigne, Horace Walpole, Edward Gibbon, D H Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Edward Lear are among those on record as despising the city. Lear, however, later changed his mind: ‘This city of palaces, pigeons, poodles and pumpkins (I am sorry to say also of pimps – to keep up the alliteration) is a wonder and a pleasure.’

Newsletter Sign Up