In December 2017, Teatro La Fenice in Venice held a piano evening dedicated to the wife of Richard Wagner – Cosima Liszt. Cosima was the daughter of the virtuoso pianist and composer Franz Liszt.
Venice has always had a special relation with the famous German. Richard Wagner spent his last autumn and winter in the city. And from here he bid farewell to this world in February 1883.
I love passing by the Wagners’ final address in Venice. One cannot miss this magnificent white palazzo, holding so many memories and secrets, when cruising along the Grand Canal. Richard Wagner’s apartment in Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, now the casino, is well preserved and filled with rare musical scores. The Wagners moved there to find rest from the big city and rediscover the magical light of inspiration. Here they celebrated Cosima’s 45th birthday on December 24, 1882.
Now, 135 years after, I was running in the maze of Venetian small streets and passages of the San Marco district to Teatro La Fenice for an evening of piano music dedicated to Cosima’s birthday. The time, the space and the audience were different. However, there was something in the air that made me feel that I was part of the same story and could easily run into the Wagners-Liszts at the door of the theatre. Perhaps, it is the very essence of this city on water, which carefully preserves memories and events. And at some point, brings them as huge waves ashore for you to see and to hear.
This blending of time and memory struck me during the concert, too. The program span through the whole 19th century and built a bridge into the 20th – from Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms via Ravel and Debussy to Alberto Ginastera, an Argentinian composer of classical music. However, it was during Ravel’s Antique Menuet that I could feel the fleeing nature of time and nostalgia for the bygone years. As if sitting between Richard and Cosima.
A 24-year-old pianist Andre Gallo offered his interpretation of music during the evening in Sale Apollinee on the second floor of the theatre building. The pianist studied at the International Piano Academy “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola. He often performs in Italy and abroad. And, of course, has a special connection with Venice and Wagner. In 2006, Gallo founded the Richard Wagner Trio with the first violin and cello of the La Fenice orchestra. Two years later, he was selected by the Association of Richard Wagner in Venice as a fellow for Bayreuth, Wagner’s former home and the place of his festival.
As I was leaving the building at the end of the evening and going down a luxurious golden staircase, with patina touched mirrors and beautiful chandeliers, a feeling of gratitude swamped me. I was thankful to this theatre, this city and its people for preserving the past and brining it alive in our daily lives.
But, most of all, for letting us hear the wonderful music among the dashing winds and engulfing waves of the time.