Our hotel offered a free breakfast, a pretty standard feature ‘round these parts. Given the previous day’s wallet-emptying morning coffees I made sure not to miss it on day two. I pulled myself out of bed at 9:45, fifteen minutes before brekky shut down.
M’lady wasn’t feeling so great so she tried to catch a few more winks while I went downstairs to the buffet. I was greeted by a friendly server; I asked for coffee, she said “sure” and I grabbed myself a plate. The food was well-presented and quite varied. I selected a couple of small sandwiches, a croissant, and a few of those little foil triangles of cheese and sat myself down. And oh, the glee! when my server plunked a full pot of coffee on the table, all of it for me.
That pot of coffee had a street value of almost a hundred euro and I drank the whole thing down, save the cup I saved to carry up to the room for m’lady, along with a yoghurt. Despite the coffee and snack she was still in no rush to run around town so we chilled in the room until 1:30 or so.
When we did go out it was just for a short walkabout. We checked into train tickets, bought postcards, and just generally swooned around the neighbourhood holding hands and walking slow. We made it back to the room in time to spend an hour getting shut out of Gord Downie tickets (again) and then we got dolled up in our finest clothes.
We stopped for dinner, our only real meal of the day. I didn’t really feel like Italian food but whattya gonna do? I ordered lasagna (again) and m’lady had soup (again, again). We shunned wine at dinner in case vino had been the vine of m’lady’s morning malady and we got out of there with plenty of time to get to the Teatro Fenice (Phoenix Theatre).
The Teatro Fenice is the most famous theatre in Italian opera. It was built as a replacement after the main theatre in town had burned down – hence the “Phoenix” name – and it opened in 1792 (Mozart was still alive then though he never played the room). Unfortunately the name seemed to be looking forward as much as backward: the place burned to the ground in 1836 and then again as recently as 1996 (this time of arson). It once again reopened in 2003 after extensive renovations brought it back to it’s original design.
We were seeing La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, a rather famous opera that was premiered in this very building in on March 6th, 1853. We had our tickets punched and went up, up, up to the 5th level where we found our seats in the astounding thousand-seat room. Below us the floor only held about a dozen rows; all the rest of the seats were in boxes like ours that formed a massive cylindrical horseshoe that embraced the stage.
Our seats were described as “obstructed view” and they definitely were. We were seated in the second row so the orchestra pit and the front of the stage steeply below us were cut off from our vision and were only visible when we craned our necks. Moments before the show started the two empty seats in front of us were taken up by an elderly couple who leaned forward and further obstructed our view for the whole evening. No big deal though, I’m fidgety anyway so I craned and ducked while m’lady sat zen-like with her eyes shut and we followed along well enough.
At the first intermission we stuck to the 5th level and took some pics. At the second intermission we walked down to the lobby bar. That’s when I noticed firemen standing on every level in the stairway. I guess management at the old Phoenix isn’t taking any chances.
In the end we both had a good time but neither of us were that impressed with the opera itself. The entire third act was basically the death of Violetta, but c’mon, die already! There was no mystery nor any surprises, and it had a very thin plot. I thought it would have had more oomph…more melody. Matter of fact, I might just go home and write an opera myself just to make sure it’s as easy as it looks. Anyone got a good libretto they’re not using?
After the show we strolled slowly back to the hotel, window-shopping along the way and detouring just enough to get a tiny bit lost, our favourite Venetian pastime. I’d like to say we were humming Verdi the whole way, but we weren’t.