Saturday, 13 July 2013

Grigory Sokolov at La Fenice, Venice (April 2013)

When Rob and I went to Venice in April we decided to try and recreate the joy of seeing a classical piece of music in a fabulous traditional theatre like we'd done in Prague when we saw Mozart's Magic Flute performed in the State Opera House. In Prague we had shared our box with a group of horrific Americans- the mother and her friend were fine, they enjoyed it oohing and ahing quietly while the teenage daughter shifted and texted and Dad, no better, got up the moment the singers took their bows and said gruffly "Well you can cross that off your list, an Opera in Prague," what a dickhead, the wife should have punched his pus…
WELL, we sort of had the opposite problem in Venice! The only concert I could find at that time of year was a piano concert in the magnificent Fenice (Phoenix Theatre- so named because they rebuilt it after it burned down in the 70s) The guy playing was a famous Russian pianist, I hadn't been to any piano concerts before but thought, well, if he's famous he'll maybe bash out some famous pieces that we can enjoy before we go to dinner! (Italy is all about going to dinner) The boxes in Prague sat 6 people, the ones in Venice were more intimate, we were sharing our box with a very well-to-do older couple obviously from the Venice Set, they probably went to music concerts every month, it was probably their thing. 
I sat and listened and enjoyed the music for 40 minutes before I totally zoned out, then came the interval. "Don't worry," I assured Rob, "second acts are always shorter than the first." He too had zoned and as it was now ten past nine we were getting a bit peckish, we'd probably be out by ten.
At half ten we were starving and after not recognising any of the music and we said afterwards that the pieces he played probably displayed great skill and that's why he was famous and skilled but when you come down to it, as we were just the common man, to us the music was instantly forgettable and we would have preferred some good tunes. There was about three minutes in the first act I remember that was nice.
Anyway, at half ten he took his bows, thank god, we were starving! Thank god the restaurant we'd chosen was only a second away next door! thank god!
He then proceeded to play SIX encores. The couple we shared the box with clapped and stood up and were so utterly thrilled by number four that the chap was turning round to us and holding up four fingers in delight, "Four! Four!" he said in amazement. "Yes!" We said through gritted teeth.
We couldn't leave. We were so hungry and so bored and yet we couldn't leave. What if the couple we were sharing the box with came into the same restaurant we had run to to see us scoffing big plates of squid ink pasta and Venice veal? They'd think we were awful uncultured pigs! We had to stay. After the sixth encore it was eleven o'clock. We left calmly but managed to eat three courses, drink massive amounts of wine and have coffee within an hour. It was a good meal.

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