26 January – 12 February 2013
Most people know of the famous Carnevale di Venezia, but we tend to think of it historically, as the exclusive preserve of a faded aristocratic elite, living high, incognito, before the abstinent period of lent. We know the iconic masks that are intrinsic to our image of Venice but all too few of us are aware of how Carnevale is celebrated in the 21st Century.
In recent years the Carnevale has evolved into a spectacle for all that attracts visitors from all over the world to participate and spectate: a public festival more akin to Rio, or Mardi Gras that nonetheless retains its indelible cultural references.
This year the theme of the celebrations is Colour. Artistic Director Davide Rampello wants to bring colour into our lives and, using Venice as his stage, he has programmed an incredible feast of events that feeds all the senses.
French theatre company, Ilotopie, opened Carnevale with their water borne show, ‘MetaMorPhosiS Aquatica’; a surrealist parade of character, costume, pyrotechnics and elaborate mechanics magically appropriate to the watery city on the lagoon.
Everyday from 2nd February there are spectacular displays, parades and competitions at the Gran Teatro of Piazza San Marco. Each day has its own unique flavour from the traditional ‘Best Masked Costume’ to the most celebrated international names in circus and street theatre. There are events for children and invitations into the secret world of Venice, the Colori e Fantasia di Frutta al Cioccolato at Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio promises a ‘paradise… of the sweet and the irresistible’.
A visit to Venice during Carnevale should be on everyone’s list of things to do before you pop off. You may be impulsive and lucky enough to sneak a trip in this year but essentially this is a visit best planned ahead, hotels are booked well in advance and if you truly want to immerse yourself deep in the Carnevale fantasy then attending a Carnevale ball at one of the illustrious hotels, in costume, will be high on your list of priorities. Costumes and tickets are available from Carnival of Venice, an established Anglo-Italian company and many hotels and tour operators offer Carnevale packages.
It is by no means compulsory to attend a masked ball – Carnevale is spectacular without them – but if you do crave attendance at the most exclusive and dazzling of all the balls, Il Ballo del Doge is for you. Antonia Sautter’s sybaritic pleasure dome at the Palazzo Pisani Moretta is world famous and this latter day court of Antoinette may seem unattainable to mere mortals but weekend a la carte will arrange flights, hotel, costume and tickets, easing travellers elegantly into this rarefied world.