Synopses & Reviews
In a city as ancient as Venice, myths and legends passed down from generation to generation are the storehouse of a citys mores, emblems of its identity. In Venetian Curiosities
, acclaimed novelist Donna Leon recounts some of Venices most intriguing tales: an elephant brought in for Carnival wreaks havoc upon the city before seeking refuge in a church; the city employs prostitutes in an attempt to prevent homosexuality; innocent men are mistakenly condemned to death; a gambler bets the family palazzo. In an introduction and seven essays, Leon offers enchanting details and astute insights into Venetian customs of the past and present.
Venetian Curiosities is beautifully illustrated, and like Handels Bestiary, it comes with an accompanying CD. Here the music is by Antonio Vivaldi, with tracks for each section of the book, expertly recorded by Il Complesso Barocco. With the splendid music, the delightful images, and the perceptive, amusing words of Donna Leon, Venetian Curiosities is a harmonious exploration of one of the worlds most beloved cities.
In a city as ancient as Venice, myths and legends passed down from generation to generation record more than just love or murder. They are the storehouse of a citys mores, emblems of its identity. In an introduction and seven essays, Leon offers enchanting details and astute insights into Venetian customs of the past and present:
The contents of Venetian Curiosities are:
* Foreword Just as the person coming to live in Venice has to adjust to the physical realities of the place, they must also get accustomed to a certain undulance in the accuracy with which events are reported: the farther back in time the origin of the story, the rougher the waters of truth grow.” In this excellent foreword, Leon talks about the nature of history and legend in her adopted city, in particular how it relates to one of her favorite Venetians, Antonio Vivaldi. The foreword sets the stage for seven essays on unique and fascinating pieces of Venetian lore.
* The Elephant Goes to Church - An elephant is brought to the city for Carnevale, but springtime has awoken his amorous instincts,” and he grows increasingly violent. He breaks loose, and wreaks havoc upon the city, before seeking refuge in a church.
* A Palazzo on the Turn of a Card - Venetians have long been attracted to gambling, despite the States attempts to stamp it out. Vivaldis love of risk-taking led him to an anonymous paupers grave, and many a palazzo and family fortunes have been squandered.
* Prostitutes Working for the Good of the State - During the Renaissance, apparently homosexuality ran so rampant, and was seen as such a threat, that the city employed prostitutes to flash men from windowsills and bridges, thus Ponte delleTette. The republic of merchants had a love affair with numbers, and so in 1509 they counted 11,164 prostitutes living within the city.
* The Truth is What You Choose it to Be An aristocratic young man is accused of treason by two agents of the Inquisition. He offers no defense, is arrested, imprisoned, condemned, strangled (so there could be no public execution in front of the lower classes) and hung by his foot between the columns of San Marco and San Teodero. Ten years later, he was fully exonerated; his accusers tried, convicted, and hanged in turn. Since then, historians have used this to explore the politics of the Council of Ten, but the common belief is that theres a simpler reason: lust. The palazzo as he was seen entering may have been home to his supposed Spanish handlers, but it was also home to a married woman.
* The Price of Lavish Beauty On the luxury and profligacy, and the double benefit of sumptuary laws.
* Your Honor the Judge: Remember the Poor Young Baker - A young baker name Piero finds a bloody knife on the street and grabs it. The knife and valuable silver sheath could pay for his wedding to his girlfriend, but she demands he return it to the owner. Piero is caught, tortured into confessing a murder. The real murderera jealous husbandconfesses, but it is too late for Piero.
* Diabolical Lust On common street names (Dante, Garibaldi, Donizetti), and a search for the meaning of an unusual name in Venice, Riva di Biasio, with various answers.
Venetian Curiosities will be a beautiful book, printed in four-color throughout, with fantastic illustrations that include paintings by Pietro Longhi and Canaletto. Like Handels Bestiary, it will make an excellent gift, and it too comes with an accompanying CD. Here, the music is by Antonio Vivaldi, with tracks for each section of the book, expertly recorded by Il Complesso Barocco. Leon also ties the anecdotes to elements of Vivaldis life and music in the essays. With the splendid music, the delightful images, and the perceptive, amusing words of Donna Leon, Venetian Curiosities is a harmonious exploration of one of the worlds most beloved cities.
Praise for Handel's Bestiary
[Handels Bestiary] would make a thoughtful and unusual gift.” Joanne Sydney Lessner, Opera News
A wonderful book. A compendium colorfully illustrated by Michael Sowa, to be enjoyed not only by musical connoisseurs.” Der Spiegel (Germany)
What Leon tells us is a real joy, and many of the details are unfamiliar. If as you read you listen to the music by Il Complesso Barocco that accompanies it, you are in for a sensual treat - and one which will also broaden your horizons.” Stern (Germany)
A real tour de force!” News (Austria)
As an expert on medieval bestiaries moral lessons and fables about animals - she cleverly describes how Handel portrays specific characteristics of these animals in his music. Naturally a CD with all twelve animal arias is included musical fun.” Hamburger Abendblatt (Germany)
A charming little compendium. As clever as it is entertaining.”Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany)
A great reading and listening pleasure.” Ruhr Nachrichten (Germany)
Most whimsical and linguistically at the highest level. Rating: Great.” KulturRadio (Germany)
The lovely tones, amusingly entertaining words and impish drawings yield a wonderful mixture.” Sandameer (Austria)
About the Author
is the author of the international best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and has lived in Venice for thirty years.
Il Complesso Barocco is an international ensemble dedicated to Baroque music on original instruments. Winner of the Antonio Vivaldi International Recording Prize, it has played a fundamental role in the modern revival of Baroque operas, especially those of Monteverdi, Handel, and Vivaldi.