Save Venice’s 50th Anniversary Il Gran Gala a Venezia

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San Giorgio Maggiore from a distance.

Almost anybody can go to Venice, mingle with the disconsolate touristic swarms shuffling from St. Mark’s Square to the Rialto, to the Accademia Bridge, taking a few selfies and buying a trinket or an ice cream along the way. But, a much finer alternative would be to join a group of Save Venice supporters who recently gathered there to celebrate their contribution of 50 years of funding the restoration and preservation of many of the most important buildings and works of art which make Venice the special city it is.

Save Venice’s 50th Anniversary Il Gran Gala a Venezia, sponsored by The Gritti Palace of Venice and Dolce&Gabbana, played host to 200 international guests whose participation helped ensure the organization’s work continues for years to come.

This year’s four-day weekend was packed with activities both educational and entertaining, from Friday night’s welcoming supper and performance by five-time Grammy award winning artist Dianne Reeves with guitarist Romero Lubambo, to Monday’s boat journey to the romantic island of Torcello and lunch at Locanda Cipriani.

Romero Lubambo and Dianne Reeves welcomed guests with a special performance.

Activities were staged all over the city, including a visit to the Jewish Ghetto and the Italian Synagogue worksite which Save Venice is helping restore. The light-filled Procuratie Vecchie, after 500 years just opened to the public, was the setting for a lively and fascinating conversation between Save Venice President Tina Walls and artist Fred Wilson, the US Representative to the 2003 Biennale.

On the way to the the Venetian Ghetto.
The Italian Synagogue, one of five synagogues in the Venetian Ghetto of Venice.
The main square of the Venetian Ghetto.
Richard and Jill Almeida (inset) in the Procurarie, Piazza San Marco.
A conversation between Save Venice President Tina Walls and artist Fred Wilson at the Procuratie Vecchie.
Dr. Bruce Horton takes in Grand Canal at dusk.
Passing the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.

An evening concert of 16th C. music featuring mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston and conductor and harpsichordist Tim Ribchester was appropriately held at the Basilica dei Frari below Titian’s altarpiece, Assumption of the Virgin, newly, and dazzlingly, restored by Save Venice.

Save Venice Projects Director Christopher Apostle with Titian’s Assunta (Assumption of the Virgin) behind.
Tim Ribchester and Helen Charlston.
Dinner to follow in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
The Sala Terra in the Scuola Grande.
L. to r.: Arati Menon and Ann Scott; Lee Essex Doyle, Amanda Essex, Andrew Jones, and Laura Hodgson.
L. to r.: Dianne Reeves and Helen Charlston; Allen and Diane de Olazarra.
Dinner in the Sala Superiore, San Rocco, surrounded by a collection of paintings by Tintoretto.

Another day, Dolce & Gabbana tempted shoppers with a glimpse of Venice inspired, specially-designed dresses.

Collection of Venice-inspired clothes at Dolce & Gabbana.
Hannah Chrisitan showing off her new shoes.

An excursion to the island of Murano to see the restoration work of the church of Santa Maria e San Donato (built in the 7th century) provided guests refreshments at the NH Murano Villa Hotel, a former 1940’s glass factory, just opened in 2021, as well as a chance to learn about art conservation and try their hands at the painstaking work.

Fred Wilson and Instituto Veneto Restoration School conservator.
Giovanni Cucco, Master Mosaic conservator.
Santa Maria e San Donato, under restoration, Murano.
Jerrold and Ann Mitchell working on the treasure hunt.
Learning conservation techniques.
Lizzie Asher.
Next stop: NH Murano Villa Hotel for some refreshments.
Charles Tolbert and Joy Dinsdale at the bar.

It wouldn’t be a Save Venice gala without a ball. This year’s Il Ballo d’Oro Anniversary Ball at the 15th century Palazzo Pisani Moretta where the 200 or so well dressed and well heeled (some stilettos despite possible hazards of rocky boats, rough ramps and boardwalks) enthusiasts arrived in a traffic jam of water taxis. Guests danced into the late hours against the exquisite backdrop masterfully created by Venetian designer Matteo Corvino.

Lighting the candle for the Anniversary Ball later that evening.
Event designer Matteo Corvino putting on the finishing touches.
Palazzo Pisani Moretta awaiting the Il Ballo d’Oro Anniversary Ball guests.
Guests begin to arrive.
Guests disembark.
L. to r.: Gail and Alfred Engelberg; Lady R.S. Dewi Sukarno.
Becca Cason Thrash, Kara Ross, and Nicole Salmasi.
L. to r.: Francesca Bortolotto Possati and Roger Thomas; Meri Miller and Adelina Wong Ettelson.
Cocktails at the Ball.
L. to r.: Patricia and Robert Lovejoy; Allen and Diane de Olazarra.
L. to r.: Beatrice Rossi-Landi; Elizabeth Locke and John Staelin.
Ryan Lithgow, Isabella Capuano, Staci Capuano, and Anthony Capuano.
L. to r.: Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos and Paul Kanavos; Skylar Pinchal and Oliver Coysh.
Bruce and Barbara Berger.
L. to r.: Philipp Dmitriouk and Chiara Simonius (3rd generation SV supporter); Dolly and Jack Geary.
Tomaso Rock and Sophia Kanavos.
L. to r.: Dr. Frederik Paulsen and Olga Litviniuk; Claudia Foscari and Marta Nardi.
Pisanni Moretta set for dinner.
Decor by Venetian designer Matteo Corvino.
Tina Walls, Mary Lea Carroll, Glenn Mary Carroll, and Melissa Conn.
Dancing at il Ballo d’Oro.

One of the most fun traditional features of the weekend is always the treasure hunt designed by Michael LaPlaca. Determined hunters scoured the city to identify the glimpses of frescoes, paintings and mosaics pictured in the booklet. And no wonder, the prize was an exquisite gold and silver diamond studded lion head brooch, donated by Alberto Nardi of Nardi, Jewelers of Venice since 1925. Although there was only one who won the brooch, after such a lively, interesting, well organized — and sunny — weekend, I think everyone went home happy.

Cassandra, Frederick and Ilaria Ilchman on their way to island of Torcello.
Megan Kiernan, Frederick Ilchman, and Tim Edmond.
Neva and Beverly Little, Tracy Roberts, and Troy Nold.
Locanda Cipriani, Torcello.
Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, Torcello.
L. to r.: Frederick Ilchman (l.) and Tina and Jeffrey Bolton (r.) taking in the Basilica.
Amy Gross, Executive Director, Giovanni Cucco, Master Mosaicist, and Tina Walls, President.
L. to r.: Neva Little and Megan Kiernan; Sophia Kanavos and Tomaso Rock.
Karin Leidel (right) presented with her Treasure Hunt prize.

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