Over Valentine’s Day weekend in Venice, 140 international philanthropists dusted off their masks and readied their costumes for three days and nights of masked revelry for Save Venice’s Carnevale Gala: “All the World’s a Stage.”
Passionate about preserving the cultural treasures of Venice, the guests’ proceeds from the event support Save Venice’s mission to conserve at-risk art in Venice, and the 50th Anniversary campaigns, which together represent a commitment of more than $2 million.
Sponsored by Select Aperitivo with underwriting support from the Gala Chairs and Hosts, the event netted over $500,000 to support Save Venice’s mission and two historic campaigns for the organization’s upcoming 50th Anniversary in October 2021. Their goal is the conservation of more than 2,400 square feet of Byzantine apse mosaics and walls in the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta on the island of Torcello, the oldest surviving structure in the Venetian lagoon, and the 16th-century Italian Synagogue in the Ghetto of Venice.
The Carnevale guests experienced days filled with special opportunities to view works by Paolo Veronese, Pietro Longhi, and Palma il Giovane restored by Save Venice. In between the important restoration tours and a marvelously fun treasure hunt were themed evenings in spectacular settings such as:
La Festa di San Valentino (Valentine’s Day Ball) at the Ex-Chiesa di Santa Chiara, a wonderful old brick walled, wood beamed former church, restored as a glass factory on the island of Murano (attire: Hot Pink, Sizzling Red and Black Tie).
Then there was the Royal Garden Reverie Ball in Palazzo Pisani Moretta where guests wore their most luxurious period costumes, fit for kings and queens, masks required. Thanks to numerous visits to costume suppliers, partygoers did just that.
But since we are unaccustomed to wearing the extravagant billowing gowns, robes, feathers and bespangled headdresses, clambering out of water taxis was slow going. Arrival at the Palazzo Pisani Moretta created an aquatic traffic jam. Despite high anxiety, no one fell in!
And finally the Clash of the Centuries Ball (attire: “dress to the nines” in one’s favorite time period — masks encouraged) at the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello in the Palazzo Pisani.
The theme, besides imaginative costumes from across the ages, was most vividly illustrated by the sight of guests clad in 18th century finery, while brandishing their 21st century electronic devices. Occasionally they put down the cell phones to dance the night away.
After cocktails at Francesca Bortolotto Possati’s elegant Palazzo Mocenigo Casa Nuova, everyone paraded through the streets to the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello. Once there, guests were treated to a too-short concert by Broadway star Ashley Brown before dinner in the ballroom, concluding with a blockbuster concert of music through the ages.
Equally engrossing daytime activities were scheduled not too early. At the Uni.S.Ve Restoration Lab, artisans demonstrated techniques used in the many restoration projects Save Venice has sponsored. Visitors were encouraged to try their hands and came away with eyes opened in appreciation of the infinite patience and skill the artists need to do such intricate work.
After those tutorials, newly opened eyes appreciated visits and explanations of several major Save Venice projects: the Church of San Sebastiano where extensive restoration work has finished, the Ca’Rezzonico Museum exhibition of restored drawings of Tiepolo, Longhi and Guardi (a beautiful book of this exhibit has been written by eminent historian and Save Venice chairman, Frederick Ilchman) and behind the scenes restoration in progress of the Saint Catherine Altarpiece at the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.
Another morning, charming actor, biographer and playwright Ian Kelly gave a talk about Casanova in which he explained that Casanova was much more than just “the world’s greatest lover” and Kelly has written a book (Casanova) to prove it.
The group also had an inside look at the exquisite La Fenice opera house and the ceiling decoration the restoration of which was sponsored by Save Venice, after the disastrous fire in 1996. Before lunch, the Pantakin theatre troupe performed a hilarious “Fantasmagorie of Pulcinella,” an Italian Punch and Judy show, with lovely music and singing.
Amazingly, somehow everyone found time to do Michael LaPlaca’s always tantalizing and engrossing treasure hunt sponsored by Beatrice & José Esteve. There is keen completion for the prize, a handsome and whimsical Arlecchino brooch of colored stones and diamonds , as always, donated by Gioielleria Nardi Venezia. Juan Prieto won the brooch.
Despite a happy exhaustion from so much activity, everyone was sad to leave their pals and canals. Ma non essere triste … Save Venice is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in Venice in October 2021. Vieni Tutto!
Generous support was provided by the event Chairs and Sponsors Tina and Jeffrey Bolton, Lee Essex Doyle, Beatrice and José A. Esteve, Cassandra and Frederick Ilchman, Karin and Peter Leidel, Elizabeth Locke and John Staelin, Cat Jagger Pollon, Juan Prieto, Tracey Roberts, Francesca Bortolotto Possati, and Matthew White and Tom Schumacher, John Wilson and Annasue McCleave Wilson, and event Benefactors Amy Harmon, Bruce Horten, Alan Howard and Caroline Byron, Christopher Todd Page, Merrill Shields and Dr. M. Ray Thomasson.
Experts and Presenters: Christopher Apostle, Alberto Craievich, Daniele D’Anz, Nora Gietz, Frederick Ilchman, Ian Kelly, Gabriele Matino, Cleo Nisse, and Xavier Salomon.
The Gala Committee: Kei Akatsu , Keiko Aoki, Frank and Phyllis Angello, Christopher Apostle, Barbara and Bruce Berger, Maestro Mauro Bergonzoli and Franziska Countess Fugger von Babenhausen, Ashley Brown and Daniel Wisler, Alyson and Joseph Cafiero, Mary Lea and Bill Carroll, Madame Keika Coombs, Eric Crotty, Daniel Dan, Kate and Andrew Davis, Shana Alessandra Davis and Hudson Gaines-Ross, Sherry and Larry S. Davis.