The magic of Carnival has arrived! This year (2017) the holiday lasts from Saturday, February 11 until Saturday, February 25. It is the period that precedes Lent and concludes with Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
At this time of year, all of Italy comes alive with costumes, masks, parades and allegorical floats, and all manner of delightful parties. It is a time when “La Serenissima,” another name for Venice, surpasses her natural beauty and indeed becomes a garden of earthly delights.
Carnival is one of Sophia’s favorite times of the year. She loves to dress in costume and don a fabulous mask. Carnival in Venezia, in fact, is one of the culminating scenes of “Dreaming Sophia.” It provides the perfect backdrop for Sophia to step out of her dream world and into the arms of a handsome stranger.
What would Sophia see if she participated in this year’s carnival events? Well, if she had been in Venice last weekend when the holiday commenced, she would have witnessed the procession of the 12 Marias. She would have also watched the spectacular flight of the Angel as one of Maria’s floated down into San Marco Square from the top of the bell tower.
During the evening hours, she would have viewed the magical evening light show – La Vanitas degli Abissi. She would have been thrilled to see the canals of Venice illuminated by fairy dancers and sea creatures.
All this week in Venice, as Sophia wanders through the calli — the narrow streets of Venice, she will see a wide variety of creative costumes and colorful masks. She will wonder about the identities of all the mysterious strangers disguised behind the playful bird and fearsome Bauta masks!
She will also ponder the idea that perhaps a mask might very well conceal a person’s identity, but allow for his true nature to emerge! In the words of Oscar Wilde: Every man lies, but if you give him a mask he will be sincere
In the novel “Dreaming Sophia” our protagonist’s greatest desire is to attend a fancy carnival ball. She knows that the most elegant affair, one that inspires and causes one to fantasize and dream is Il Ballo del Doge.
This year the Ballo del Doge occurs on Saturday, February 25th, at the 15th-century Venetian palace that flanks the Grand Canal — the Palazzo Pisani Moretta. The ball’s name is derived from the title of the elected head of state — Doge or “Duke” in English. Every year the ball is attended by four-hundred guests dressed in period costume. Masks, of course, are obligatory.
Il Ballo del Doge has been described by Vanity Fair as “one of the most exclusive parties in the world. Guests have included members of European, Middle Eastern and Asian royal families, celebrities, and leaders in international business and finance. It is an exclusive affair and tickets are quite expensive.
The Ballo itself is the brainchild of Antonia Sautter. Each year she creates an elegant experience that allows guests to explore their five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. As soon as each guest crosses the threshold of the palace, he enters an incredible dream world that is sure to delight and amaze. Antonia not only designs unique and lovely venues but also skillfully creates sumptuous costumes and beautiful masks, designed to conceal the most famous of faces. To entertain her guests, she provides performances by daring acrobats, theatrical artists, and accomplished musicians.
Oh to be in Venice now and take part in the splendor of all these events! Like Sophia, I too would love to dress in period costume and don an elegant mask. What fun in would be to dance in the arms of a mysterious stranger. After all, as the saying goes: At carnival time, every trick is acceptable.
If you were to attend a Carnival Ball, which costume or mask would you choose to wear?
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