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The City of Falling Angels

August 6, 2010

I have never been to the opera, but my summer reading just motivated me to add it to my list of things I must do; hopefully I can travel one day to Venice for the real thing. I just completed John Berendt’s, “The City of Falling Angels”, which tells an insider’s story of the famous fire of 1996 that destroyed the La Fenice Opera House and the fascinating tales of the city and its’ inhabitants. As a fan of non-fiction, it’s hard to find a book that reads like a novel and feels like you are unintentionally learning something historical while still feeling a sense of escape that only a good story can provide.

This fascinating story tells of a Venetian legacy that was rebuilt multiple times due to fire since its’ opening in the early 1700’s. The most recent incident took place in 1996 and due to an intense criminal investigation as well as political interference, La Fenice did not re-open to its’ current glory until 7 years later in December 2003. The author explores the city of Venice and its characters by way of this historic incident that was felt throughout Europe. He finds an array of local Venetians who each in their own way are affected by or involved in the infamous fire and through his immersion into the city itself he tells their detailed stories. I doubt even the most sophisticated tour given by La Fenice staff themselves could have told the stories that John Berendt uncovered in his journeys that all link back this landmark.

Le Fenice, Venice

My favorite character in the novel is that of Archimede Seguso, the famous Murano glassmaker. He is personally impacted by the fire which inspires his creativity for a collection of vases dedicated to La Fenice fire. We also learn of a sad story of a family torn apart by a shared love for art and the generational differences that can affect one’s vision for the path of a family business. His son Giampaolo founded his own glassworks company that now creates contemporary murano glass, Seguso Viro.

Archimede Seguso, Macchia Ambra Verde, artnet.com

Seguso Viro, Augusta, 101 Limited Collection

This very random video on YouTube helped bring some of the book’s pages to life….

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