Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Death At La Fenice

BEAR insisted we take a tour of Venice's opera house, Teatro La Feniche...
Since he was on page 1 of Donna Leon's 1st of the Commisario Brunetti series, Death at La Feniche.
(NO spoilers included.)
Conveniently the same opera in the book, Verdi's Traviata sung by Donna Leon's tempermental diva (and possible murder suspect) Donna Flavia, was featured on the walls...
La Feniche is appropriately named after the phoenix (a reference to the mythological creature reborn from its ashes after it's destroyed). The opera house has risen from ashes many times since 1789. As recently as 1996, recorded in detail by John Berendt in The City of Falling Angels.

You and your audio guide enter the grand hallway leading...

Into the very grand theatre... sit in one of those boxes...

Or the gold-encrusted royal box in your diamond-encrusted stillettos...

Nevermind. Just sit in one of these cushy velvet chairs. You can do that on the tour. Then pretend you're hearing Traviata...

Leon's first book in the series was conceived in backstage at a performance whilst chatting with the conductor and published in 1992. She's produced a book every year since. I must say the first book is quite consistent with the others I've read. Very character-driven and always you experience everything through Brunetti's sharp eyes and ears. You climb all the steps with him too in elevator-free Venice...

At least I did get to Gelateria Nico mentioned in the book on the Fondamente Zattare waterfront. Why do I always get pistache + nocciola/hazelnut flavors? I have no imagination when it comes to gelato...

I did not get to the pricey Ristorante Galleggiante in Bacino San Marco, where every course is described in the book and the order in which it was served. For example salad must be eaten after the meal, not with it.

I did get to have a pricy seafood antipasti elsewhere. But who knew it must be served on an oblong plate? If I'd read my Brunetti I'd have known. Plus who knew the vaporetto don't run in the fog? At Caffe Paolin, only the foreigners eat outside in bad weather. The sensible Venetians retreat inside. I love all these little details of everyday life in Leon's books almost more than solving the mystery. My copy is a mess of yellow markings...

There's a terrific interactive map on Leon's British site for browsing excerpts related to various Venice locations... Now I'm on to Blood From A Stone...



  1. Gorgeous!
    I especially like the picture taken from Le Zattere, of the floating terrace of Ristorante Galleggiante in Bacino San Marco, with San Giorgio beyond the water.

    You make me long for Venice more, each time you deliver one of your fabulous Venetian posts. ;-)

  2. Roxane9:49 AM

    Oh, I had to stop reading this post in case of spoilers!

    I just started reading "Death At La Fenice" yesterday after seeing your previous post about this author.

    The opera house is stunning!

  3. Justine9:49 AM

    Looks simply glorious!

  4. I am with you on the gelato flavors - the only way I try a new one is to get three at once! Although in Rome once I had rice flavor that was topped with stiff whipped cream - an ultimate experience in my memory - don't think anything will top that for me and no one usually carries that.

  5. I love using regular books as "guidebooks" to foreign places! This series sounds really good.

  6. Anonymous10:20 AM

    Not really in relation to this post, but more in appreciation of our love for great breakfast food at great prices.

    New York's answer...

  7. Carol, this is a very delicious post. I am imagining feasting on music, tasty food served elegantly, good books, and a fabulous city's unique light.

    Thank you!

  8. Anonymous10:33 AM

    Not really in relation to this post, but more in appreciation of our love for great breakfast food at great prices.

    New York’s answer…

  9. Wow, it looks absolutely magical! Like something out of... well, an opera...

  10. Which book do you suggest I start with? I am really interested in reading her work, primarily 'Venice'.
    Lovely post! I never got to see inside the Opera house but wow does it ever look amazing! Next time.

    the Wanderfull traveler

  11. It all looks inviting. Venice is definitely like no other place. You'll make me want to head back.

  12. Hi Murissa,
    I don't think it matters which Donna Leon you start with.
    They all seem to be engrossing and engaging.
    Death At La Feniche is the 1st book but I wouldn't have guessed that was the case.
    They are all very consistent in tone and Venetian atmosphere in my opinion...
    I will not take the Metro without my Brunetti!

  13. Anna-Maria A.2:55 PM

    What a perfect place to here opera!
    Must dust off my diamond-encrusted shoes!

  14. Pip 4 Paris3:20 PM

    Thank you for getting me hooked on Donna Leon's books.
    After reading one of your blogs on Venice, I borrowed one from the library and then proceeded to clean out a local book dealer's stock and then found the rest online.
    Many hours of Venetian reading ahead.

  15. I'm in the same 'gondola' as you.
    Just grabing whatever and wherever I can find DL.

  16. Is that stuffed Octopus on that plate? Egads!

  17. seems to be a bit of a Donna Leon obsession going on here......i'm smack dab in the middle of "La Fenice".... and thanks for this particular post, i now have visuals to add to the written word......

  18. Janice4:41 PM

    That BEAR is such a cultured guy.
    And he's SO well-read to boot!
    But then hw IS French.

    You're lucky to have him along as a traveling companion.

  19. I think that I will have to buy a Donna Leon very soon!
    This is a great post - great photos, especially that closing shot.
    I REALLY want to go back to Venice :)

  20. Definitely more spectacular inside than outside! Fortunately it was rebuilt! Of course, if you could attend an opera, it would be even better!

  21. Bear would have so loved sitting in one of those red velvet chairs - I've noticed he likes the finer things in life - a bear after my own heart!

  22. My local capuccino place uses cardboard sleeves on the cups that read, " If life were like opera, this would probably have poison in it."

  23. I felt as if I was walking along with you. Thanks for the trip! I have to get to that opera house soon. It looks stunning. Envy your gelati, even if it IS the same flavours ;-)

  24. You're right Dianne!

    BEAR does like to place his bottom in the best seats!


  25. I too love all the details of everyday life in Leon's books almost more than solving the mystery...

  26. The opera house theatre is beautiful.

  27. oh my goodness
    i did not know
    about the interactive donna leon map!

    i wish i had known!
    i marked my own guide book
    and traipsed about
    looking for the spots
    on my own
    in 2009...

    i think your photos
    are Beyond terrific
    and now have moved my next venice trip from 2014 to 2013...

    {{ am thinking of rome in 2012;
    why oh why
    can we not All meet up
    some where GRAND
    at the same time? }}

    going back Now
    to lust after your photos
    once again...

  28. I read that book (and others by Donna Leon) recently. Beautiful photos.

  29. Celeste6:07 AM

    Well, we are definitely going back again. 5 weeks touring around Italy, slightly different from 2007 and the 2009 trip with 6 nights in Venice whereas previously had only been 4.

    This time I will take more creative photos as inspired by your blog.



  30. How fun to read a Donna Leon book while in Venice! I just read this book last year, thank you for the pictures, I have never visited La Fenice before.


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