Magic masks of Venice
It is impossible to change fate. But there is a place on Earth where once a year you can CHANGE a lot – face, clothes, habits, desires, gender, age. From a slave to turn into an EMPEROR, from Cinderella to a PRINCESS, from a housewife tortured by children and cares into a seductive COLOMBINA, from a prudent businessman to a carefree HARLEQUIN.
In order to survive all these wonderful TRANSFORMATIONS, you just need to be in VENICE in February. Imagine: you wander along a dark and tangled Venetian street along the coast of a narrow canal. Winter. Night. Fog. It smells like oranges. And, like oranges, the dull and yellow Venetian lanterns glow in the fog. You are far from the center, and the noise of the festive crowd does not reach you.
And suddenly a strange shadow appears on the barely lit surface of the canal, and the whisper of the waves driven by the oar of the gondola breaks the silence. You rush to the nearest bridge – from there it is more convenient to monitor how the ghost gradually takes shape. First, a cloak and a cocked hat loom. Then, gradually, a white mask appears from the darkness, covering his eyes and nose. Below – a piece of black silk, in the folds of which hide his mouth and chin. The ghost slowly swims under the bridge and disappears into the darkness. You will remember this vision for life, and the feeling of Miracle will not leave you all the days of the Venetian carnival.
The squares and streets, canals and bridges of the most beautiful and strangest city in the world at that time turned into a huge stage, on which the grandiose action of the most spectacular spectacle in the world – the Venetian carnival – takes place.
The history of carnivals has experienced many ups and downs. Their tradition originates from the pagan, still pre-Christian, feast of the Roman Saturnalia. At the time of the Saturnalia, the differences between gentlemen and slaves seemed to be abolished – the slave had the opportunity to reproach his master, to sit with him at the same table. Moreover, the master offered the slave wine, and he got drunk, like free Romans. For the holiday they chose a false king – a prototype of a future jester who at the end of the Saturnalia either committed suicide or died from a knife, fire or a noose.
When paganism was replaced by Christianity, a ban was imposed on many “barbaric” customs, traditions, and festivals. This holiday of slaves and gentlemen also fell under it. The ban lasted throughout the Middle Ages. But centuries passed, and the Renaissance began. And with it – the real revival of non-religious folk holidays.
In 1495, an annual fund for the carnival was created in Venice. Piazza San Marco becomes the arena where specially trained dogs fight the bulls. After a bloody spectacle, acrobats, jesters and dancers pour out onto the square. The performance ends with a magnificent firework. The whole population of Venice is going to take a look at the holiday and participate in it – both the mob and the nobility. And in order not to overshadow the carnival with class prejudices and, as in the days of ancient Rome, equalize the slave and the master, everyone wears masks. It is Masks – the main characters of the Venetian carnival. But the Venetian carnivals reached their heyday and greatest splendor in the 18th century – the glorious “Setecento”, as Italians call it. Dances in the squares and luxurious carnival costumes embroidered with gold and precious stones become true examples of high fashion. Hundreds of gambling houses appear, where huge fortunes are played out and where, under the wrong light of candles and under the cover of masks, beautiful Venetians and proud Venetians kiss, legitimate husbands and wives. (Not to commit a fall in carnival days and nights when the vigilance of the harsh Catholic Church falls was simply indecent). Here, zealots kill rivals, and death during the carnival is considered especially honorable and even desired. It was then that Carlo Goldoni does, it was then that the characters of the Italian “comedy del arte” turn into the main characters of the carnival. Hundreds and thousands of Harlequins, Pierrot, Pantalone take to the streets. And the lovely Colombine becomes the emblem of the carnival. Since then, to this day, it begins the same way – from the bell tower of the Cathedral of San Marco flies a paper dove tied to a thin thread – Columbine. In flight, it explodes and showers the crowd gathered in the square with rain from confetti. And then come the masks, masks, masks … Ah, this XVIII century, with its splendor and refinement! But everything passes … The fall of the Republic of Venice, the Napoleonic Wars, the complete rejection of the “barbarous festivities” by the Catholic Church and … the Venetian festival the end is coming. But the year of 1980 comes and the ancient legendary carnival is reborn again. And with it something more than a holiday is reborn. Venice regains a particle of itself, its brilliant history, its great past. Already today, from 100 to 200 thousand people from different parts of the world date each other in Venice during the carnival. Giant traffic jams at the entrance to the city. Giant traffic jams at the entrance to Piazza San Marco.