The prize-winning historian, journalist, novelist, broadcaster, and Fellow of both the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Literature, Peter Ackroyd explores the history and geography of 'The Queen of the Adriatic', discovering the architecture, art, music and theatre of Venice.
The City As Architecture Peter discovers the architecture of Venice by walking in the footsteps of the 19th century English writer, John Ruskin. He traces the development of the city's buildings, from Byzantine through Gothic to Renaissance, and explores the remarkable cemetery island of Isola di San Michele, final resting place of writers and poets. Henry James called Venice the most beautiful tomb in the world where the past "has been laid to rest with such tenderness, such a sadness of resignation". The City As Art There is hardly a scene in Venice which has not been painted. Peter explores the work of the 18th century 'vedute' artists, including Guardi and Canaletto, who created the most recognisable views of this serene city. He meets leading art historian Peter Lauritsen to examine the paintings of Tintoretto, the Venetian artist who worked with such speed that he was nicknamed 'II Furioso'. The City As Music Telling the story of Venetian music, from the songs sung by women on the seashore waiting for their fishermen to come home... to the sacred music of Antonio Vivaldi. Appointed to the Ospedale della Pieta in 1704, Vivaldi trained orphan girls to sing and play instruments in a way which made them world-famous. New evidence of his work has been uncovered by the English author Micky White and Vivaldi's music is being re-interpreted by a British choir. The City As Theatre Venice is known for its carnival, but it has always been a city of theatre. Even the buildings and their sight-lines were set out as if on a stage. In Venice, theatricality is everywhere. And with theatre comes controversy, not least about the restoration of La Fenice, the world-famous opera house which burnt down in 1996. Now re-built, it has been criticised by some Venetians as being a pastiche.