On my first night in Venice, I found a café not far from the hotel, where violinists played Vivaldi—that brilliant Venetian who composed music centuries ago. I sat outside on the patio and had a wonderful view of the Grand Canal. I ordered veal with lemon and a glass of Chardonnay.
Venice leads inexorably to a mood of recollection and contemplation. One moment it is bright shimmering in the noonday sun dancing on water and the next, it grows dark and sullen under heavy, cloud-laden skies. Such shifting moods can bring on hours of contemplation.
As I sat alone at the table, images of Daphne, almost immediately, sprang up in my mind’s eye.
As I said before, I met Daphne on my last trip to Venice on the Orient Express. As an artist, I am constantly in search of my muse. Not only were we lovers, but she was also the inspiration for one of my paintings, “The River of Remembrance” which you can read about in The Drawing Lesson, the first in the Trilogy of Remembrance.
When I first saw her in the dining car, time stood still. The Maitre’d seated us together. Perhaps it was only a trick of light but, to me, she was an ethereal vision encompassing the entire universe. Her polite smile made a bright façade but her deep blue eyes were tinged with unfathomable regret. She was so familiar to me that I wondered if we had met in another time and place or perhaps in a dream.
The next evening, after dinner with her, I was so enchanted…so inspired by Daphne that for the first time in many months, I drew a dozen sketches—all of them of her. I knew she was my muse and that my art was returning. I rushed to her cabin with the drawings. She let me in and I showed them to her. She asked how she could be my muse when we had only just met. Sadly, I frightened her by my intensity when I said,
“My art comes from deep within. Some places are comfortable, familiar rooms, which I have often visited in dreams and reveries. Others are wonderfully fanciful and enchanting lands. And still others contain the terrifying stuff of nightmares. But all those places have their treasures and must be explored and intimately known if one is to create. Some quality, an essence, within the muse is like a candle flickering in the dark, illuminating everything in those rooms. That light leads the poor artist through his own private heaven and hell ever onward to his creation.”
I’m afraid it was more of a speech on my part than a conversation. But nonetheless, we enjoyed much of Venice together. If you want to hear more of that story, you must read The Drawing Lesson.
At last, my dinner was set before me and I broke off from my meandering thoughts of Daphne and returned to the question—Where to find Rinaldo?
When I returned to my hotel, the concierge waved me over.
“Signor Wainwright, I have an envelope for you, delivered when you were out.”
“Thanks very much.” I sat down in the lobby and opened the envelope. A note was enclosed which read,
My Dear Alex,
Such good news to hear you are in Venice! You’re just in time to partake of my next art project. I have a little game in mind. Look at the photograph enclosed and try to guess where that place is. I will meet with you there tomorrow at six o’clock and then we shall have some supper. That will give you enough time to solve my little riddle./ Rinaldo.
I withdrew the photograph.
A musical score.
There must be a thousand places in Venice where one might find such a book of music. I asked the concierge and he merely shrugged and said,
“Sir, music is played everywhere in Venice. If you wish, I will ask my colleagues in the morning.”
Thanking him, I returned to my room and, after going through several guide books, came up with nothing that matched the photograph. It was not an easy night.
Next morning after breakfast, I spoke with the concierge who shook his head when he saw the photograph from Rinaldo.
He said, “It’s a volume of a musical score, probably from the sixteenth or seventeenth century, Signor. But more than that, I cannot say.”
“There must be museums of composers in the city.”
The concierge slowly polished his glasses. “I could direct you to the music school. They might know.”
“Yes please. Is it nearby?”
“Not more than twenty minutes, Signor.” He took out a pad of paper and began to draw a map. “Here is the school of Ancient and Classical Music.” He drew a large dot in the centre of what appeared to be a very deep and complex maze. “If you keep turning left as you come to the sixth bridge you will find it very easily.” He smiled at me—I thought with some malice—and turned away to speak with another guest fumbling with his maps.
I took the concierge’s drawing and stepped outside the hotel. Which way to go? I turned the map about and squinted at it. Finally I set off.
Almost immediately, a camera flash went off—directly in my eyes—or so it seemed.
Of course, people are forever taking photographs all about Venice. Although nearly blinded, I tried to see the person with the camera. He was a small man with a gnarled, thin and narrow face.
Hoping I was going the right way, I hurried on over the bridge.
As I descended the steps on the far side, another flash went off. This time, it was a woman who took the picture. But again, she might well be taking a shot of her friend on the bridge.
I studied my map for several moments and, although it seemed an unlikely route, I followed the calle leading off to the left.
Almost immediately, my path narrowed and I was forced to turn back.
I realized I was breathing heavily. I’ve always wondered about how our physical bodies warn us of danger, which is not otherwise apparent to the senses. I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I thought I heard footsteps. Someone started to whistle. I heard a clicking sound—like a camera taking pictures.
I quickened my step, expecting to meet someone at every turn, but at last, I arrived at another bridge leading to the other side of the canal.
Just as I was relaxing, another flash went off. I struggled with the question—Am I becomingparanoid? Of course, if you want to go about the world and accomplish things, your answer to the question must be—Yes—you are paranoid! There is no danger.And then you carry on. If you don’t, then every little event will grow into something threatening. I decided to forge ahead.
I took one more turn. There it was! My music school. I entered and showed the clerk the photograph. A broad smile broke upon his face.
“Signor, that is the manuscript of the great Antonio Vivaldi. There is a museum next door where it is possible for you to see the music.”
Indeed, the museum was just across the palazzo. I stepped inside a darkened corridor. There it was—just as in Rinaldo’s photograph—the musical score. I spent a few moments examining some of the other items—the statues, the cello and piano in the museum.
Vivaldi’s musical score.
But it was only eleven o’clock in the morning. Rinaldo would not meet me here until six in the evening. How to spend the rest of the day? A strange question for one who loves Venice!
Just as I was leaving, I caught, from the corner of my eye, a man who seemed to be watching me intently. When our eyes met, he swiftly turned away and was lost in the crowd. An uneasy feeling indeed!