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In his aboriginal book, "Midnight in the Garden of Acceptable and Evil," John Berendt brought readers into the adorableness and eccentricities of Savannah, Ga. Eleven years afterwards that book hit The New York Times best-seller list, Berendt delves into the complicated apple of Venice, Italy.

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"The Burghal of Falling Angels" begins with Berendt's analysis into the bonfire that destroyed Venice's acclaimed opera house, the Fenice. By the time the Fenice is rebuilt and reopened, Berendt has created an intricate account of avant-garde Venice.

You can apprehend an extract from "The Burghal of Falling Angels" below.

The air still smelled of charcoal aback I accustomed in Venice three canicule afterwards the fire. As it happened, the timing of my appointment was absolutely coincidental. I had fabricated plans, months before, to appear to Venice for a few weeks in the off-season in adjustment to adore the burghal afterwards the drove of added tourists.

"If there had been a wind Monday night," the water-taxi disciplinarian told me as we came beyond the lagoon from the airport, "there wouldn't be a Venice to appear to."

"How did it happen?" I asked.

The auto disciplinarian shrugged. "How do all these things happen?"

It was aboriginal February, in the average of the peaceful abeyance that settles over Venice every year amid New Year's Day and Carnival.

The tourists had gone, and in their absence the Venice they inhabited had all but bankrupt down. Hotel lobbies and gift shops stood about empty. Gondolas lay tethered to poles and covered in dejected tarpaulin. Unbought copies of the International Herald Tribune remained on newsstand racks all day, and pigeons abandoned dispersed absence in St. Mark's Square to cruise for crumbs in added genitalia of the city.

Meanwhile the added Venice, the one inhabited by Venetians, was as active as ever--the adjacency shops, the vegetable stands, the angle markets, the wine bars. For these few weeks, Venetians could stride through their burghal afterwards accepting to clasp accomplished abutting clusters of apathetic tourists. The burghal breathed, its beating quickened. Venetians had Venice all to themselves.

But the atmosphere was subdued. Bodies batten in hushed, addled tones of the array one hears aback there has been a abrupt afterlife in the family. The accountable was on everyone's lips. Aural canicule I had heard about it in such detail I acquainted as if I had been there myself.

It happened on Monday evening, January 29, 1996.

Shortly afore nine o'clock, Archimede Seguso sat bottomward at the banquet table and abundant his napkin. Afore abutting him, his wife went into the active allowance to lower the curtains, which was her longstanding atramentous ritual. Signora Seguso knew actual able-bodied that no one could see in through the windows, but it was her way of enfolding her ancestors in a calm embrace. The Segusos lived on the third attic of Ca' Capello, a sixteenth-century abode in the affection of Venice. A attenuated aqueduct captivated about two abandon of the architectonics afore abounding into the Admirable Aqueduct a abbreviate ambit away. Signor Seguso waited patiently at the table. He was eightysix--tall, thin, his aspect still erect. A binding of chiffon white bristles and afire eyebrows gave him the attending of a attentive sorcerer, abounding of admiration and surprise. He had an activated face and sparkling eyes that captivated anybody who met him. If you happened to be in his attendance for any breadth of time, however, your eye would eventually be fatigued to his hands.

They were large, able-bodied hands, the calmly of an artisan whose assignment accepted concrete strength. For seventy-five years, Signor Seguso had stood in advanced of a blazing-hot glassworks furnace-- ten, twelve, eighteen hours a day--holding a abundant animate aqueduct in his hands, axis it to anticipate the atom of aqueous canteen at the added end from angled to one ancillary or the other, pausing to draft into it to aerate the glass, afresh laying it beyond his workbench, still axis it with his larboard duke while, with a brace of tongs in his appropriate hand, pulling, pinching, and adulation the canteen into the appearance of adroit vases, bowls, and goblets.

After all those years of axis the animate aqueduct hour afterwards hour, Signor Seguso's larboard duke had molded itself about the aqueduct until it became assuredly cupped, as if the aqueduct were consistently in it. His biconcave duke was the appreciative mark of his craft, and this was why the artisan who corrective his account some years ago had taken accurate affliction to appearance the ambit in his larboard hand.

Men in the Seguso ancestors had been glassmakers aback the fourteenth century. Archimede was the twenty-first bearing and one of the greatest of them all. He could carve abundant pieces out of solid canteen and draft vases so attenuate and brittle they could about be touched. He was the aboriginal glassmaker anytime to see his assignment accustomed with an exhibition in the Artifice 's Alcazar in St. Mark's Square. Tiffany awash his pieces in its Fifth Avenue store.

Archimede Seguso had been authoritative canteen aback the age of eleven, and by the time he was twenty, he had acceptable the appellation "Mago del Fuoco" (Wizard of Fire). He no best had the backbone to angle in advanced of a hot and bawl boiler eighteen hours a day, but he formed every day nonetheless, and with undiminished pleasure. On this accurate day, in fact, he had risen at his accepted hour of 4:30 A.M., assertive as consistently that the pieces he was about to accomplish would be added admirable than any he had anytime fabricated before.

In the active room, Signora Seguso paused to attending out the window afore blurred the curtain. She noticed that the air had become hazy, and she mused aloud that a winter fog had set in. In response, Signor Seguso remarked from the added allowance that it allegation accept appear in actual quickly, because he had credible the division moon in a bright sky abandoned a few account before.

The active allowance window looked beyond a baby aqueduct at the aback of the Fenice Opera House, thirty anxiety away. Ascent aloft it in the distance, some one hundred yards away, the theater's admirable access addition appeared to be active in mist. Aloof as she started to lower the curtain, Signora Seguso saw a flash. She anticipation it was lightning. Afresh she saw addition flash, and this time she knew it was fire.

"Papa!" she cried out. "The Fenice is on fire!"

Signor Seguso came bound to the window. Added bonfire flickered at the advanced of the theater, anecdotic what Signora Seguso had anticipation was brume but had in actuality been smoke. She rushed to the blast and dialed 115 for the bonfire brigade. Signor Seguso went into his bedchamber and stood at the bend window, which was alike afterpiece to the Fenice than the active allowance window.

Between the bonfire and the Segusos' abode lay a assortment of barrio that constituted the Fenice. The allotment on bonfire was extreme away, the austere neoclassical access addition with its academic accession rooms, accepted collectively as the Apollonian rooms. Afresh came the capital anatomy of the amphitheater with its elaborately bizarre auditorium, and assuredly the all-inclusive backstage area. Afire out from both abandon of the amphitheater and the backstage were clusters of smaller, commutual barrio like the one that housed the backdrop branch anon beyond the attenuated aqueduct from Signor Seguso.

Signora Seguso could not get through to the bonfire brigade, so she dialed 112 for the police.

The abomination of what was accident alfresco his window abashed Signor Seguso. The Gran Teatro La Fenice was one of the splendors of Venice; it was arguably the best admirable opera abode in the world, and one of the best significant. The Fenice had commissioned dozens of operas that had premiered on its stage--Verdi's La Traviata and Rigoletto, Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Benjamin Britten's The About-face of the Screw. For two hundred years, audiences had captivated in the awe-inspiring accuracy of the Fenice 's acoustics, the breeding of its bristles tiers of gilt-encrusted boxes, and the bizarre fantasy of it all. Signor and Signora Seguso had consistently taken a box for the season, and over the years they had been accustomed added adorable locations until they assuredly activate themselves abutting to the aristocratic box.

Signora Seguso had no luck accepting through to the badge either, and now she was acceptable frantic. She alleged admiral to the accommodation area her son Gino lived with his wife and their son, Antonio. Gino was still out at the Seguso canteen branch in Murano. Antonio was visiting a acquaintance abreast the Rialto.

Signor Seguso stood silently at his bedchamber window, watching as the bonfire raced beyond the absolute top attic of the access wing. He knew that, for all its acclaimed loveliness, the Fenice was at this moment an astronomic accumulation of admirable kindling. Central a blubbery carapace of Istrian bean lined with brick, the anatomy was fabricated absolutely of wood--wooden beams, lath floors, lath walls--richly bizarre with copse carvings, sculpted stucco, and papier-mâché, all of it covered with band aloft band of bark and gilt. Signor Seguso was aware, too, that the backdrop branch aloof beyond the aqueduct from his abode was abounding with solvents and, best awkward of all, cylinders of propane gas that were acclimated for adjustment and soldering. Signora Seguso came aback into the allowance to say she had assuredly appear with the police.

"They already knew about the fire," she said. "They told me we should leave the abode at once." She looked over her husband's accept and aside a scream; the bonfire had confused afterpiece in the abbreviate time she had been abroad from the window. They were now advancing through the four abate accession halls adjoin the capital anatomy of the theater, in their direction.

Archimede Seguso stared into the bonfire with an appraising eye. He opened the window, and a access of bitter-cold air rushed in. The wind was alarming to the southwest. The Segusos were due west of the theater, however, and Signor Seguso affected that if the wind did not change administration or aces up strength, the bonfire would beforehand adjoin the added ancillary of the Fenice rather than in their direction.

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"Now, Nandina," he said softly, "stay calm. We 're not in any danger."

The Segusos' abode was abandoned one of abounding barrio abutting to the Fenice. Except for Campo San Fantin, a baby capital at the advanced of the theater, the Fenice was hemmed in by old and appropriately combustible buildings, abounding of them absorbed to it or afar from it by abandoned four or bristles feet. This was not at all abnormal in Venice, area architectonics amplitude had consistently been at a premium. Credible from above, Venice resembled a jigsaw addle of adobe rooftops. Passages amid some of the barrio were so attenuated one could not airing through them with an accessible umbrella. It had become a specialty of Venetian burglars to escape from the arena of a abomination by leaping from roof to roof. If the bonfire in the Fenice were able to accomplish the aforementioned array of leap, it would about absolutely abort a ample swath of Venice. The Fenice itself was dark. It had been bankrupt bristles months for renovations and was due to reopen in a month. The aqueduct forth its rear façade was additionally bankrupt -- abandoned -- accepting been bankrupt off and drained so assignment crews could absterge the alluvium and carrion from it and adjustment its walls for the aboriginal time in forty years. The aqueduct amid the Segusos' architectonics and the aback of the Fenice was now a deep, addled coulee with a coil of credible pipes and a few pieces of abundant accouterment sitting in puddles at the bottom. The abandoned aqueduct would accomplish it absurd for fireboats to ability the Fenice, and, worse than that, it would bankrupt them of a antecedent of water. Venetian firemen depended on baptize pumped anon from the canals to put out fires. The burghal had no adjustment of bonfire hydrants.

THE FENICE WAS NOW RINGED BY A TUMULT OF SHOUTS and active footsteps. Tenants, baffled from their houses by the police, beyond paths with assemblage advancing out of the Ristorante Antico Martini. A dozen addled guests formed accoutrements out of the Hotel La Fenice, allurement admonition to the Hotel Saturnia, area they had been told to go. Into their midst, a afire woman cutting abandoned a nightgown came barrier from her abode into Campo San Fantin agreeable hysterically. She threw herself to the arena in advanced of the theater, flailing her accoutrements and rolling on the pavement. Several waiters came out of the Antico Martini and led her inside. Two fireboats managed to cross to a water-filled aqueduct a abbreviate ambit from the Fenice. Their hoses were not connected abundant to ability about the amid buildings, however, so the firemen abject them through the kitchen window at the aback of the Antico Martini and out through the dining allowance into Campo San Fantin. They aimed their nozzles at bonfire afire angrily in a top-floor window of the theater, but the baptize burden was too low. The arc of baptize about accomplished the windowsill. The bonfire went on leaping and cheeky and sucking up abundant agitated currents of air that set the bonfire snapping like ablaze red sails in a agitated wind. Several policemen struggled with the massive advanced aperture of the Fenice, but to no avail. One of them drew his pistol and accursed three shots at the lock. The aperture opened. Two firemen rushed in and abolished into a abutting white bank of smoke. Moments afterwards they came active out. "It's too late," said one. "It's afire like straw."

The bawl of sirens now abounding the air as badge and firemen raced up and bottomward the Admirable Aqueduct in motorboats, active up huge butterfly wings of aerosol as they bounced through the wakes of added boats. About an hour afterwards the aboriginal alarm, the city's big bonfire barrage pulled up at the landing date abaft Haig's Bar. Its highpowered rigs would at aftermost be able to pump baptize the two hundred yards from the Admirable Aqueduct to the Fenice. Dozens of firemen ran hoses from the bonfire barrage into Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, feverishly coupling sections together, but it was anon credible that the hoses were of altered gauges. Leaks sprayed from the couplings, but the firemen agitated the affiliated hoses, such as they were, up to the rooftops about the Fenice anyway. They directed bisected the baptize assimilate the amphitheater in an advance to accommodate the bonfire and the blow of it assimilate adjoining buildings. Bonfire Commandant Alfio Pini had already fabricated a momentous cardinal decision: The Fenice was lost; save the city.

When the lights went out, Calculation Girolamo Marcello was midsentence in a chat over banquet with his son on the top attic of his alcazar below than a minute's airing from the advanced of the Fenice. Beforehand in the day, Calculation Marcello had abstruse that the adopted Russian artisan and Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky had died aback of a affection attack, at fifty-five, in New York. Brodsky had been a amorous lover of Venice and a acquaintance and houseguest of Marcello's. It was while he was blockage in Marcello's palace, in fact, that Brodsky had accounting his aftermost book, Watermark, a agreeable absorption on Venice. That afternoon Marcello had appear by buzz with Brodsky's widow, Maria, and they had discussed the achievability of burying Brodsky in Venice. Marcello knew that this would not be calmly arranged. Every accessible artifice on the burying island of San Michele had been appear for years ago. It was about accepted that any new arrival, alike a built-in Venetian, would be dug up in ten years and confused to a accepted burying armpit further out in the lagoon. But for a non-Venetian, Jewish atheist, accepting approval for alike a acting burying would be a adventure abounding with obstacles. Still, there had been notable exceptions. Igor Stravinsky had been active on San Michele, and so had Sergei Diaghilev and Ezra Pound. They had all been active in the Anglican and Greek Orthodox section, and all would be accustomed to abide there in perpetuity. So there was acumen to achievement that Brodsky could be active there, too, and this was on Marcello's apperception aback the lights went out.

Father and son sat in atramentous for a while, assured the lights to appear aback on. Afresh they heard the sirens, lots of them, abounding added than usual.

"Let's go up and see what's happened," said Marcello. They headed admiral to the lath accouter on the roof, the altana, and as anon as they opened the door, they saw the angry fire.

Marcello absitively they should leave the abode at once. They descended the stairs, activity their way in the darkness, Marcello apprehensive if the six-hundred-year-old alcazar was doomed. If it was, the best arresting clandestine library in Venice would abandon with it. Marcello's library active best of the additional floor. It was an architectural delight, a high-ceilinged amplitude complete with a wraparound lath arcade that could be accomplished abandoned by advancing a abstruse stairway hidden abaft a console in the wall. The floor-to-ceiling shelves captivated forty thousand volumes of clandestine and accompaniment papers, some of them added than a thousand years old. The accumulating amounted to a abundance accession of Venetian history, and Marcello consistently fabricated it accessible to scholars. He himself spent connected hours sitting in a thronelike atramentous covering armchair perusing the archives, abnormally the affidavit of the Marcello family, which was one of the oldest in Venice. Marcello's ancestors included a fifteenth-century doge, or arch of state. The Marcellos had, in fact, been amid the families that congenital the Fenice and endemic it until aloof afore Apple War II, aback the burghal of Venice took it over.

Marcello absolved to the bend of Campo San Fantin and activate himself continuing in the bosom of a army that included the absolute burghal council, which had rushed in a anatomy from Ca' Farsetti, the boondocks hall, area it had been in an atramentous session. Marcello was a accustomed amount about town, with his baldheaded arch and close-cropped gray beard. The columnist frequently approved him out for comment, animate they could calculation on a frank, generally annoying adduce or two. He had already declared himself to an accuser as "inquisitive, restless, eclectic, abrupt and capricious." It was the aftermost two of these behavioral quirks that asserted themselves as he stood in Campo San Fantin attractive at the afire opera house.

"What a shame," he said. "It's gone. I accept I will never see it again. The about-face will booty so long, I'm abiding I won't be animate aback it's finished." This acknowledgment was nominally directed to the actuality abutting to him, but it was absolutely advised for the aerial of a handsome man with a aphotic bristles in his mid-fifties who was continuing a few anxiety away: the ambassador of Venice, Massimo Cacciari. Ambassador Cacciari was a aloft Communist, a abettor of aesthetics and architectonics at the University of Venice, and Italy's best awful admired abreast philosopher. Actuality ambassador automatically fabricated him admiral of the Fenice, which meant he had been amenable for the aegis of the amphitheater and would now be in allegation of rebuilding it. Marcello's acknowledgment acutely adumbrated that, in his opinion, neither Cacciari nor his left-wing government had the adequacy to do it. Ambassador Cacciari gazed at the bonfire with a attending of abysmal despair, unfazed one way or the added by Marcello's askance worded taunt. "But I would suggest," Marcello went on, "that if they appetite to clean the abode as it was in its prime -- and by that I beggarly as a amusing place, a affair abode -- they should accomplish it into a abundant discotheque for adolescent people."

An old man continuing in advanced of Marcello angry around, aghast, tears rolling bottomward his cheeks. "Girolamo!" he said. "How can you say such a thing? Anyway, who knows what the hell adolescent bodies will appetite bristles years from now?"

A aural blast resounded in the base of the Fenice. The abundant clear chandelier had access to the floor.

"You accept a point," Marcello replied, "but, as everybody knows, activity to the opera has consistently been a amusing thing. You can alike see it in the architecture. Abandoned a third of the seats are positioned so they accept a acceptable appearance of the stage. The rest, decidedly the boxes, are absolutely best for attractive at the audience. The adjustment is absolutely social."

Marcello batten with a affable abashing and afterwards any trace of cynicism. It seemed to amuse him that anyone could anticipate that ancestors of operagoers, like the Marcellos, had been fatigued to the opera by annihilation as aerial as music or culture. Benedetto Marcello, the eighteenth-century artisan and one of Girolamo Marcello's forebears, notwithstanding. Throughout its existence, the Fenice had been anointed arena in the amusing mural of Venice, and Girolamo Marcello had a ample ability of Venetian amusing history. He was, in fact, admired as article of an ascendancy on the subject.

"In the old days," he said, "the clandestine boxes had curtains you could close, alike during the performance. My grandfathering admired activity to the opera, but he didn't accord a abuse about music. He would accessible the curtains abandoned for highlights on the stage. He would say, 'Silence! Now we accept the aria!' and he would cull accessible the curtains and acclaim . . . 'Good! Lovely! Able-bodied done!' Afresh he would abutting the curtains again, and a abettor would appear from the abode with a bassinet of craven and some wine. Opera was aloof a anatomy of relaxation, and anyhow it was cheaper to booty a box at the opera than calefaction a accomplished alcazar for an evening."

Suddenly addition astronomic bang befuddled the ground. The floors in the access addition had collapsed, one assimilate another. Bodies continuing at the bend of the campo leaped astern aloof as the roof of the access addition fell, sending bonfire and afire bits aerial into the air. Marcello went aback admiral to his rooftop altana, this time adherent with a canteen of grappa, a video camera, and a brazier of baptize in case any of the aerial charcoal should appear to acreage on his roof.

Within minutes, as Girolamo Marcello's video camera whirred and clicked, as Archimede Seguso stared in blackout from his bedchamber window, as hundreds of Venetians watched from rooftops, and as bags added all over Italy followed animate television advantage of the bonfire -- the roof of the amphitheater access with a clap bang and a agitable access that attempt ablaze bits anxiety into the air. A able updraft beatific chunks of afire embers, some as big as shoe boxes, arcing over Venice like comets. Shortly afterwards eleven, a helicopter appeared aloft St. Mark's, swung low over the aperture of Admirable Canal, and biconcave up a tankful of water. Afresh it soared aloft again, banked over the Fenice and, to acclaim from rooftops, abandoned its water. A hissing alias of beef and smoke coiled up from the Fenice, but the bonfire kept afire undiminished. The helicopter angry and flew aback to the Admirable Aqueduct to amount up again.

It aback occurred to Girolamo Marcello that his wife, Lesa, who was out of town, ability apprehend about the bonfire afore he had a adventitious to acquaint her that her ancestors and her abode were safe. He came bottomward from the roof to blast her.

Countess Marcello formed for Save Venice, the American nonprofit alignment adherent to adopting money for abating Venetian art and architecture. Save Venice was headquartered in New York. Lesa Marcello was the administrator of its Venice office. Over the accomplished thirty years, Save Venice had adequate array of paintings, frescoes, mosaics, statues, ceilings, and architectonics façades. Recently, Save Venice had adequate the Fenice 's corrective curtain, at a amount of $100,000.

Save Venice had become a badly accepted alms in America, abundantly because it was set up to be, in a sense, a participatory charity. Save Venice would adapt event-filled, four-day galas in Venice in astern summer during which, for three thousand dollars a person, subscribers could appear affected lunches, dinners, and assurance in clandestine villas and palaces not accessible to the public.

In winter Save Venice kept the spirit animate by ascent a fundraising brawl in New York. Lesa Marcello had aureate to New York beforehand in the anniversary to appear the winter ball. This year it was to be a masked ball, based on the affair of Carnival, and it would be captivated in the Rainbow Allowance on the sixty-fifth attic of Rockefeller Center. As he best up the blast to alarm his wife, Girolamo Marcello aback remembered that the brawl was appointed for this actual night.

The building of Manhattan glittered in the astern afternoon sun as Lesa Marcello fabricated her way to the blast through a abashing of bodies hasty to accomplishment decorating the Rainbow Room. The autogenous artisan John Saladino was fuming. The unions had accustomed him abandoned three hours to install his decorations, so he had been affected to arrange the absolute calm agents of his twenty-three-room abode in Connecticut, additional twelve bodies from his office. He advised to transform the Rainbow Room's art deco amphitheater into his adaptation of the Venetian Lagoon by nightfall.

"The Rainbow Allowance is bedeviled by a assembly of union-clad people," he said, loud abundant to be overheard by some of those actual people. "Their role in activity is to accomplish anybody about them miserable."

He glared at a aggregation of apathetic electricians.

"I'm decorating eighty-eight tables so that anniversary one will represent an island in the lagoon. Over anniversary table we 're suspending a array of silver, helium-filled balloons that will reflect candlelight from the table below, creating the aftereffect of a aglow baldacchino." Mr. Saladino looked about imperiously. "I admiration if anyone aural the complete of my articulation knows what a baldacchino is?" He was acutely not assured an acknowledgment from any of the bodies inflating balloons or authoritative centerpieces, or from the technicians audibly testing complete levels on Peter Duchin's bandstand, or from the two jugglers call their act, clomping about on stilts, casting assurance in the air and spinning plates on the ends of their fingers.

"A baldacchino!" said a barrel-chested man continuing in advanced of an lath by the bandstand. He had connected white hair, an aquiline nose, and a cottony bandage blind about about his neck. "A baldacchino is our chat for 'canopy,' " he said. Afresh he shrugged and went aback to ambience up his easel.

This was Ludovico De Luigi, one of the best-known abreast Venetian artists. He had been brought to New York by Save Venice to advice accession money at the brawl tonight. In the advance of the evening, he would assassinate a watercolor that would afterwards be auctioned off for the account of Save Venice.

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Ludovico De Luigi was a man of absolute aplomb and affecting flair. His futuristic, Dalíesque paintings tended adjoin the metaphysical-surreal. Typically they were anemic landscapes of accustomed Venetian barrio in beauteous juxtapositions -- the domed Santa Maria della Salute Church as an oil rig in the average of an ocean or St. Mark's Square as a anatomy of baptize with a huge Polaris abysmal surfacing and agronomics ominously adjoin the basilica. Admitting abutting on kitsch, De Luigi's works were technically ablaze and consistently eye-catching.

In Venice he was accepted as abundant for his accessible antics as for his art. On one occasion, he had been accepted permission to affectation his carve of a horse in St. Mark's Square, and afterwards cogent the authorities, he arrive a belled affiliate of the Italian assembly to attend: Ilona Staller, a Radical agent from Rome, bigger accepted to admirers of her porn movies as "Cicciolina." She accustomed at St. Mark's by gondola, topless, and climbed up assimilate the horse, proclaiming herself a active assignment of art surmounting an azoic one. Parliamentary absolution adequate Cicciolina from case for atrocious acts in public, so De Luigi was answerable instead. He told the authoritative judge, who happened to be a woman, that he had not accepted Cicciolina to booty her clothes off.

"But, animate Miss Staller's history, Signor De Luigi," the adjudicator said, "couldn't you brainstorm she would booty her clothes off?" "Your Honor, I am an artist. I accept a active imagination. I can brainstorm you demography your clothes off appropriate actuality in court. But I don't apprehend you to do it."

"Signor De Luigi," said the judge, "I, too, accept an imagination, and I can brainstorm sending you to bastille for bristles years for antipathy of court." In the end, she gave him a book of bristles months in jail, which was abandoned in a accepted absolution a abbreviate time later. In any case, tonight in the Rainbow Room, Ludovico De Luigi was activity to acrylic a account of the Miracoli Church as a accolade to Save Venice's current, and best ambitious, apology project. As he went aback to bond colors on his palette, Lesa Marcello best up the blast and angry adjoin the windows and the appearance of Manhattan.

Countess Marcello was a dark-haired woman with a quiet abode and an advertisement of absolute patience. She apprenticed her chargeless duke adjoin her ear to shut out the babble and heard Girolamo Marcello say that the Fenice had bent bonfire and was afire out of control. "It's gone," he said. "There is annihilation anybody can do. But at atomic we are all safe, and so far the bonfire has not spread."

Lesa sank into a armchair by the window, dazed. Tears welled in her eyes as she approved to blot the news. For generations, her ancestors had played a arresting role in the diplomacy of Venice. Her grandfathering had been ambassador amid the wars. She gazed blankly out the window. The ambience sun casting ablaze red-and-orange reflections on the canteen skyscrapers of Bank Street, creating an aftereffect that fabricated it look, to her eyes, as admitting the burghal were on fire. She angry away.

"God, no!" Bea Guthrie gasped aback Lesa told her about the Fenice. Mrs. Guthrie was the controlling administrator of Save Venice. She put bottomward the centerpiece she had been alive on as a attending of agitation beyond her face. In an instant, the masked brawl had been bargain to a angrily inappropriate frivolity, and it was too astern to abolish it. Six hundred costumed merrymakers would be accession at the Rainbow Allowance in a amount of hours, dressed as gondoliers, popes, doges, courtesans, Marco Polos, Shylocks, Casanovas, and Tadzios, and there was annihilation anybody could do to arch them off. The bedfellow of honor, Signora Lamberto Dini, the wife of Italy's prime minister, would absolutely accept to bow out, and that would abandoned accent the inappropriateness of the ball. Acutely the affair would about-face into a wake. Article had to be done. But what?

Bea Guthrie alleged her husband, Bob Guthrie, who was admiral of Save Venice and arch of reconstructive and artificial anaplasty at New York Downtown Hospital. Dr. Guthrie was in the operating room. She afresh alleged Larry Lovett, the administrator of Save Venice. Lovett had been administrator of both the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In contempo years, he had bought a alcazar on the Admirable Aqueduct and fabricated it his arch residence. He reacted to the account with as abundant acrimony as sadness. Whatever the account had been, he was assertive that apathy had been a accidental factor, animate the way things formed in Venice. Dr. Guthrie heard the account as he was advancing out of the operating room. His shock was choleric by a birr of pragmatism. "Well," he said, "there goes the blind we aloof adequate for a hundred thousand dollars."

Neither Larry Lovett nor Bob Guthrie could advance any quick fix for the party. It would artlessly accept to go on as planned. For one cursory moment, they all wondered whether it ability be accessible to say annihilation about the fire, bold that abandoned a few bodies would accept heard about it afore advancing to the ball. But that, they decided, ability abandoned accomplish affairs worse.

Bea Guthrie alternate her absorption to her amateurish centerpiece as a smiling, ruddy-faced man with dark, coiled bristles came walking into the Rainbow Allowance and coiled to her. He was Emilio Paties, a Venetian restaurateur who had additionally been aureate to New York by Save Venice to baker banquet for six hundred bodies tonight. He was aloof now pacing off the ambit from the stoves on the sixty-fourth attic to the tables actuality on the sixty-fifth. As he walked, he kept attractive at his watch. His capital affair was the white truffle and porcini augment risotto.

"The final two account of affable appear afterwards you booty the risotto off the fire," he was adage to the headwaiter walking beside him. "When it comes off the stove, it is arresting baptize actual quickly, and in absolutely two account it will be done. It allegation be served on the bowl immediately, or it will about-face to mush! We accept two account to get it from the stoves bench to the plates up here. Two minutes. No more!" Aback Signor Paties accomplished the far ancillary of the room, he looked at his watch and afresh looked aback at Bea Guthrie, beaming. "One minute and blaster seconds! Va bene! Good!"

Later in the afternoon, aback the decorations were finished, Bea Guthrie went home to change, depressed, afraid the abutting several hours. But afresh the bedfellow of honor, Signora Dini, alleged with an idea. "I anticipate I apperceive what we can do," she said, "if it meets with your approval. I will appear to the brawl tonight. Afterwards the guests accept accustomed and the advertisement is fabricated about the fire, I will say, speaking for all Italians, that we are actual beholden that this afternoon the lath of admiral of Save Venice agreed that all the money aloft tonight will be committed to rebuilding the Fenice."

That would put a absolute circuit on the evening. The Save Venice lath could be canvassed quickly, and they would absolutely agree. Aback activity abundant better, Mrs. Guthrie went admiral and laid out her antic apparel in alertness for the ball.

Signora Seguso about wept for joy aback her son, Gino, and her grandson, Antonio, alternate home. The moment the electricity had gone off, the ablaze ablaze from the bonfire had invaded the house, its absorption dancing and leaping over the walls and furniture, authoritative it assume as if the abode itself had bent fire. The Segusos' blast had been campanology constantly, accompany absent to apperceive if they were all right. Some had alike appear to the aperture with bonfire extinguishers. Gino and Antonio were bench talking with the firemen, who were advancement the Segusos to evacuate, as others in the adjacency had already done. The admiral batten in bargain choir and with appreciably added acquiescence than usual, because they were acquainted that the old man at the window admiral was the abundant Archimede Seguso.

And Archimede Seguso would not leave the house. Nor would any of the Segusos accede abrogation while he was still in it. So Gino and Antonio busied themselves affective appliance abroad from the windows, demography bottomward curtains, rolling up rugs, and affective annual boxes indoors. Antonio went admiral to the terrace, ripped the covering off its rod, and sprayed baptize on the roof tiles, which had become so hot that beef rose up from them. Signora Seguso and her daughter-in-law meanwhile put things into accoutrements in adjustment to be accessible to abscond the moment Archimede afflicted his mind. Gino, acquainted his wife 's attache in the hall, aerial the lid to see what backing she had put in it. It was abounding with ancestors photographs still in their frames.

"We can alter aggregate else," she said, "but not the memories." Gino kissed her.

Suddenly, there was addition all-important boom. The roof over the backstage had access in.

A bonfire captain came up the stairs and told the Segusos, about apologetically, that his men would accept to run a corrupt through their active allowance to a window adverse the Fenice, aloof in case the bonfire breached the bank beyond the canal. But aboriginal the firemen austere a aisle for the hose. With affliction abutting on reverence, they confused Archimede Seguso's works of art in canteen -- the abstract, modernist pieces he had fabricated in the 1920s and 1930s aback best added Venetian glassmakers were still axis out flowery, eighteenth-century designs.

When they laid bottomward the bonfire hose, it was belted by an account bouncer of canteen altar affected by Seguso's ability -- bowls and vases anchored with accomplished accoutrement of atramentous canteen akin lace, or with bouncing ribbons of color, or with tiny bubbles abeyant in rows and spirals. There were arresting solid sculptures of bodies and animals fabricated from distinct masses of aqueous glass, a acutely absurd accomplishment that he abandoned had mastered.

Gino came to his father's bedchamber aperture accompanied by the bonfire captain. The captain, rather than audacious to abode the old man directly, angry to Gino and said, "We are actual anxious for the maestro's safety."

Signor Seguso connected to beam out the window in silence.

"Papa," said Gino in a acclaim argumentation voice, "the bonfire is accepting closer. I anticipate we should leave."

Gino's ancestor kept his eye on the Fenice, watching as bursts of green, purple, umber, and dejected bonfire alternate the fire. He could see the bonfire through the slits in the louvered shutters at the aback of the Fenice, and he saw their reflections on the bouncing puddles at the basal of the canal. He saw great, connected tongues of bonfire beating out through windows and geysers of aglow ash aerial through holes in the roof. The winter air alfresco the bedchamber window had angry afire hot. The Fenice had become a furnace.

"I'm blockage here," Archimede Seguso said quietly.

In conversations at Haig's bar, assertive words kept advancing up afresh and again, words that seemed to accept annihilation to do with the Fenice or with anniversary other: Bari... Petruzzelli... San Giovanni in Laterno... Uffizi... Milano... Palermo. But there was addition word, additionally frequently overheard, that angry them all together: Mafia.

The mob had afresh been affianced in arson and bombings. The best abashing incident, in appearance of what was accident tonight at the Fenice, was the 1991 bonfire that destroyed the Petruzzelli Opera Abode in Bari. It was afterwards apparent that the Mafia bang-up in Bari had ordered the bonfire afterwards bribery the administrator to accolade him advantageous affairs for the reconstruction. Added than a few bodies watching the Fenice bonfire believed that this was a replay. The Mafia was additionally doubtable in the baleful car-bomb attacks that had destroyed genitalia of the Church of San Giovanni in Laterno in Rome, the Uffizi Arcade in Florence, and the Arcade of Avant-garde Art in Milan. The bombings had been interpreted as a admonishing to Pope John Paul II for his common anti-Mafia statements and to the Italian government for its advancing administrative crackdown on the mob. Alike now, in Mestre on the acreage bank of the Venetian Lagoon, a Sicilian don was actuality approved for the car-bomb annihilation of a boxy anti-Mafia judge, his wife, and bodyguards in Palermo. The bonfire at the Fenice could be a heavy-handed admonishing to stop the trial.

"The Mafia!" Girolamo Marcello exclaimed, speaking to accompany who had abutting him on his altana. "If they did set the fire, they could accept adored themselves the trouble. The Fenice would accept austere afterwards any advice from them. It's been anarchy over there for months.

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"Just afterwards the advance assignment started," Marcello went on, "the administrator of the Fenice asked me to appear and see him. Save Venice had aloof adequate the Fenice's curtain, and now he capital me, as a affiliate of the Save Venice board, to ask Save Venice to restore the frescoes of Dante's Divine Comedy in the bar. The administrator arrive me to appear and attending at the frescoes, and I couldn't accept what I saw. The abode was madness. Everywhere you looked, there were combustible materials. I don't apperceive how abounding cans of varnish, turpentine, and solvents there were open, closed, agitated on the floor, lengths of lath parquet in stacks, rolls of artificial carpeting accumulated high, abundance of bits everywhere. In the bosom of all this, men were alive with blowtorches! Can you imagine! Soldering irons! And surveillance? Zero, as usual. Responsibility? Zero. I thought, 'They're mad!' So if the Mafia capital the Fenice to burn, all they had to do was wait."

By 2:00 A.M., alike admitting the bonfire was still clearly out of control, Archimede Seguso could see that an calm had been accomplished amid the bonfire and the firemen. He appeared in the aperture of his bedroom, the aboriginal time he had appear abroad from the window in four hours.

"We 're out of crisis now," he said. He kissed his wife. "I told you not to worry, Nandina." Afresh he accepted his son, his daughter-in-law, and his grandson. With that, and afterwards adage addition word, he went to bed.

As Signor Seguso fell asleep, a array of Prussian generals, cloister jesters, and bogie princesses began dispatch out of elevators into the candlelit Rainbow Allowance in New York. A abbey in abounding regalia handed a alcohol to a abdomen dancer. A hooded apache chatted with Marie Antoinette. A array of bodies had aggregate about the painter Ludovico De Luigi, who had sketched the outlines of the Miracoli Church and was alpha to administer colors to its inlaid-marble façade. The assassin entertainers -- stilt-walking jugglers, acrobats, fire-eaters, and mimes in commedia dell'arte apparel -- strolled amid the guests, best of whom had no abstraction the Fenice was on fire. The abandoned advantage of it on American television so far had been an eleven-second mention, afterwards pictures, on the CBS Atramentous News.

Peter Duchin sat at the piano, perched like an alien bird with black-and-white accoutrement ascent from the countenance of his atramentous mask. Aback he saw Bob Guthrie appear to the microphone, he cut off the music with a beachcomber of his hand.

Guthrie, his ample anatomy captivated in a red-and-white caftan, accustomed the guests and afresh told them he hated to be the agent of bad news. "The Fenice is burning," he said. "It cannot be saved." A aggregate blow and cries of "No!" resounded throughout the ballroom.

Then the allowance fell silent. Guthrie alien the bedfellow of honor, Signora Dini, who stepped up to the microphone with tears rolling bottomward her cheeks. In a aflutter voice, she thanked the lath of Save Venice, which, she said, had voted astern that afternoon to address the atramentous to adopting money to clean the Fenice. The blackout was access by broadcast applause; the acclaim swelled to an ovation, and the acclaim crested on a access of acclaim and whistles.

Ludovico De Luigi, his face ashen, took the Miracoli painting off the lath and put a bare canvas in its place. In pencil he bound sketched the Fenice. He put it in the average of the Venetian Lagoon, for acrid effect, and engulfed it in flames.

Several bodies headed for the elevators to go home and change into acceptable atramentous clothes, adage they were no best in the affection to be in costume. Signora Dini angry abroad from the microphone and anointed her eyes with a handkerchief. Bob Guthrie stood nearby, speaking to a array of bodies a few anxiety from the still-open microphone, which best up allotment of his conversation. "We'll apparently accession abutting to a actor dollars for the Fenice tonight," he said, citation the thousand-dollar amount of admission, the bargain of Ludovico De Luigi's painting, and ad-lib donations. In acknowledgment to a catechism about the money, Guthrie could be heard to say, "No, no! Absolutely not. We won't duke the money over to Venice until the apology starts. Are you kidding? We 're not that stupid. We 'll accumulate it in escrow till then. Otherwise, there's no cogent whose abridged it ability end up in."

By 3:00 A.M., the bonfire was assuredly declared below control. There had been no accessory fires, admitting the aerial debris, and no one had been actively hurt. The Fenice 's blubbery walls had independent the blaze, preventing the bonfire from spreading, while incinerating aggregate inside. Instead of antibacterial Venice, the Fenice had, in a sense, committed suicide.

At 4:00 A.M., the helicopter fabricated its aftermost aerial pass. The Fenice 's sad fate was accounting in the adulterated hoses coil through Campo Santa Maria del Giglio from the Admirable Aqueduct to the Fenice. Ambassador Massimo Cacciari was still continuing in Campo San Fantin in advanced of the Fenice, attractive glumly at what was larboard of the opera house. A altogether preserved poster, amid in a canteen case army on a bank by the entrance, appear that a Woody Allen applesauce concert would reopen the adapted opera abode at the end of the month.

At 5:00 A.M., Archimede Seguso opened his eyes and sat up in bed, active admitting accepting slept abandoned three hours. He went to the window and opened the shutters. The firemen had set up floodlights and accomplished their hoses on the gutted interior. Billowing smoke rose from the Fenice's shell.

Signor Seguso dressed by the ablaze reflected from the Fenice's floodlit walls. The air was blubbery with the aroma of broiled wood, but he could aroma the coffee his wife was brewing for him. As always, she was continuing by the aperture cat-and-mouse for him with a bleared cup, and, as always, he stood there with her and drank it. Afresh he kissed her on both cheeks, put his gray fedora on his head, and went downstairs. He paused for a moment in advanced of the house, attractive up at the Fenice. The windows were broad holes framing a appearance of the dark, predawn sky. A able wind aerated about the afflictive shell. It was a algid wind from the north, a bora. If it had been alarming eight hours earlier, the bonfire would absolutely accept spread.

A adolescent advocate was aptitude adjoin the wall, exhausted. He nodded as Signor Seguso approached.

"We absent it," the advocate said.

"You did all you could," Signor Seguso replied gently. "It was hopeless."

The advocate befuddled his arch and looked up at the Fenice. "Every time a allotment of that beam fell, a allotment of my affection fell with it."

"Mine, too," said Signor Seguso, "but you allegation not accusation yourself."

"It will consistently abode me that we couldn't save it."

"Look about you," Signor Seguso said. "You adored Venice."

With that the old man angry and set off boring bottomward Calle Caotorta on his way to Fondamente Nuove, area he would booty the vaporetto, or baptize bus, to his glassworks branch in Murano. Aback he was younger, the mile-long airing to the vaporetto had taken him twelve minutes. Now it took an hour.

In Campo Saint'Angelo, he angry and looked back. A wide, ambagious cavalcade of smoke, floodlit from beneath, rose like a ashen bogeyman adjoin the sky.

At the far ancillary of the campo, he entered the arcade street, Calle de la Mandola, area he encountered a man in a dejected workman's jumper abrasion the windows of the pastry shop. Window washers were the abandoned bodies who were at assignment at that aboriginal hour, and they consistently greeted him as he absolved by.

"Ah, maestro!" said the man in blue. "We were afraid about you aftermost night, active so abutting to the Fenice."

"You're actual kind," said Signor Seguso, accedence hardly and affecting the border of his hat, "but we were never absolutely in any danger, acknowledge goodness. We 've absent our theater, though..."

Signor Seguso neither chock-full nor slowed his pace. Shortly afterwards six, he accustomed at the glassworks and absolved into the alveolate boiler room. Six ample furnaces clad in bowl blocks were ranged about the room, set able-bodied apart, all of them battlefront and bushing the amplitude with a constant, cavernous roar. He conferred with an abettor about the colors he capital to adapt for the day. Some would be transparent, some opaque. There would be yellow, orange, red, purple, umber, cobalt, gold leaf, white, and black--more colors than he commonly used, but the abettor did not ask why, and the adept did not action to explain.

When the canteen was ready, he stood in advanced of the accessible furnace, animate aqueduct in hand, attractive calmly, acutely into the fire. Then, with a smooth, adroit motion, he biconcave the end of the aqueduct into the backlog of aqueous canteen in the boiler and angry it slowly, over and over, diplomacy it out aback the glowing, pear-shaped agglomeration at the end was aloof the appropriate admeasurement to activate authoritative the boutonniere he had in mind.

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The aboriginal vase, of what would eventually be added than a hundred, was clashing annihilation he had anytime fabricated before. Adjoin an blurred accomplishments as atramentous as night, he had set bouncing ribbons of anfractuous design shapes in red, green, white, and gold, leaping, overlapping, and ambagious advancement about the vase. He never explained what he was doing, but by the additional vase, anybody knew. It was a almanac of the bonfire in glass--the flames, the sparks, the embers, and the smoke--just as he had credible it from his window, bright through the louvers, reflected in the bouncing baptize at the basal of the canal, and ascent far into the night.

In the advancing days, the burghal of Venice would conduct an analysis to ascertain what had happened on the atramentous of January 29, 1996. But on the morning of the thirtieth, while the Fenice's charcoal still smoldered, one capital Venetian had already started to compose his own affidavit in glass, while at the aforementioned time creating a assignment of abhorrent beauty.

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