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The Cafè of Wagner,
Musicians and Writers

Caffè Lavena would like to celebrate the great musician that more than anybody else has marked its history, Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner in Venice

During his stays in Venice, Wagner visited Piazza San Marco on a daily basis, always stopping at the Caffè Lavena for a cup of tea or a Cognac on the upper loggia, where he often spent half an hour conversing with Carlo Lavena.

Richard Wagner, one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time, gave lustre to Caffé Lavena, frequenting the place from the time of his first visit to Venice and becoming a habitué.

Wagner usually drank a cup of tea with pastry or a glass of cognac in the upper lodge, with his wife Cosima, his daughters and Franz Liszt, his father-in-law, a great pianist and composer. The chairs and table he occupied are still conserved at the Caffé Lavena. He rarely sat outside among the tables of the Café, as he loved his solitude, to meditate and write pages of memorable music. According to Wagner’s biographers, he composed part of Parsifal at the Caffé Lavena and the duet of Tristano and Isotta, which was created at the Café’s tables, is commemorated by a plaque by Vincenzo Cadorin inside the café.

Wagner was always at the Lavena to compliment the director of the city band, after the performance of his Lohengrin, and to converse about pentagrams with his friends, the violinistFrontali and Maestro Angelo Tessarin turning the Caffé Lavena into a club for musicians, who were attracted by the fame of the great German master.

As noted previously, Franz Liszt, Wagner’s father-in-law, also frequented the Lavena with him. Liszt was inspired to write some of his most beautiful pages of music for piano on Venice as he sat in the café.

At this point it is a must to recall some of the other musicians of the age, who were attracted by the fame of the German master and who met at the tables of the café, forming a veritable cultural club, to the point that the Lavena was renowned as Caffè dei musicisti (the Musicians’ Café). Among the guests of the Café there were Arthur Rubinstein, Mstislav Rostropovic, Karl Bòhm, Peter Maag, Mario del Monaco, Franco Corelli, Cecilia Gasdia, Raina Kabaiwanska, Uto Ughi, Katia Ricciarelli, and many of the most illustrious names in music and opera.

The memories of tradition

Writers in Venice

The celebrated German Prince Federico Hohenlohe Valdenburg frequented the Café for many years. He was an enthusiast of eighteenth century Venice and a connoisseur of art and letters, a refined writer in the French language and a die-hard scholar of the Venetian dialect. A coterie of enthusiasts of the various cultural and artistic disciplines was always present in the rooms of Caffé Lavena, such as the Goldonians Cesare Musatti and Edgardo Maddalena, the Casanovist Aldo Ravà, as well as Ugo Foscolo, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Honoré de Balzac. Among the guests of the Lavena, writers Guido Piovene, Giorgio Saviane, Alberto Moravia and Goffredo Parise, along with the most illustrious names of national and international culture, were habitués in more recent years.

The artistic trend

It should be noted that a particular event occurred around the Lavena tables. Gino Damerini, in his testimony Around Venice, collected by Enrico Falqui in his work Literary Cafés, recounts that “from that coterie of generous Venetian and foreign men of culture, the idea was born, which was later realised, of purchasing with their own money, on occasion of the second centennial of Carlo Goldoni’s birth, the house where he had been born, and to make a gift of it to the City, in order to create a research centre dedicated to the great playwright, on the occasion of the city’s publishing of a book on the works”. The Goldoni residence was thus saved from a bankruptcy auction and entrusted to the care of Giuseppe Ortolani.