Yesterday I took a vaporetto out to San Michele, the cemetery island of Venice. It was seven-thirty on a Sunday morning, and my only fellow passengers were several elderly people whom I took to be widows and widowers, bearing flowers for their loved ones. I was preparing to pay my respects to Igor Stravinsky, who loved Venice and held the premieres of The Rake's Progress, Canticum Sacrum, and Threni in the city. On April 15, 1971, a lugubrious gondola bore Stravinsky's coffin to San Michele; he was buried a few paces from the grave of Diaghilev, in the Orthodox section of the cemetery. If Diaghilev's tomb is a bit on the gaudy side, Stravinsky's, like Mahler's in Grinzing, is forcefully simple: a horizontal slab with the composer's name across the top and a cross toward the bottom. Vera Stravinsky is beside him, her grave identical in design…
…A recent visitor had left a piece of paper on which was written the famous E-flat/F-flat dissonance from the Rite. Unable to improve upon that gesture, I placed a pebble among dozens already resting on the slab and thought of what Stravinsky said when Diaghilev asked him how long those chords would go on: “Till the end, my dear.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.