Here are The Magic Memories #49, gone online SUN, 5th December, at 0:07h.
The Italian Tour
Several among you have complained that I did not tell you more about my little “Italian Adventure” as stated in an earlier post, so here are some impressions, with hopefully some additional information you’ll be able to use.
Villa Porro Pirelli – Private Show
To travel by car from Basel, which borders to France and Germany in the north of Switzerland, to Como, which is the border on the south, takes about 3 hours car drive, the same as driving through Los Angeles with heavy traffic – in Switzerland we cross that whole country in the same time, small is not only beautiful, it is also practical 🙂
I was lucky to get booked for a private show on THU, 12th NOV, at “Villa Porro Pirelli”, a superb country chateau outside of the city of Varese (have a look for yourselves, and make a note for your upcoming visit – the gorgeous room rate was ca. $ 90!, including breakfast, a real one…). You should know that Italy had a King and a monarchy until the end of WW2 that was then abolished in 1945. This left numerous luxury residences, a plethora of chateaus, some of which stayed empty for decades, but most of which have now been taken over either by companies or subsidized by the Ministry of Culture of the European Union (Billions went into such projects!). I tell you all this, because if you come to Northern Italy, especially Piedmont, these chateaus have been converted into hotels and restaurants, and some are so large that they could host a (magic!) convention of over one hundred people. The restaurants are often Michelin-quality, and all at reasonable prices. They are perfect places to stay and explore the surroundings.
As for the show, which was possibly the last in this year as most events have been cancelled due to the new Corona situation that seems to get worse every day, there were 32 guests, seated at four round tables, all in an elegant “salon” of the castle. In such a situation I usually do a 20 to 40 minutes stand-up show, normally after the main course, and then join the guests at each table after dessert and as they are having coffee and chat. At the tables I then adapt to the situation and do up to 15 minutes each, doing the table where the host sits usually last, with my best pieces, among them the “Sponge and Bowl Routine” and “Ring to Envelope and Wallet” (both are on my DVD-Download “The Act”). This “formula” makes the host feel as if I had been present for the duration of almost the complete event, and it is much easier to ask for a handsome fee. I’ve never “sold” myself for the duration of one or two hours, as I know some of my colleagues do: I’ve always explained to my customers that artists are not paid by the hour, as a craftsman is, such as a plumber or electrician, but by his market value. How else do you explain that Picasso’s dove, a painting he must have done in less than one minute, sells for hundreds of millions? You don’t pay a painting by the time it took the artist to paint it, but by the value the artist and his art have in the market. You might agree or not, but this is something to be thought about. And, yes, it is a big subject, and we’ll leave at this for the moment 🙂 Anyway, on this occasion I could draw on my linguistic talents, and use all of the six languages I speak, as the audience was a mix from the four corners of the world. This, to many, is more impressive than a large show with lots of tam-tam.
Magic Lecture in Varese
I had the good chance that my close friend Toni Cachadiña from Barcelona, a FISM-winner in Paris 1973 and Vienna 1976, joined me, and we spent three days in this beautiful location. Next day we met up with Gianfranco Preverino, a friend of many years, who lives in Varese, and who is not only an excellent close-up worker, but also an expert of gambling and cheating, and one of Italy’s foremost historians, with several books to his credit: see his act at the Magic Castle by CLICKING HERE. Gianfranco had organized a lecture for the magic clubs of Varese and Lugano, so Toni and I did a combined lecture that lasted over 3 hours to an enthusiastic crowd of about 25 people. I can only recommend this type of split-lecture, where two performers take turns doing a lecture, as the result for the attendees will be a varied and entertaining learning experience. Granted, there is not much money for the artists in this, as you have to split the meager income, but it is very rewarding in many senses. This reminds me of Schopenhauer, who said, “My philosophy has never made me any money, but it has saved me a lot.” And since the lecture was on a Saturday afternoon, in the evening a nice group gathered in the best local Pizzeria for a great meal in excellent company with lots of interesting talk, and that’s what it is all about.
Tre Re in Castellamonte
On Sunday Toni, Gianfranco and me met up at the “Tre Re”, a restaurant in Castellamonte near Torino, with our friends Marco Aimone, the president of Italy’s largest magic club, the Circolo Amici Della Magia of Torino, Andrea Pancotti, who manages Italy’s most important magic forum Prestigiazione.it and who is also my webmaster, and Fabio Cucé, a magic enthusiast and fan of my books, who is related to the chef of the “Tre Re” (“The Three Kings”), Roberto Marchello. This is our sixth or seventh gathering at this legendary place (we left out 2020 for Corona), once a year always in late autumn, to enjoy a white truffle lunch that lasts at least four hours! Normally, such a meal is unaffordable, but most of us had done a show for Roberto and his guests in the preceding years, and through Fabio he’s a fan of magic, so we get the full treat for less of what a steak and a bottle of wine would cost in New York City! Besides the truffle dishes, one of the deserts is a highlight, the Zabaglione (see photos below), prepared by the chef Roberto personally at our table.
The remarkable thing about this Zabaglione is that it is made only of three ingredients: egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine, so simple, but divine (and not so easy to do). I remember when some forty years ago I had sherbets at Frédy Girardet’s restaurant, rated with 3 Michelin stars, the highest you can get, and it was all so incredibly simple and unassuming, but the very best I ever had. At age 23, not even a professional then, then and there I vowed that my magic should be like that: No frills, no smoke, no laser, no assistants, no boxes, but just the artist, his instrument and his words, absolute minimalistic in form, but extraordinary in content. I have certainly reached that goal, as my magic has no frills, no smoke etc. 🙂
Museo della Magia & Magic Library in Cherasco
The plan was for Toni and me to drive to Cherasco, about a one-hour drive south of Torino, but unfortunately Toni had to fly back home for an emergency in the family, so I ventured there on my own. I stayed for three days at Don Silvio Mantelli’s (Mago Sales), a Salesian priest and international magician for children. This man warrants a book, and if you read Italian you can read his biography Il rischio di essere felici (The Risk of Being Happy), an astounding account of his life performing all over the world for thousands of children to collect money for his foundation helping poor children in the world.
Well, this man has also created the “Museo della Magia”, a museum of magic which is worth to travel to, as the Guide Michelin would say of his best restaurants. Not only will you be amazed to see this special place, financed with private and cultural funds, but as a magician you will also be able to visit his magic library, the largest in Italy, and one of the largest in the world, with over 22’000 magic books plus tons of magic magazines. Below you can see me studying in the library – a year would not suffice, but the few days I had were better than nothing. BTW: In the background you can see an original stage costume of Fu Manchu (David Bamberg), Okito’s son.
Don Silvio also has a beautiful small theatre with about 70 seats, and as every year we put up an event. This year, due to Corona, a public show was hard to do, so Marco Aimone and I did a two-hour plus lecture for about 40 local magicians who were very appreciative. As always, we donated our fee to Don Silvio’s foundation, so as to bring a bit of brightness to the children of the world. Below you can see, from left to right, Marco Aimone, Don Silvio, and an unknown 🙂 Lots more to tell, but we’ll leave that for another time, maybe.
Circolo Amici Della Magia Torino
On Friday, 19th NOV, I then drove to Torino, where in the evening I gave a talk on “How to Study Magic”. It was the second in a cycle of three, but due to Corona my first talk dealing with how to study and practice a magic trick was back in 2019 (see photo below)! Anyway, I had a nice crowd attending, and listening to “How to Make Notes and Manage Them in Evernote”. Don’t ask me if there is a recording of it, because even if there was, it would be in Italian. Although the talk needs polishing, like everything well done, I really think that it would be very interesting to several at a magic convention. I really find it hard to understand why magic conventions do not do more of this type of talks. The reason might be that especially the large magic conventions care more to “entertain” their customers than to “educate” them, but who says you can’t have both?
On the next day, Saturday 20th November, I then did a full-day Masterclass, really the main reason for doing this “Italian Tour”, the rest being “decoration”. I usually have 20 people, but still due to Corona (always Corona!), only seven were able to attend. Nonetheless, I did the “full program”: This year’s topic – I’ve been doing this now for at least ten years every year – was “The Psychological Construction of a Trick”, with particular attention to how to manage the spectator’s memory. Essentially I chose a dozen chapters from my latest book Sharing Secrets that are directly related on how the audience perceives information, stores it in their memory, and then using various strategies of thinking makes up the false subjective reality that ultimately leads them to Wonderland. A complex topic, of course, which I tried to dissect, explain in simple words, and then illustrate, step by step, with individual techniques and performance pieces. I was really happy with the result, as it proved my claim, that any theoretical concept is as practical as a sleight or other tangible principle of magic. Below you can see a small but happy group.
Ah, this has been a long one, for me and you, but I could relive this remarkable experience, even more special because in the past one-and-a-half years I was like most confined at home. I hope you found something of interest.
Wish you all a successful week!
PS: I did this last minute, so apologize for more typos than usual, but hope you appreciate the effort.
PPS: For all who have ordered “The Prophecy”, please have a little more patience, as Penguin Magic, my publisher and the distributor of the trick, announced a delay in supplies (damn Corona again…), but I should be able to ship mid-December (let’s hope).