Teatro La Fenice ★★

Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy (Photo by Benh LIEU SONG)

The Venice opera house

, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Cornelli2010)
The Royal Box, or Imperial Loggia, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Alejandro)
, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Renato Grisa)

Venice's original opera house was called San Benedetto, but that burned down in 1774, so a new one was built and christened La Fenice ("The Phoenix").

It has since has to rise from the ashes, quite literally, two other times.

The 1790–92 version also burned down in 1836, but that time was quickly rebuilt as a "modern" 19th century opera house, which opened in 1837 and was soon hosting world premieres by Giuseppe VerdiAtilla, Rigoletto, La Traviata—Rossini (Tancredi), Bellini (I Capuleti e i Montecchi)Benjamin Britten (The Turn of the Screw), and Igor Sravinsky (The Rake's Progress).

In January, 1996, the city stood still in shock as La Fenice once again burned to the ground in the middle of a long and extensive renovation.

Actually, the renovations had been going on a bit too long, and that was why it burned: It was arson.

In 2001, two electricians who had been working on the renovations were found guilty of starting the fire on purpose (they somehow figured this would clear their company of the large fines about to be imposed for their continual delays).

After a raging debate over whether to recreate the 19th century design or to be bold and go modern (affection for the old won that round), reconstruction started yet again.

In just 650 days a team of 200 artisans and builders had rebuilt the theater to its 1836 design—though somehow also managing to boost the seating capacity to 1,000.

Inaugural concerts in December 2003 included appearances by Riccardo Muti, musical director of Milan's La Scala, and Elton John.

La Fenice reopened its official 2004 season with a performance of—what else?—La Traviata, and has since regained its status among the world's top opera houses.

 
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Photo gallery
  • , Teatro La Fenice, Italy (Photo by Benh LIEU SONG)
  • , Teatro La Fenice, Italy (Photo by Cornelli2010)
  • The Royal Box, or Imperial Loggia, Teatro La Fenice, Italy (Photo by Alejandro)
  • , Teatro La Fenice, Italy (Photo by Renato Grisa)

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Tips

How do I get La Fenice tickets?

The opera season at La Fenice now runs pretty much year-round—alongside orchestral concerts, ballets, and other performances.

You can buy tickets at the box office or ahead of time though Select Italy.

The "City of Falling Angels" book

In 2006, American journalist John Berendt, famous for his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," wrote "City of Falling Angels."

This fascinating account of the 1996 La Fenice fire and its aftermath is peopled, in typcial Berendt style, by quirky Venetian characters and packed with incisive insights about Venice and Venetian society.

Well worth a read.