Tourist Guide Venice

Teatro la Fenice (The ‘Phoenix’)

Teatro la Fenice (The ‘Phoenix’)
Source:        Photographer: Biggi

Granted, an opera house is not necessarily the first port of call when young people visit a city. However in Venice things are often very different than in other parts of the world. As such the Teatro la Fenice (its full name being ‘Gran Teatro la Fenice di Venezia’) has its very own attraction for which there is neither an upper of lower age limit. As is often the case in Venice the history of the opera house is full of drama and passion. ‘Fenice’ is the Italian name for ‘Phoenix’ i.e. the legendary bird that re-emerges from its own ashes. This was the same for the opera house that holds its name, as the previous building that stood here fell victim to flames in 1773. There were quarrels and disputes between the company managing the theatre and the noble family to whom the theatre belonged. The managers eventually decided to build their own new theatre. In 1792 the new opera house was inaugurated and developed into one of the most important stages in Europe.

However the ‘fire devil’ soon struck again and in 1836 La Fenice once again sustained heavy damage from a fire. This time however, the building was quickly made playable in again and in so doing protected its excellent reputation. Giuseppe Verdi could hence continue to premier his operas in La Fenice, which he did with ‘Rigoletto’, ‘La Traviata’ and ‘Simone Boccanegra’. Even Richard Wagner was in favour of Venice, despite the fact that after unification, Italy in 1870 promoted the opera houses of Milan, Rome and Naples. Nevertheless Wagner chose La Fenice to first play his ‘The Ring of the Nibelung’. He sadly did not live to witness the premiere as he died immediately before it in Venice.

La Fenice retained its importance throughout the centuries and even after the Second World War it did not suffer any losses. But then came the 29th January 1995. The opera house was due to undergo renovations that were to be carried out by the electronic engineer Enrico Carella and his cousin Massimiliano Marchetti, amongst others. Instead the pair set the house on fire. The electrical engineer wanted to avoid a penalty due to delays in the work…

The Opera once again burnt down to its foundations; Carella fled and was not discovered again until 2007. He was spotted in Mexico, from where he was then delivered to the Italian authorities. The ‘Teatro La Fenice’ had already been operating again for three years – it was rebuilt to its original state using photographs and film documents.

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