La Fenice

La Fenice (40)

The theatre of La Fenice, one of the symbols of the Venetian cultural scene, honours its name, and from which the phoenix bird has arisen from its ashes on several occasions. In fact, the name refers to the same process of creation of this auditorium, since the Venier family, who promoted its creation, was previously the owner of the San Benedetto theatre, which had burnt down in 1774 and was rebuilt. 

After a bitter legal dispute, the Venier decided to build a new operatic coliseum in Campo San Fantin. The works were finished in 1792 and the theatre was officially named La Fenice. The design was entrusted to the architect Gian Antonio Selva, and the stage made its debut with the performance of the opera I Giocchi di Agrigento, by Gianni Paisiello.

With time, La Fenice, which staged premieres of operas such as Semiramide and Tancredi, by Gioacchino Rossini, became one of the grand opera houses of Europe, but at the end of 1836, flames once again devoured it. The determination of its heads and the good work in tandem of the architects and brothers Giambattista and Tommaso Meduna meant that just one year later it was able to open up again with a lavish decoration by Tranquillo Orsi.

During this new stage, La Fenice experienced a golden age thanks to the relationship it established with Giuseppe Verdi after the representation, in 1844, of the opera Ernani. From then on, featuring in golden letters in the history of the coliseum were the premieres of masterpieces such as Rigoletto, La Traviata or Simon Boccanegra.

During the 20th century, and despite a break during the First World War, the theatre continued carving out a mythical aura for itself due to an intense programme and new premieres such as The Turn of the Screw, by Benjamin Britten, or The Rake’s Progress, by Stravinsky.

Despite everything, the cycle of the phoenix reached its end once again in 1996, when another fire ended the dreams of the music lovers of these stalls and boxes. After a 5-year stoppage, during which the difficulties were weighed up of building, in the middle of a city like Venice, a theatre with all the safety measures required in a modern space, the opera orphans saw the light when the reconstruction work was undertaken, which lasted until 2003. 

The heads of the project chose to recreate with the utmost detail the appearance of the 19th-century hall, and, despite the fact that this idea was greatly criticised by many people for its lack of innovative spirit, today the hall has recovered its full activity. 

As a curious detail, you will be interested to know that, apart from consulting photographs, for the reconstruction they looked at the footage of Lucchino Visconti’s film, Sensi, which included a sequence shot in La Fenice in which some patriots throw roses onto the stage and sing out the slogan “Viva Verdi”.

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