The Theatre - The History | Teatro La Fenice


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The Teatro La Fenice was founded in 1792. In the nineteenth century, the theatre staged the world premieres of numerous operas, including Rossini’s Tancredi, Sigismondo and Semiramide, Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues) and Beatrice di Tenda, Donizetti’s Belisario (Belisarius)Pia de’ Tolomei, and Maria de Rudenz, and Verdi’s ErnaniAttila, RigolettoLa traviata and Simon Boccanegra


In the last century, the Fenice has also placed a special emphasis on contemporary productions, welcoming the world premieres of Stravinski’s The Rake’s Progress, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Prokofiev’s L’angelo di fuoco (The Fiery Angel), Nono’s Intolleranza (Intolerance) and Maderna’s Hyperion. Recent premieres have included Kagel’s Entführung im Konzertsaal (Kidnapping in the Concert Hall), Guarnieri’s Medea, Mosca’s Signor Goldoni and Ambrosini’s Il killer di parole (The Killer of Words)

With a seating capacity for over one thousand people, the Fenice boasts excellent acoustics (which were improved when the theatre was rebuilt after the devastating fire of 1996), a 98-member orchestra and 66-person opera chorus, a dedicated local audience and a large international following. The theatre is a leading creative venue, staging more than one hundred opera performances per year, a major symphonic season conducted by prominent conductors from across the globe (including frequent collaborations with Myung-Whun Chung, Riccardo Chailly, Jeffrey Tate, Vladimir Temirkanov and Dmitrij Kitajenko), the full cycles of symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Mahler, a contemporary repertoire focused especially on Venetian artists such as Nono and Maderna, ballets, and chamber music concerts.

The theatre is owned by the Municipality of Venice and managed by the Fondazione Teatro La Fenice, a private body whose members include the State of Italy, the Veneto region, the Municipality of Venice and numerous public and private institutions. The foundation also runs a second theatre, the Teatro Malibran (formerly known as the Teatro di San Giovanni Grisostomo), which dates back to 1678.

Superintendent and Artistic Director is Fortunato Ortombina and Chorus Master Claudio Marino Moretti.

In keeping with the theatre’s storied history, the Fondazione Teatro La Fenice is proud to stage the most important works of the Italian and international operatic repertoire, including pieces by French, Slavic, British and German composers. (Venice has enjoyed a long-standing, deep-rooted relationship with both Britten and Wagner.) The Foundation also hosts cutting-edge experimental directors while continuing to offer first-rate musical experiences. Furthermore, it conducts ongoing research into contemporary music, commissioning new works and staging Italian and Venetian premieres, and, in collaboration with Italian and international experts, is especially interested in producing Baroque works, particularly those from the Venetian repertoire.


In recent seasons, the Foundation has also endeavored to meet another of the goals set out in its statutes by developing new artistic frameworks and promoting emerging young artists. To this end, the Fenice has hired emerging young professionals (including conductors, directors, set designers and singers) to stage avant-garde productions, commissioned young composers to write symphonies and chamber pieces. Furthermore, the Fenice collaborates with leading Venetian educational institutions (including the Conservatory, University and Academy of Fine Arts) and involves students in designing, producing and staging performances, particularly as part of the recently founded Atelier della Fenice at Teatro Malibran.


1837 - Opinion from the newspaper

Opinions differed on the new decoration. For the Gazzetta Privilegiata di Venezia on 28 December 1837, ... it would be truly difficult to find anything more beautiful and charming than the new auditorium of the Fenice. Its tints are so delicate and its splendours so harmonious that one’s spirits, on entering, are lifted and cheered. And referring to the stage: The ceiling is a jewel, in which the grace and beauty of the idea are equal to the felicity of its execution. It contains some compartments in mock-relief in which the optical illusion is truly perfect. The simplicity of the painting is matched and harmonized by the simplicity of the silk curtains of a clear sky-blue, which wonderfully assists the effect of the painting, and adds to its freshness and lightness.

The reporter of the Milanese Pirata saw things very differently: The renovated theatre is beautiful, gentle, gallant, but since it over abounds in gentleness and gallantry, in my opinion, it lacks that imposing beauty that the vastness and the nature of the place would require. It is all white with gold decorations interspersed with small paintings of figures in very delicate tints, and as the decorations are also very fair everything shines with a fine light which blurs the distinctions between one decoration and another, and while it seduces the eye it does not fix it in any place, or on any object, and when the eye rises to the vault it finds the same fine brilliance, and only there can it fix on the bronze-coloured star in gold from which hangs a beautiful and well-lit chandelier. The curtains of the boxes, following the same system of gentleness, and of gallantry, are of a light-blue colour, which is lost in the brilliance of the chandelier, of the footlights, and of the orchestra, so that those boxes appear to be decorated with a white material that has suffered the ravages of time. The Imperial Box is miserable in every sense of the term, both for the narrowness of the space it occupies, and for the ornaments that deck it.

adjusted on basis of the book of

Manlio Brusatin, Giuseppe Pavanello, Il Teatro La Fenice, Venezia, Albrizzi 1987, p. 191-212
Anna Laura Bellina, Michele Girardi, La Fenice 1792-1996, Il teatro, la musica, il pubblico, l’impresa, Marsilio, Venezia, 1997, p. 63-85