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.


1854 - The restoration of Imperal Box

The next work carried out in the auditorium of the Fenice was in 1854, and was due to the need to restore the ceiling, which provided an opportunity for a new decoration more in keeping with the aesthetic taste of the day. The fashion now was for revivals of past styles and exoticism, and thus the neo-classical decoration of the theatre must have seemed extremely pass.
The only changes made after the 1837 reconstruction had regarded the Imperial Box, which had been done away with after the uprising of 1848, as a symbol of Austrian oppression.

However, the six boxes that were constructed to replace the Imperial Box, and which took the Fenice back to its 18th-century origins, did not last long. On 22 August 1849, with the return of the Royal Austrian Government, orders came for the loggia to be reconstructed in its previous form, and the work was swiftly carried out... by the Meduna brothers.

Giuseppe Borsato, now an old man, was summoned again to decorate the Imperial Box and he did it on a richer and more complicated design than before.
To return to the 1854 intervention, the competition for the restoration and new decoration was announced publicly on 7 January 1853 but none of the fifteen projects submitted was considered good enough.

Thus the project presented by Giambattista Meduna was accepted, although, due to the insistence of the government which supported a project by Luigi Scrosati and Giuseppe Bertini from Lombardy, a new competition had to be proclaimed in January 1854.

Giambattista Meduna won it, with the committee expressing high praise for the whole project, commending the novelty of the concept, the elegance of the ornaments, the harmony of the lines, the well-conserved character of the style chosen, although it did not fail to suggest a few modifications of which the designer took due notice. Indeed, the final decoration showed numerous variations with respect to the designs presented originally.

The rosette of the ceiling was modified, to give it a fretted outline; this, along with the other new decorations, conferred a distinctly eighteenth-century appearance on the auditorium - more so, indeed, than it had originally had.

If you want an idea of the decoration,states a report of the committee to the Society that owned the Theatre, here is a hint: the ornamental style has something of the Berain taste, it is close to what is commonly known as Rococo, but with an eye towards the Renaissance to give it greater suppleness and delicacy.

adjusted on basis of the book of

Manlio Brusatin, Giuseppe Pavanello, Il Teatro La Fenice, Venezia, Albrizzi 1987, p. 213-240