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 - For and against Meduna

On Boxing Day 1854 the theatre was reopened to the eager and curious public in all the splendour of its striking beauty with a performance of Marco Visconti by Domenico Bolognese, with music by Enrico Petrella. The restoration had been carried out by Venetian artists such as the painter, Leonardo Gavagnin, the decorator Giuseppe Voltan, the stucco-worker Osvaldo Mazzoran, while Pietro and Antonio Garbato with Alessandro Dal Fabbro had seen to the furnishings and carvings.

Tommaso Locatelli expressed himself favourably on Meduna’s work in the Gazzetta Ufficiale di Venezia, while an article in the newspaper I Fiori bore a quite different tone: ...the first duty ... of the artist-decorator of a theatre is to decorate it in such a way that it does not harm the effect of the stage, and everyone knows that over-dazzling colours in the auditorium, gilded excesses ... and too lively and seductive a proscenium are elements that undermine the effect of the stage-decorations, destroy all illusion, and tire the visitor’s eyesight. In this sense our splendid and renovated theatre can be censured. The profusion of gold and silver-plate, their brilliant glow; the overabundance of painted flowers, the numerous medallions or paterae, in colours that distract and allow little rest; all this, made more striking by splendid illumination, may dazzle, may please - indeed, does dazzle, does please; but it is not perhaps faithful to the good rules of decorative art, and is perhaps adverse to the rule of well-reasoned theatrical decoration.

Pietro Selvatico, probably with greater critical spirit, observed that the style, instead of being, as is intended, a rococo in the Louis XV style, is a hotchpotch of garish baroque ornaments superimposed on the rigid classical lines ... I do not wish to say that the Fenice Theatre is lacking in a certain garish elegance; nor do I wish to deny merit to the many finely conceived ornaments; I just wish to say that all those decorations are not in keeping with the old classical structure that one would rather had been left intact.

adjusted on basis of the book of
Manlio Brusatin, Giuseppe Pavanello, Il Teatro La Fenice, Venezia, Albrizzi 1987, p. 213-240