The Opera House that Keeps Burning Down

Studying the Italian opera written in 1837, I came across the story of the aptly name Teatro La Fenice (Phoenix Theater) in Venice: the opera house that keeps burning down. First built in the early 1730's as the San Benedetto Theater, it burned down for the first time in 1774. It was rebuilt from 1790 to 1792, and renamed the Phoenix Theater when it reopened.

It had risen from the ashes! But La Fenice burned down for the second time in December 1836, while Donizetti was traveling to Venice premiere his new opera Pia de' Tolomei there. (Donizetti managed to move the production to the Teatro Apollo, also in Venice.) Management rebuilt La Fenice quickly that time; it reopened at the end of 1837.

In 1996, two electricians purposefully set a fire that burned La Fenice down for the third time. The theater had started docking the electricians' pay because their work had gone past its deadline, so they started the fire to retaliate. The theater wasn't rebuilt and reopened until 2003.

Teatro La Fenice has been one of Europe's premiere opera houses throughout its history. It was home to premieres by Paisello, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi. Through the era of recorded music, La Fenice has served as the venue for productions of many classical records, especially of opera.

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