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Teatro La Fenice

The Phoenix of Operas

Teatro La Fenice

Designed by Gian Antonio Selva in 1792, Venice’s opera house was the swansong of the Republic, a last burst of fun before Napoleon came to spoil the party.

It also proved true to its name (the ‘Phoenix’), rising up from the ashes of an earlier devastating fire in 1835 in the same design, by Selva’s pupils, and again after the fire in 1996 (see below)– neoclassical understatement outside, and, within, enough Late Empire excess to match all comers in the bel canto league. It’s hard to believe, but Selva was lampooned and criticized for his precocious functionalist design for the interior, which was not at all in the balanced, symmetrical fashion of the day.

The Sala Apollinea, the banqueting rooms, and especially the oval auditorium with its gilded boxes were the highlights. To an Italian opera maven, La Fenice suffered comparison only with the Teatro San Carlo in Naples for ‘genuine operatic tradition’ (Milan’s La Scala is a mere upstart) – a tradition that began with two decades of castrati, immensely popular though forbidden to don female attire ‘to the disappointment of many interested gentlemen’.

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Rococo and Neoclassical

Music and Musicians

Film Sets

Sestiere San Marco


Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by baldeaglebluff