Teatro La Fenice

The Fenice Theater in Venice is a world famous opera house. But even for those whose musical tastes run elsewhere, it’s a tourist’s delight.

First constructed in the late 18th century, the theater burned to the ground in January of 1996. Official investigations led to uncertain conclusions, but arson was strongly suspected. What no official was in doubt about was the need to rebuild it. So it was – and as close to the original in appearance as humanly possible.

The architect and construction company obviously did their homework. For, apart from things looking a lot newer than a 200-year old opera house should look, it is virtually indistinguishable from the original.

The project to rebuild the famed venue gained international support. Americans paid for the ceiling, while British donors bought the stellar chandeliers. After five thousand trips down the Grand Canal, the work was complete.

Over the years the theater has played host to such famed musical names as Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi. Rich and poor, highborn and low alike flocked to hear them and the music they created. Italians from all walks of life love their opera.

Today, one can enjoy here the leading artists of the day sing and play many of the works of those masters. La Traviata is performed here in a way that can be heard nowhere else. Be forewarned, though, that (like the original) some seats don’t even have a view of the stage. The acoustics continue to be truly fine.

For those whose interest is chiefly in the building, rather than those who star in it, there is still much to offer. Daytime tours provide a view of some of the most fascinating aspects of this historic structure.

Walking along these hallowed halls tourists will enjoy seeing the elaborate plaster decorations. The gilding was all carefully recreated to give the walls and ceiling the look they had for nearly two centuries.

Knowledgeable tour guides fill visitors in on the history of the building and its most notable performers. For 45 minutes it becomes very easy to imagine oneself a member of the class that would have been taken on private tours generations earlier.

Audio guides are available in Italian, German, French, Spanish and English. The guided tours are also available in those languages, but a group of at least ten is required. With so many tourists in Venice, it’s a simple matter to gather even strangers to participate. Some tours include a cocktail at the end, served in the Apollinee Halls.