Here you find the story and the picture
of the last big fire in Venice .... that happened January 29th 1996.
And where a big and famous theatre was destroyed (Teatro la Fenice). And
there was the risk that the fire could spread in the city ....
The Story :
At the end of the XVIIIth century Venice, the queen of
lyric opera by historic and artistic tradition, boasted seven working
theatres: San Salvador (later Apollo, San Luca and today Goldoni), San
Cassiano, Sant'Angelo, San Moisč; and lastly the three theatres
belonging to the Grimani family - San Giovanni Grisostomo (today
Malibran), San Samuele, and the San Benedetto (today Rossini). This last
one, the most elegant and popular theatre of all, was destroyed by fire
in 1773. As soon as it was rebuilt, it was cause for a legal contention
between the Company that owned the new theatre and the Venier family,
who owned a part of the land. The sentence was favorable to the Venier
family and the Company, forced to sell the Theatre, decided to built
another which would be larger, more beautiful, and more luxurious than
the one they had reliquished.
"La Fenice" (the Phoenix) was the name chosen for the
new theatre, to symbolize the magnificent re-birth of the Company after
its misadventures. Twenty-nine projects were presented: with seventy-two
votes for, and twenty-eight votes against, the assembly of partners
chose the one by Giannantonio Selva (1753-1816). It was not an easy
decision: so important were theatres in Venetian life, that public
opinion was inflamed by the competition for the project for the new
theatre. The choice was nevertheless a good one: Selva opted for a noble
but simple architecture, integrated into the urban dimension of Venice,
permeated with illuministic rationalism, without giving in to the
temptation of monumental and rhetorical emphasis. Therefore, even
visually, La Fenice was heir to and crowning of a continuing and
unequaled Venetian tradition. The "irregular" plan of the theatre
derived from the necessity to use the advantage of this to design a
dynamic and moving space, with none of the symmetric rigidity which
characterizes so many buildings of the period.
The demolition of the old houses began in June of
1790. In April of '92 the theatre was built, and on May 16th was
inaugurated with the opera I giochi di Agrigento composed by
Giovanni Paisiello to the libretto by Alessandro Pepoli. Since then, La
Fenice has distinguished itself as one of the major italian and European
theatres, contributing to the history of melodramma with the premieres
of numerous masterpieces. Gioachino Rossini entered La Fenice on
February 6th 1813, with his opera Tancredi, his first serious
masterpiece. He would write two morre operas for La Fenice, among which
was the Semiramide (February 3, 1823), one of the heights of
Rossini's drama. Of the ten works make up Vincenzo Bellini's opera, two
were written for La Fenice, I Capuleti e i Montecchi (March 11,
1830), and Beatrice di Tenda (March 16, 1833). Gaetano Donizzetti wrote
three operas for the major Venetian theatre: Belisaro (February 4,
1836), Pia de' Tomei (February 18, 1837) and Maria de Rudenz (january
30, 1838). However Pia de' Tolomei had to premiere at the Apollo
Theatre, because La Fenice was destroyed a fire on the night between the
12th and 13th of December 1836.
The Company decided to proceed with the immediate
reconstruction of the Theatre. The delicate task was entrusted to the
brothers Giovanni Battista and Tomaso Meduna, reknowed architect, and
all the decorations of the hall, a no lesser task, to Prof. Tranquillo
Orsi. Numerous and substantial were the changes made to the architecture
of the hall, to make it more inviting and elegant. On the evening of
December 26th 1837, La Fenice, truly like the mythical bird, was reborn,
more beautiful and resplendent, and started back on its path with
renewen vigor. By then, the greatest composer of the XIXth century was
about to appear on the operatic horizon. La Fenice hosted him in 1842,
with the opera Nabucco. In 1844, Verdi wrote the first of five
operas which would be commissioned to him by La Fenice, Ernani
(March 9, 1844). Next followed Attila (March 17, 1846),
Rigoletto (March 11, 1851), Traviata (march 6, 1853),
Simon Boccanegra (March 12, 1857). After La Scala, La Fenice was the
theatre that presented most of Verdi's premieres, among which were
several of the Master's most audacious and experimental works. Two
important restorations proved necessary for the theater's conservation,
in addition to the numberous minor ones during the course of a century.
The first one, in 1854, by competition, to remedy the serious damage to
the ceiling and the decorations, due it seems, to the excessive hurry
with which the theater was rebuilt. Again one of the Meduna brothers was
responsible for the restoration, both for the decorations and the
architectural modifications. The other important restoration was
completed at the end of the First World War, during which the theater
How the theatre was :
Was made all by venetian artisans
The fire start in the late afternoon
of January 29th 1996 ...
The front of the theater:
A fireman is on the roof of a
very high fire:
The fireman couldn't do a lot because the
canal near the theatre was dry (so the fireman's boat couldn't go near
the fire) . A company paid by the town council was cleaning and
restoring the canal so they needed to dry the canal.
The fireman call a helicopter .... to put
water on the fire ... but when it arrived was to late and the Theatre
was all destroy from the fire.
How you can see the water pressure was
too low to reach the top of the roof.
The day After ....
The helicopter work the all night but the
theatre was all destroy. But all the house near was safe. Another big
danger was that the fire could spread in the nearest buildings. How you
can see the house in Venice are very very near .... so it's easy for the
fire pass from one to another ....
For months a lot of people did a
pilgrimage to the theatre ....put the flowers ... crying .. put message
...It looked like if a real person was died .... very very strange ...
The fireman put water for 2more day ...
because they was afraid that the fire could come back
Today (2002) the theatre are still burned. The
big problem is to rebuild the theatre "as it was". Nowadays there aren't
anymore wood's artisans like the past. The economy of the city is 90%
based on the tourism activity and there aren't younger people that work
with this. In Venice today live 60.000 people .. in the past 250.000.