FIRE IN VENICE: LA FENICE THEATER

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 remained closed.

 

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 near hose

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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