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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Historic Venice theatre reopens
Teatro Malibran
The Malibran is famed for its interiors
The historic Malibran Theatre in Venice has reopened - two decades after its closure for restoration.

Italy's President Ciampi attended a gala concert of works by Verdi, Wagner and Bolini, attended by some 900 people, including politicians, cultural figures and Italian celebrities.

The Malibran will house the Venice Opera Company, which has been without a home since La Fenice was destroyed by fire in 1996.

President Ciampi
President Ciampi attended a gala concert
Venice Opera Company director Isaac Karabt Chevsky said it was like having a home again after being vagabonds - the company has been performing in a large circus tent on the outskirts of the city.

Venice's authorities are still keen that La Fenice is rebuilt - though a series of bureaucratic hitches means this will not happen till 2003.

Mayor of Venice Paolo Costa said the reopening of the Malibran did not mean they were any less determined to rebuild La Fenice.

Mayor Costa has recently sacked the contractors who were behind schedule and over budget.

La Fenice
La Fenice after the 1996 fire that destroyed it
Until La Fenice is rebuilt, the restored Malibran will resume the central role it played in Venetian cultural life when it opened in 1678 - it was Venice's only musical theatre until 1747.

As one of Europe's oldest musical theatres it was renowned throughout the continent for its performances.

The theatre takes its current name - it was formerly Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo - from Maria Malibran, the most famous lyric singer in the early 1800s.

When the Venice city council bought the theatre in 1992 it had been in disrepair and little used for more than a decade.

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | Europe
Two jailed for Venice opera arson
30 Mar 01 | Arts
La Fenice's troubled history
02 Apr 99 | Europe
Venice opera inferno trial
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