By David Willey
BBC correspondent in Rome
La Fenice, Venice's historic opera house, has reopened with a gala performance of Giuseppe Verdi's opera La Traviata.
It has taken eight years to get the opera house up and running
The first performance of La Traviata took place in the same theatre 151 years ago.
And Maria Callas sang the title role in the show, one of Verdi's most popular operas, at the 100th anniversary performance of La Traviata at the Fenice back in 1953.
It has taken eight years to rebuild the opera house, the interior of which was completely destroyed while La Fenice was closed for repairs in a blaze which raged all night at end of January 1996.
Firemen had difficulty in bringing the fire under control because of a lack of water. The canals around the theatre situated in the centre of the lagoon city were being dredged at the time.
A court later sentenced two electricians to prison on charges of arson.
Performances by the Fenice Opera Company have had to be held in a circus tent on a parking lot during the years of rebuilding.
The opera house was finished by the builders nearly a year ago, but it has taken many months to install new stage machinery and to adjust the acoustics.
Every detail of the original 18th Century building has been faithfully reproduced and state-of-the-art sprinkler fire protection and an underground freshwater reservoir have been installed to stave off any future disaster.
And on Thursday night a glittering gathering of celebrities and politicians attended the first opera performance in the reconstructed theatre.
After the show, there were two lavish supper parties in Venetian palaces for guests celebrating the reopening.
A seat in the stalls or in one of the elaborate boxes surrounding the horseshoe-shaped auditorium now costs $1,300 (£704).
But relatively few members of the first night VIP audience had paid for their tickets.
Meanwhile, hundreds of tourists are now visiting the theatre every day, paying just under $10 (£5.40) to see the empty opera house.