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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 December, 2003, 00:01 GMT
Venice opera house rises from ashes
David Willey
By David Willey
BBC correspondent in Rome

La Fenice
The 1996 fire was started by disgruntled electrical contractors
Venice's much-loved Fenice Opera House, completely destroyed in a fire eight years ago, reopens on Sunday with a gala concert.

Rebuilding took longer than planned and it is an emotional moment for Venice.

The Fenice Orchestra is tuning up inside its own brand new theatre for the first time since the devastating fire caused by arsonists in 1996.

The Fenice was aptly named after the mythical bird the phoenix, which is reborn from its own ashes.

Back in 1996, the opera house burned down for the third time since it was first built just over 200 years ago.

Although there was initial speculation that organised crime was involved, an Italian court later established that the theatre was destroyed by a deliberate act of arson committed by disgruntled electrical contractors.

Major effort

Most of the reconstruction has been finished only during the last two years.

Architect Aldo Rossi, who died in a car accident before his winning design was executed, said his goal was not to remedy a disaster, but to recreate a Venetian monument.

La Fenice
First acoustic tests have been favourable. The old Teatro was renowned for the quality of its sound.

The plush, the gilt, the painted ceiling, the candelabra lighting and the pastel colour scheme have all been perfectly recreated.

But Roderick Conway-Morris, a British art critic who has made Venice his home, has some slight reservations:

"It's been done with great, great expertise in many ways, but it remains to be seen whether it will, in a sense, age gracefully because, at the moment, it has a feeling which is rather, shall we say, brash and bright."

The first notes of the opening concert will be the Italian national anthem, followed by Beethoven's overture, the Consecration of the House.

The first opera, Verdi's Traviata, will not be performed until next November.

The BBC's David Willey
"It's been burnt down three times since it was built"

In pictures: La Fenice to reopen
13 Dec 03  |  Photo Gallery
Historic Venice theatre reopens
24 May 01  |  Entertainment
La Fenice's troubled history
30 Mar 01  |  Entertainment
Venice opera house restoration halted
23 Mar 01  |  Entertainment

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