Italian Art and Culture Veneto Venice

Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy – The Opera House with the Phoenix Factor

Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy - The Opera House with the Phoenix Factor - www.rossiwrites.com

We all know the fable of the Phoenix – the mythical bird that dies engulfed by flames only to be born again in all its splendour.

Let me tell you then about a quasi-mythical place in Venice, Italy that has died a painful death by fire three times only to rise from its ashes back to its former glory every single time.

The golden phoenix crowns the entrance - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Gran Teatro La Fenice stands on a small square in the labyrinth of the Venetian streets. Its white façade juts up towards the sky to which so often it has gone up in flames.

The facade - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Named after the Phoenix (in Italian – La Fenice), this world-famous theatre and opera house is the perfect architectural embodiment of the magnificent appearance and the dramatic fate of the mythical bird.

Stepping into its opulent theatre hall is akin to finding yourself in an enchanted forest. Rich gilt ornamentation covers every available surface. Bunches of lights flicker around you. Rows upon rows of boxes follow the curve of the walls. The ceiling is celestial blue and it is adorned with lace-like decorations. Right in the middle of it hangs a whimsical crystal chandelier.

You may have come here to see a performance, but the theatre itself steals the show.

A close-up of the lights and the ornamentation of the boxes - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

I decided to tell you about Teatro La Fenice on my blog because, in a city like Venice – so full with architectural and historical gems – only too often it is impossible to see everything there is to experience and savour.

Seduced by the big boys on the tourist trail – the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica – people often realise they have no time left to walk the short distance from St. Mark’s Square and explore Venice’s fabled opera house – Teatro La Fenice. Others pass by its unassuming façade and, in the blindingly hot white light of the Venetian summer, they miss their chance to discover the rich history and architecture hidden right behind it.

So, as I was to spend last Sunday in Venice, I made Teatro La Fenice the first stop on my travel wish list. I was eager to experience its atmosphere once more and to give you a taste for it.

The chandelier and the ceiling - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

The sun was blazing over Venice, its powerful rays reflected a million times in the water of the myriad canals. I found it very hard to see ahead without my sunglasses, which I had forgotten at home in Vicenza. So, I was glad when the moment came to leave behind the fashionable ‘XXII Marzo’ street with its luxury boutiques and dense, irritable crowds. I stepped into a side alley. It was so narrow that, had I stretched my arms, I would have touched the walls of the houses on both of its sides.

It was nice and cool there, the sun unable to get through the dense Venetian meshwork of tall houses built right next to one another. A bridge over a canal and a few steps down another narrow alley and I found myself on a small square, a veritable sun trap.

Crystal chandelier - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Right in front of me, Teatro La Fenice stood proudly. It was just the same as I remembered it from my first visit back in 2013. It seemed rather unbelievable that its mighty body had been ravaged by fire three times. Most recently by an arson attack in 1996. The opera house was then rebuilt from scratch between 2001 and 2003.

I sought shade on its porch. Big boards announcing the programme for Season 2015 were elegantly perched atop the steps.

The programme - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

The music of Verdi, Rossini, Bellini and several other world-famous composers fill the house every night. Elegant ladies and gents flock to it, all dressed up to the nines.

I remembered that back in 2013 when I was in Venice with my then fiance (now husband), we really wanted to see an opera at Teatro La Fenice. Unfortunately, at the time we couldn’t quite justify paying a couple of hundreds of euros for a ticket each. Instead, we visited the theatre during the day, when it is open for tourists against a much humbler fee.

Now that we live in Vicenza which is less than an hour away by train, I guess we can buy some cheap tickets for a performance at pre-order rates. Then again, we need to think about getting a childminder for the night and organise several other details. So, seeing an opera at Teatro La Fenice in Venice continues to be a bucket list item for me. Something I would love to do when the time is right.

In the meantime, I was happy to visit Teatro La Fenice during the day as one of the many tourists who come to admire its lavish decor. I bought myself a ticket. It cost 9 euros and an audio guide was included in the price. As I wanted to take photos, I paid an additional fee of 3 euros in order to get a photography pass. I was given a little sticker to place on my top. It would signal to any curator observing the tourist flow, that I had the right to point my camera any way I liked.

A crystal chandelier - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

The first thing that may surprise you as you walk in Teatro La Fenice is the chandeliers dotted around the place. They are big and imposing, as you would expect them to be in a place like this. Most intriguingly though, they are made of crystal drops and beads rather than Murano glass (this is Venice, after all!).

Still, the lavish chandeliers fit perfectly Teatro La Fenice’s decor. From the grand foyer to the gorgeous ballroom upstairs their flickering light emphasises the gilt ornamentation that is everywhere.

Close-up of a crystal chandelier - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Yes, gilt is everywhere in Teatro La Fenice. It covers the opera houses’ walls and boxes. It drips from the Imperial box. It fills your eyes with thousand reflections and distracts your camera, unsure what to focus on first.

The lion above the Imperial Box - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

The richest concentration of gilt is in the theatre hall. Even though I had been there before and the memory of its opulence was still fresh in my mind, the sight of it took my breath away as soon as I walked over its threshold.

Rehearsing for tonight's performance - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

On the big stage in front of me, the artists were in the midst of a work session getting ready for that night’s performance.

Rehearsing for tonight's performance - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Audioguides pressed against their ears, tourists were roaming around just trying to get to grips with the beauty of the place. And then, they would take their cameras out and would snap a shot after shot trying to take away with themselves the memory of it all.

Tourists listening to their audio guides - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Right above the stage, a clock was counting the minutes.

The clock above the stage - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Plaster figures watched aloof from where the walls and ceiling met.

Lavish ornaments and sculptures above the boxes - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Frescoed cherubs adorned the boxes.

Close-up of the lights and the frescoes of the boxes - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

And the gentle curve of the rows of boxes drew my eyes all the way to the top.

Close-up of the ornamentation of the boxes - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Right opposite the stage stood the Imperial box.

The Imperial Box- La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

If the theatre hall reminded me of an enchanted forest, the Imperial box was like the magical grotto in it where mythical creatures would congregate.

To reach the Imperial box I had to go outside of the theatre hall and up a flight of stairs. The simple, even austere appearance of the corridors with the doors leading to the many boxes gave my eyes a little break from the gilt extravagance of it all.

The doors of the boxes - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

In the corridor, right outside of the Imperial box, there was a model of Teatro La Fenice. I was surprised to see how big the opera house actually was. It’s quite easy not to notice its sprawling body, compressed as it is between many other houses and buildings in Venice.

A scaled down model of the theatre - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

And now for the main event.

The infinity effect inside the Imperial Box - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

The walls of the Imperial box were covered with tall mirrors. This created an infinite effect of reflections and repetitions. The lights, gilt, opulent ornamentation were reflected and repeated, it would seem, dozens of times until they disappeared into the mirrored distance.

The effect was so overwhelming that I needed to sit down for a little bit to catch my breath.

Above the mirror inside the Imperial Box - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

It was all so rich and intricate. Intertwined motifs, plaster figures galore, frescoes on the ceiling. It was almost too much, but somehow it worked just fine without being gaudy, which was quite a fine line to tread, especially considering the lavishness of the Imperial box.

The lavish decoration inside the Imperial Box - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

At this point, I must have gotten a bit too carried away taking countless of photos, as the lady who was guarding the Imperial box, came to check if I had a photo pass. I showed her my little sticker and she was satisfied. Still, I saw people stealing glances around and then furtively snapping a photo or two without her saying anything.

Here is the last photo I took in the Imperial box – its ceiling fresco.

The ceiling fresco in the Imperial Box - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

It was time to explore the top floor of Teatro La Fenice – the place where cocktails are held after the performance has finished. This is where the opera house’s ballroom is, too.

I went up the stairs crowned by yet another splendid crystal chandelier.

The staircase - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

With its plain apricot walls, the place was much more subdued than the theatre hall. Yet gilt had found its place there too, albeit on a much smaller scale.

There were gilt details on the walls…

Gold detail on the wall - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

… on the back of the chairs…

A close-up of a chair's backrest - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

…and benches came with the most intricate backrests.

The backrest of a bench - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

The ballroom was lovely and airy with a grand piano on a low stage.

The ballroom - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

A balcony was running alongside the room right underneath the ceiling.

The ceiling of the ballroom - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Its railings were of exquisite ironwork emphasised with gilt detailing.

Close-up of the railings in the ballroom - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Mighty pillars supported the ballroom’s walls, all adorned with a lion’s head – the symbol of Venice.

Close-up of the pillars in the ballroom - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

I remembered that when I had been there in 2013 there had been an exhibition celebrating the most famous singers who had sung on the stage of Teatro La Fenice. I was very happy at the time to spot one of the most illustrious Bulgarian opera singers prominently featured.

I went to look for the exhibition half-hoping that it would still be up and I could show you a picture of my compatriot.

Into a room on the second floor - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Unfortunately, the room was empty, the exhibition had been temporary and it was long gone.

I had one last look around, glanced admiringly at the exuberance of it all and slowly walked out into the hot Venetian sun.

Close-up of the backrest of a bench - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

 

When you are in Venice, make sure that you have Teatro La Fenice on your list of things to see. It is a fabulous mix of architecture, history and music under a blue ceiling reminiscent of a mythical sky.

The ceiling - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

You can find the detailed history of the theatre at this link. It makes for a riveting reading about passion, music, fire and rebirth.

The lights on the boxes - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

And I promise to let you know in text and pictures as and when I manage to see a performance at this fabulous place.

The lavish boxes - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

You will find Teatro La Fenice at Campo San Fantin 1965, Venice 30124, Italy. Click here to visit the website of the opera house. Or here to check current ticket prices and opening times. Enjoy!

The guilded and frescoed boxes - La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

 

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Pin Me - Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy - The Opera House with the Phoenix Factor - www.rossiwrites.com

About the author

Rossi

Rossi

Hello! I am Rossi - a Bulgarian currently living in Italy after a 14-year stint in England. This is my blog about my life in these three countries, travels around Europe and opinions about the world we live in. For regular updates, please, subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on social media online. You can also get in touch via the Contacts form or by commenting on the articles in my blog.

2 Comments

  • Thank you for this beautiful blog post. I found the Royal Box image on Google and followed the link to your blog. What a magnificent theat. I hope to see it one day. Thanks for sharing. Best regards, Julian Clarke

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