The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Flight of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s pet phoenix – the phoenix, a mythical bird which rises from the ashes of its predecessor, has a special place in literature. But no Phoenix is more true to its mythical nature than the architectural one found in Venice: La Fenice, the opera house.
Above is La Fenice in 1837. In 1838, Liszt wrote: ‘La Fenice is one of the most attractive theatres in the world. Destroyed twice by fire, it has, like the bird whose name it bears, risen twice from the ashes.’ He attended a performance of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia there.
If going to an opera at La Fenice is not an option when visiting Venice, you can still tour the building, hiring an audio-guide in the beautiful ground-floor foyer which is stunning, and the only part of the opera house which wasn’t burnt down.
Or have a look at the video below.
There are chamber music concerts in the gracious large room upstairs, which houses a Fazioli. One of the foyers was the scene, in December 1882, of Cosima Wagner’s musical birthday treat from her husband, who assembled an orchestra to perform his Symphony in C Major. Liszt was there too, and Wagner persuaded him to give a performance on the piano to the assembled throng, something Liszt rarely did at that stage of his life, and almost never to order.
La Fenice has hosted premieres of works by Verdi, Britten and Lutoslawski, whose anniversaries we celebrate this year, and by Stravinsky, whose grave is in Venice. More anon …