Venice celebrates Opera House's rebirth

Fog-Shrouded Venice Celebrates Rebirth of La Fenice Opera House With Gala Concert

Seven years after its beloved opera house burned down, Venice threw itself a party Sunday to celebrate the rebirth of the La Fenice with a gala concert that drew the Italian president, European royalty and Italy's glitterati.

To Venetians and opera lovers throughout the world, the 18th century theater represents the soul of this unique lagoon city, and its resurrection from the ashes Fenice means phoenix was cause for celebration across Italy.

"The Great Fenice Theater is given back to Italy and the world!" Venice Mayor Paolo Costa declared at the start of the performance. "And the music announces to us that the nightmare is over."

Fans lined up throughout the day to admire the newly polished marble facade, with the Fenice (pronounced feh-NEE-chay) symbol, a gilded phoenix, hanging in the entranceway.

"We are all happy to see the Fenice the way it was," said Stella Marchisello, a cashier in a fast-food restaurant down the street. Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, seated in the royal box, was at the head of a jet-set guest list of European royalty and Italian movers and shakers. Many dressed to the nines for the occasion in black tie and long gowns. This being a city of canals and tiny bridges, they all had to get to the theater on foot.

Then La Fenice will shut down again until November, when Maazel will inaugurate the opera season in the reborn theater with "La Traviata" by Giuseppe Verdi, first performed there in 1853, reports &to='target=_blank>ABCnews

According &to='target=_blank> Princess Michael of Kent, whose Venice in Peril organisation donated the theatre’s gilded new chandelier, said: "When I came after the fire, there was such despair. Tonight is exhilarating." At the time of the fire, La Fenice was undergoing renovation. Two electricians set the theatre ablaze during the night of 29 January, 1996, while working to avoid stiff fines their company risked for being behind in its work.

They were charged with arson and sentenced to up to seven years in prison. The total cost of the renovation dubbed "dov’era, com’era" (where it was, as it was) is estimated at £60 million.

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