Roger Pratt is visiting Europe and the USA. First stop was Venice, from where he sends this dispatch.
Opera was born in Italy, and one of the earliest and most important opera houses in Italy is Teatro La Fenice in Venice. La Fenice is Italian for Phoenix, and was so called after the original theatre on the site burned down in the 1700s. The choice of name proved prophetic, because it has burned down twice since, and each time a new ‘Fenice’ has risen from the ashes of the old. The last fire was in 1996, and the theatre was rebuilt exactly to the design of the old one, opening in 2007.
It is a magnificent theatre, large, gracious and opulent. Many premieres have been staged there, operas by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi. La Traviata had its first performance in this theatre, and because it is one of my favourite operas, and because I was in Venice this month when it was being staged, I couldn’t resist seeing it.
It calls for a large orchestra, and the pit at La Fenice can easily accommodate the sixty musicians. The direction was done in the classical Romantic style, though the costumes were modern contemporary. The entire cast was Italian, as was the conductor, the choreographer and the director. No foreigner can tell the Italians how to stage Verdi!
It was a spectacular performance and I loved every moment of it. However, for me perhaps the most moving thing was that I was seeing La Traviata performed in its original home, albeit recently rebuilt. It was a very special occasion.