La Fenice: An Under-appreciated Tourist Must-See

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Exterior view of La Fenice, Venice.

Drew and I have been blessed by having many friends and family members visit us, usually wanting for the most part to see us, secondly wanting to see Italy, at least that’s what we like to tell ourselves. 😉  We are now on our 9th visitor of 2014, and she has a special story as it’s been 8 years since we last saw each other.  Her particular story, however, will have to wait for another blog.  One of the things that Crystal really wanted to see while she came to stay with us was Venice.  I know, big surprise, since Venice is only an hour’s train ride from us!

We have had many people visit who have wanted to see Venice, and usually there is a request to see what I like to call the “triple thread”: Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark’s Church, Doges Palace and the rialto bridge.  A few more creative types want to go visit Murano to look at glass.  (I would actually recommend to everyone to skip that, but it’s still a big draw.)  Others really want to take a vaparetto (water bus) and those with a more expendable income appreciate riding on a gondola.  We saved our visit to Burano for when my sister and her husband came because we wanted to share it with them.  With all of this in mind, I must tell you that out of all the people whom we have taken to Venice, NO ONE has asked to go to La Fenice to take a tour and learn about the opera house’s history.  (Aunt Lynda and Uncle Roy went to an opera at La Fenice, but we were not with them physically.  So, kudos to them for getting themselves there!)

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Crystal and I just giddy with joy, standing in the Lobby of La Fenice!

Luckily, Crystal was keen to take the visit and I was relieved to finally see La Fenice, something from my personal mental bucket list!  We arrived at La Fenice in the afternoon, purchased our 9 euro tickets and set off inside the theatre with our audio guides in English. By itself, La Fenice’s history is stunning and quite dramatic.  The opera house has burned twice through history, and actually only reopened after the second fire in 2003!  If we had only been on a self-guided tour with audio, we would tell you that the 9 euro ticket is definitely worth the price.  After ascending to the mezzanine/bel etage level, however, we realized that the 9 euro ticket we purchased was a small price for what we experienced!

When we reached the interior section of the theatre, the lights were out and a professional modern dance company was getting blocking/spacing in preparation for a dress rehearsal!  It just so happened to be the Hamburg Bundes Jugend Ballett who are giving special performances this week, under the direction of American John Neumeier!  We stayed and watched the rest of the blocking and a large portion of the dress rehearsal.  It was an utterly amazing experience.  We were able to understand all of the directions the director was giving to the international ballet company’s members, including 4 live musicians who were on stage during the performance.  As a musician and arts lover, this experience marks one of my top 10 tourist experiences in Italy.  And imagine how it was for Crystal, who is a dancer but has been in Tanzania for 4 years without access to performance art!

When the lights in the house did come up, of course the theatre was completely stunning.  Gold plated decor and beautiful muted paintings make the interior elegant but not over-bearing.  The seats are comfortable and if you are lucky enough to be sitting in the orchestra (floor-level) section, you get your own climate control underneath your chair!  The chandelier in the center looks as though it is made from gold rose-buds, gracing the center of the painted ceiling.  Above the stage, there is a gold carving of a Phoenix, the symbol of La Fenice.  The Phoenix is supposedly supposed to be reborn out of its ashes, as La Fenice has also done twice in the past.

It would be impossible to describe every beautiful detail, so I will leave you with some images at the end of this post.  Before I sign off, I implore you: if you plan a trip to Venice, La Fenice should be ranked in with the “triple thread” and I would recommend it above the gilded rooms of the Doges Palace.  If you are as fortunate as Crystal and I, some talented Italian and international artists will be rehearsing and you will leave feeling uplifted, as you’ve witnessed and been touched by greatness!

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The curtain is closed before the dress rehearsal begins.

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The Phoenix can be seen above the curtain and is the symbol of La Fenice.

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The gilded ceiling and elegantly muted chandelier.

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