The Teatro La Fenice in Venice is finally coming back to life after the fire that destroyed it on 29 January 1996. The reconstruction of the theatre began just a year after the fire, but was interrupted in 1998 due to problems linked to awarding the contracts for the works. It restarted in 1999, but proceeded slowly and was halted again in 2001 because of new difficulties about the tendering process. In 2002 the latest works began, finally bringing the tormented reconstruction to a close.

La Fenice (the phoenix) will rise again from its ashes, like the mythical bird, in exactly the same spot and with the same appearance it had before the catastrophe. The completion of reconstruction work on 30 November will be followed by a week of celebrations, as the

theatre re-opens its doors for a series of concerts to be performed from 14-21 December. It will then close again to allow technical checks to be carried out on the new stage, and will re-open properly for the 2004-2005 season in November 2004. The first opera to be performed next year will be La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, conducted by Lorin Maazel, which premiered at La Fenice in 1853.

The first concert in the December celebrations will be by the choir and orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice, conducted by Riccardo Muti, and will include music by Beethoven, Stravinsky and Wagner, as well as an 18th-

century Te Deum by Antonio Caldara (14 December). This will be followed by: a concert dedicated to the music of Wagner and Strauss with Londons Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christian Thielemann (15 December); Mahlers Symphony n. 3, with the orchestra and choir of the Accademia di S. Cecilia, conducted by Myung-Whun Chung (17 December); a concert featuring Rossinis Solemn Mass and a work written for the occasion by Emanuele Casale entitled Ouverture, conducted by La Fenices musical director Marcello Viotti (18 December); and finally concerts by two prestigious orchestras: the Vienna Philharmonic, in Venice for the first time, conducted by Mariss Janson (20 December), and the Philharmonic Orchestra of St Petersburg conducted by Yuri Termikanov (21 December). In the midst of all this classical music there will also be a completely different kind of event: a concert by Elton John (19 December), one of the most popular and famous artists in European pop.

Tickets for the weeks events can be bought on-line at www.teatrolafenice.it or by calling tel. 0412424.

Picture: La Fenice before the fire.