Venice, Italy

Arson 1996

The Disappointed Tourist: Fenice, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Teatro La Fenice (The Phoenix) is a famous Venetian Opera House, Italy. Its name derives from its history of “rising from the ashes,” like the reborn phoenix, first in 1774 when it replaced the Teatro San Bernadetto which had been Venice’s leading opera house prior to its destruction by fire. This first Fenice then burned down in 1836 but was rebuilt by 1837. In 1996, the building was completely burned down in an arson fire set by two electricians, Enrico Carella and his cousin Massimiliano Marchetti, apparently because their company was facing fines due to delays on their work on the theater. Marchetti served six years in prison. Carella, the owner of the company, fled but was eventually extradited to Italy in 2007 and served 16 months. La Fenice was rebuilt in the 19th-century style by architect Aldo Rossi, using still photographs from the opening scenes of Luchino Visconti’s 1954 film Senso to recreate the interior. La Fenice reopened on 14 December 2003. The painting is based on an uncredited photograph of the theatre in the 1980s.

In 1977 we saw Verdi’s “i due Foscari” at La Fenice, with our Wagner-loving Viennese au pair, who at first refused to attend an Italian opera, but we are all now grateful for the beautiful experience. Mary & John E.