La Fenice theatre new year’s concert


On January 24th, 1996 the magnificent La Fenice theatre in Venice was completely destroyed by a fire started by two electricians who had planned to cause a small incident to save themselves from the contractual penalties they were about to incur into due to overlong work. The loss of a two-centuries old monument to opera was devastating. Taking inspiration from the historical reconstruction of the nearby San Marco bell tower, which had been famously rebuilt “as it was, where it was”, a massive effort was undertaken to recreate the theatre. The new “old” venue opened its gates in late 2003.

The reopening was celebrated with a grand concert on January 1st, 2004. The show was partially televised by RAI 1, the most important State-owned station, and it was received with enormous success. Since then, the format is reprised on the first day of the year and has become an instant Italian tradition which is also broadcasted to Latin America, Germany, France and Japan to reach Italians abroad and the opera lovers from every culture.

The televised concert is actually just the second half of the show, which is comprised of two distinct parts. The first is a selection of symphonic music, while the latter is almost entirely about opera. Probably taking inspiration from the earlier New Year’s concert of Vienna, the Italian programme features a number of highly expected set pieces. The most notable of them are the two closing “fuori programma” consisting of the Va, pensiero aria from Verdi’sNabucco and the Libiamo ne’ lieti calici chorus from Traviata, by the same author. The lyrics of the latter are actually about toasting to happiness, thus particularly suited to the occasion.