Arts + Culture

Music's Greatest Hits

by Kara Zuaro

Venice, January 19, 1949

The Moment: When illness prevents Italian soprano Margherita Carosio from playing Elvira in I Puritani at La Fenice opera house, a young Maria Callas steps in. Her performance is marred by a few slipups—she sings "son vergin viziosa" ("I am a vicious virgin") instead of "son vergin vezzosa" ("I am a charming virgin"). But Venice's rabid opera fans overlook her blunders—after all, Callas had a mere week to cram for her new part.

Where to go now: La Fenice, which means "phoenix" in Italian, is aptly named. It has burned down three times in its history, most recently in 1996—the fire, set by renovating contractors to evade fines, took nine hours to extinguish and nearly reduced all of Venice to ashes. The painstaking reconstruction, completed in December 2004, modernized the opera house but kept intact the famed acoustics and ornamentation, down to the gold leaf detail. For a more detailed account, read "The Miracle in Venice" from the October 2004 issue of Condé Nast Traveler.

La Fenice
Campo San Fantin
Tel: (39) 041 786 575

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