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Restored theatre welcomes 'homeless' Venice Opera
The Venice Opera Company has got its first home for five years – in the newly reopened Malibran Theatre in Venice.

The historic theatre was opened this week, two decades after its closure for restoration. Italy’s President Ciampi attended a gala concert of works by Verdi, Wagner and others to mark the occasion.

The Venice Opera Company has been without a home since 1996 when the famous La Fenice was destroyed by fire. The company has been performing in a large circus tent on the outskirts of the city.

La Fenice is itself in the process of being rebuilt, but the project has been dogged by bureaucracy and a reopening is unlikely until 2003.

The Malibran played a central role in Venetian cultural life when it opened in 1678. As one of Europe's oldest musical theatres it was renowned throughout the continent for its performances.

When Venice city council bought the theatre in 1992 it had been in disrepair and little used for more than a decade. When La Fenice was destroyed, the Malibran was placed in the limelight because it had become even more indispensable.

During restoration the orchestra pit was enlarged and an enormous underground basin was made to collect the water that could have flooded the entire theatre. During the digging of this basin, extremely interesting archaeological findings came to light, including perfectly conserved structures going back to the Roman age and to the fifth century A.D., the remains of warehouse walls belonging to the Polo family and some glass objects that went back to the most antique production of glass in the lagoon.

Thu May 24 2001 (3:47:39 PM)