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Music Matters

14 November 2004

Sunday 14 November 2004 17:45-18:30 (Radio 3)

Almost nine years after Venice's La Fenice Opera House was burnt to the ground, the phoenix of the Italian opera world is about to re-open with a new production of La Traviata originally written for the theatre in 1853. The first time it was performed there was a disaster with the audience sniggering at the large leading lady apparently wasting away from consumption, but this time directed by Robert Carsen, it promises to be a more celebratory affair in the newly restored building. Tom Service presents a special edition of the programme talking to the director and taking a tour of the resplendent opera house.


45 minutes

On this programme:

La Fenice
La Fenice
Venice - the birthplace of opera and a unique dream-world which charms millions of visitors every year. The heart of operatic life in Venice is La Fenice. It was razed to the ground eight years ago, but now the phoenix has risen resplendent from the ashes and has been lovingly reconstructed as it was, where it was. Tom talks to novelist Donna Leon outside the new opera house about the place of La Fenice in Venice today and takes a tour of the chocolate-box interior where he talks to the Artistic Director, Sergio Segalini, in the sumptuous royal box, created specially for Napoleon's visit in 1807.
The Grand Canal
The inaugural opera at the new, opulent La Fenice is Verdi’s La Traviata, written for the house and a critical failure when it received its premiere performance in 1853. Tom meets the director of the new production of La Traviata, Robert Carsen, and talks with him about his own vision for the opera and the challenge of working on a production for the re-opening of such a house.
For further information on productions at the new La Fenice opera house:

First Nights at the Opera
La Traviata

The special atmosphere of a first night is a trying even terrifying experience for the singers involved. Dame Janet Baker, Angelika Kirchschlager, Bernarda Fink and Jonas Kaufmann reflect on their own experiences of first nights. 
In the light of a new book by the Harvard professor, Thomas Forrest Kelly, Tom discusses the significance of “First Nights at the Opera” with the bass Robert Lloyd and the critic Fiona Maddocks. Is a first night performance a fair representation of a production and can the response to it have a lasting impact on the success of the opera?
Thomas Forrest Kelly: First Nights at the Opera, pub. Yale University Press, hb £22.50

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