TEATRO LA FENICE DI VENEZIA:
the long (and shamy) story of a reconstruction
(on the left: The Mayor of Venice Paolo Costa with the director of the yard Roberto Scibilia, January 2001 - Courtesy of Foundation Teatro La Fenice)
January 29, 1996: Teatro La Fenice is destroyed by fire. A few hours, and the jewel is just ashes. A tragedy for Venice, and for international culture.
January 29, 2001: 5 YEARS LATER The firm Holzmann-Romagnoli wants 30 billion Lire (about a third of the whole contract) to carry on the repairs, because the new commissioner, the mayor Paolo Costa, has changed the original project. Costa is not satisfied at all with the work done by Holzmann-Romagnoli so far: only the 10 per cent of the provided works have been finished. Probably the required 30 billions will cause a new legal fight between the Municipality and the firm. And the new theater is still waiting.
November 11th, 2002: in Madrid (?) the mayor of Venice Paolo Costa announces the reopening of the theater by Dec 14th, 2003.
Here's the brief story - hoping it is not a never-ending...
An arson? Two electricians are suspected to have burnt a part of the theatre intentionally; the reason for this might be found in the fact that they had not been able to finish a work at the theatre by their deadline. A fire could have been an excuse, but they were not able to control the flames: this is the ipothesis of the prosecutor Felice Casson.
On the other side, investigators found out that the fire alarm had been switched off, as a new system was about to be tested in a few days.
While the trial is not yet finished, and after a quarrel between 2 companies for the reconstruction project assignment, precious time has been lost.
And the theatre MAY be ready by the end of 2002
As the Venice council doesn't want to give the additional 30 billions lire which Holzmann-Romagnoli (the company that directs the repairs) asked for; the workers stop again! It's an endless story, Venice and its people are more and more tired and angry. Angelo Balducci, the engineer that collaborates with the municipality, lays all the blame on the Holzmann-Romagnoli. In fact, the Italian-German group hasn't finished even the first level (for this reason they haven't received no money) and now they want 30 billions lire because they are in financial straits. And this happens one week before the 5th anniversary of the fire!!!
March 10th, 2001. Driving citizens mad. The quarrel between the Municipality and the Holtzmann (the company who is reconstructing the theater after the fire of 1996) goes on: Holtzmann estimates that the works will be finished by 2003 (and IF they will get 15 billions dollars more), thus ignoring the limit of the Mayor (2002). Holtzmann declares that the delay is also due to the fact that the Municipality released the new project only by the end of 2000.
March 21st, 2001. The Mayor of Venice Paolo Costa took a clamorous decision about the Fenice reconstruction: he cancelled the contract with the Holzmann-Romagnoli, the Italian-German company. Now a new procedure to assign the project is needed. "The Holzmann-Romagnoli didn't assure us about the costs and the times and, for the good of the city, I had to take this decision". Now the Municipality has to make a contract with a new firm but the times are long. "We count on the reopening of the yard in July", said Mr Costa. Is this a dream or a reality? The citizens can't find any answer...
March 29th, 2001: At 5 p.m. the Venice Court read the sentences about the fast trial of the La Fenice Theater fire; the trial had started on September 27, 1999. Only two people have been condemned for arson: Enrico Carella and Massimiliano Marchetti (7 years for the 1st one and 6 for the 2nd), the electricians that in the night of the 29th January setted fire to the opera theater. And then the Fenice didn't burnt because of the Mafia or a short circuit: no, the guilties are two electricians. All the other accused (there was also the previous Mayor of Venice, the philosopher Massimo Cacciari) have been acquitted.
Update, September 24th, 2001
The yard reopens at last. The tender for the new contract has been won, last Thursday, by the Sacaim company. The outcome of the tender was almost taken for granted because the Sacaim company in the past had successfully restored also the venetian Malibran Theater. Sacaim won with a 102 million Lire bid and the new theater will be ready by the end of July 2003: "We will work 16 hours per day", said the Sacaim managers. Hopefully. Rebuilding the whole World Trade Center in New York will take less time for sure.
Update, Dec 31st, 2001
Also an old well has been discovered in the Fenice yard but the repairs now are going on very quickly. After the breach of the contract with Holzmann-Romagnoli (the old company that managed the famous Venetian theater's rebuilding) last April, the future of the new Fenice is clearer. In September the Ati Sacaim won the tender and this company has made lots of works. Friday 28th December it opened (one month earlier than expected!) the yard for one of the most beautiful areas of the theater, the Sale Apollinee.
At this important opening there was also the Venice Mayor, Mr Paolo Costa, with a red helmet. He seemed very satified: "If we open today the yard for the Sale Apollinee, all the repairs of the Fenice Theater will finish in year 2003, I'm sure. And not for the New Year's Day, in that period the theater will be already closed for vacation!", smiled Mr Costa.
Meanwhile the repairs of the foundations are over, and in the area in which once there was the parterre, now there's a big pit full of water. This pit is the main newness of the new Fenice: when the theater will be finished in fact there will be in this area a modern, heated storehouse for the instruments of the orchestra.
And in June 2002, if the repairs will go on so quickly, the workers of the yard will not see the sky anymore...
THE TRIAL. Also the Court of Appeal agrees with Venetian Court about the fire of Fenice's theater. It confirmed the sentence to the electricians Enrico Carella (seven years' imprisonment) and Massimiliano Marchetti (six years), considering them guilty of arson. The justice of appeal sentenced also the works manager Sisto Ruggiero (released by the court of first instance), considering him guilty to have let the rimoval of the alarms and of the fire-fighting means. He was sentenced to pay a 500 Euro fine and the trial costs.
Meanwhile, contributions are made from all over the world to several Venetian bank accounts. These 2 are the most popular ones, and are still open:
- The Venice City Council for the reconstruction of the Fenice Theatre:
current account No. 64000/0V, at Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia (ABI 6345, CAB 02000), title "Sottoscrizione per la ricostruzione del Teatro la Fenice"
- Friends of the Fenice Association:
current account No. 69/59, at Banco Ambrosiano Veneto, Calle Goldoni Branch (filiale), Venice