Once its dominion over the high seas ended, Venice discovered the power of high Cs, hiring as San Marco choirmaster Claudio Monteverdi, the father of modern opera, and opening La Fenice ('The Phoenix') in 1792. Rossini and Bellini staged operas here, making La Fenice the envy of Europe – until it went up in flames in 1836.
Venice without opera was unthinkable, and within a year the opera house was rebuilt. Verdi premiered Rigoletto and La Traviata at La Fenice, and international greats Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Britten composed for the house. But La Fenice was again reduced to ashes in 1996; two electricians found guilty of arson were apparently behind on repairs. A €90-million replica of the 19th-century opera house reopened in late 2003, and though some critics had lobbied for Gae Aulenti's avant-garde design, the reprise performance of La Traviata was a sensation.