In the interior, the horseshoe-shaped auditorium was widely appreciated, for it not only created a grand, imposing space but also allowed most of the spectators to see and hear easily fig. 154. Selva claimed to have borrowed this form from the Teatro Argentina in Rome, although much closer at hand Maccaruzzi's Teatro Balbi in Mestre, built some ten years before, had a similar plan. The original appearance of the auditorium is now known only from Selva's ground-plan and from written accounts.
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We can assume, however, that with its elaborate painted decoration it did not echo the austerity of the facades, repeating yet again the contrast between exterior and interior that had characterized so many eighteenth-century Venetian buildings. The first really successful production to be staged at the new theatre was Cimarosa's opera Gli Orazi e i Curiazi early in 1797, on the eve of the fall of the Republic. The collapse of the Venetian ancien regime, which was to lead to far-reaching changes in the appearance of the whole city, actually disrupted the activities of the Fenice remarkably little. The Nobile Societa survived the upheavals, though threatened by serious economic difficulties; and when Napoleon visited the city in 1807 Selva 155 Teatro la Fenice, auditorium by Selva, rebuilt with modifications after the fire of 1836; again destroyed by fire 1996. -ife Z60 THE ARCHITECTURAL
HISTORY OF VENICE himself was employed to convert six of the central boxes into a single, grand imperial box.
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