For hundreds of years, Venice has been a popular destination for music lovers; between the early 16th century and the close of the 18th century in particular, the city was world-renowned for its exhilarating operas, extravagant masquerade balls, sublime church choirs and master composers such as Antonio Vivaldi and Claudio Monteverdi. As one Frenchman of the 17th century remarked, “in every home, someone is playing a musical instrument or singing. There is music everywhere.”
Today, Venice is still very much alive with the sound of music, thanks to the many palaces, churches and theatres that stage regular concerts and performances by home-grown talent as well as top international artists. We’ve picked out a few of our favourite concert venues around town:
Palazzetto Bru Zane: Built in the 17th century as a pleasure palace for the wealthy Zane family, this architectural gem now houses Venice’s prestigious Centre for French Romantic Music, which organises an annual progamme of concerts dedicated to the musical heritage of 19th century France. Performances are staged in the intimate first-floor ballroom, richly decorated with enchanting frescoes by Baroque painter Sebastiano Ricci, as well as stucco-work by celebrated craftsman Abbondio Stazio.
Auditorium “Lo Squero”: Situated on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore within the complex of the Giorgio Cini Foundation, this stunning concert hall is one Venice’s best-kept secrets. Converted from an old boat workshop in 2016, the auditorium now hosts a first-rate programme of concerts by musicians from the Quartetto di Venezia, who perform in front of a vast plate-glass window offering eye-wateringly beautiful views over the Venetian lagoon.
Teatro La Fenice: Described by the great opera singer Luciano Pavarotti as “a jewel and architecturally the most beautiful theatre in Italy”, La Fenice is undoubtedly one of the most iconic music venues on the planet. Named after the mythical Phoenix, it has coincidentally risen not once but twice from the ashes – having burnt down in 1836 and again in 1996 – before finally reopening in 2003 after a painstaking €90 million restoration project. As well as opera and ballet, the theatre stages a programme of concerts by the celebrated Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice, along with other premier orchestras from around the globe.
Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello: Just off Campo Santo Stefano, in an imposing 17th century palazzo once owned by the powerful Pisani dynasty, sits Venice’s highly respected music conservatory. Attended by 570 students from Italy and around the world, the conservatory also houses a library of around 50,000 musical manuscripts, as well as an important collection of early musical instruments – on view to the public in the palace museum. Keep an eye on the website for news of performances by award-winning students and visiting musicians, staged within the conservatory’s grand frescoed concert hall.
St George’s Anglican Church: Located on Campo San Vio in a building that was once a warehouse for the Venezia-Murano Glass and Mosaic Company, St George’s now serves as Venice’s only Anglican Church, with weekly services held every Sunday at 10.30am. In addition, the church also hosts regular evening concerts of Baroque music organized by “Venice Music Project”, featuring performances on original instruments by resident orchestra Venetia Antiqua, as well as renowned international ensembles and guest soloists. A percentage of all ticket sales goes towards the church’s ongoing restoration.