The Phoenix in Ashes

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VENICE: One of the crown jewels of the opera world was destroyed by fire on Monday evening. Located only a few blocks from St. Mark's Square, the 200-year-old La Fenice (Phoenix) was adorned with painted panels and gold-leaf statues and had been the site of dozens of famous musical premieres, including Rossini's "Tancredi" and Verdi's "Rigoletto" and "La Traviata." "The irony is that the opera house was closed for renovation," reports TIME's Greg Burke, "and among the renovations were the addition of new electrical and fire-prevention systems." Although the fire could have been related to the reconstruction efforts, arson has not been ruled out. The Italian government, meanwhile, has already pledged $125 million toward rebuilding. "But current estimates are that the damage done, which includes the loss of the building's valuable archives, is at least $300 million," says Burke. "The roof went fast and just about everything but the walls and marble facade was destroyed." Burke points out that La Fenice was damaged by fire during construction in 1792 and again in 1836. Luciano Pavarotti, opera's reigning king, has promised that "the bird will rise again from the ashes." But not in time for this year's March concert season, which was to debut with a Woody Allen jazz recital.