Designed at the behest of the Grimani brothers, the theater inaugurated in 1678. Originally named after San Giovanni Grisostomo, the theater immediately became the most important and luxurious stage in Venice.
In this golden moment, great interpreters - such as Margherita Durasanti - and illustrious composers - including Pollarolo, Scarlatti, Händel collaborate with the theater.
The theater lasted until the 1830s, even directed by Carlo Goldoni, who introduced prose representations. From the middle of the century, however, the theater experienced a phase of decline, after the opening of smaller theaters.
One of the few theaters not to close following the French occupation, the San Giovanni Grisostomo was acquired by the Gallo family who restored it and, in 1835, renamed it Malibran, in honor of the singer Maria Malibran who that year had interpreted La Sonnambula giving up to their own remuneration.
In 1849, while all the theaters in the Veneto closed in protest after the Austrian occupation, the Malibran was the only one to remain open.
In the twentieth century, the theater undergoes further changes of ownership and closures, but remains active with good regularity, presenting operas, operettas, film shows. Purchased in 1992 by the Municipality of Venice, it has been enlarged, restored and definitively put back into business.
After the fire in 1996, for a period the Fenice orchestra was hosted at the Malibran which, thanks to the performances set up, was further re-evaluated.
Currently, the management is entrusted to the La Fenice Theater Foundation, a private law body which counts among its members the Italian State, the Veneto Region, the Municipality of Venice and numerous public and private entities. The Teatro la Fenice uses it for some of its activities, among these it plays the role of experimental production center through a continuous and articulated programming capable of involving the young artistic energies present in the Venetian territory. The project involves the IUAV Faculty of Design and Arts, the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory, the Ca 'Foscari University and the Academy of Fine Arts.