Venice, a city steeped in a thousand years of history, art and architecture, teeters in precarious balance between endurance and decay. Its architectural treasures crumble ? foundations shift, marble ornaments fall ? even as efforts to preserve them are underway. The City of Falling Angels opens on the evening of January 29, 1996, when a dramatic fire destroys the historic Fenice opera house. The loss of the Fenice, where five of Verdi's operas premiered, is a catastrophe for Venetians. Arriving in Venice three days after the fire, Berendt becomes a kind of detective ? inquiring into the nature of life in this remarkable museum-city ? while gradually revealing the truth about the fire.