VENICE, Italy (AP) _ An electrical contractor has been charged with setting fire to La Fenice, the Venetian opera house where Verdi's ``La Traviata'' and ``Rigoletto'' premiered.

The 205-year-old theater, gutted on Jan. 29, 1996, housed a 1,500-seat theater along with fine musical scores, art and archival documents.

Enrico Carella, the 27-year-old head of an electrical firm involved in the renovation, was arrested Thursday along with his cousin, Massimiliano Marchetti, 26. Their lawyer said they were innocent.

Carella's company was reportedly behind on its work and faced stiff fines if it didn't finish on time. Carella and Marchetti were also apparently the last to leave La Fenice the night of the fire.

It will take at least three years to restore La Fenice at a total cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.