The Liceu Barcelona is One of the Largest Opera Theatres in Europe:
Simply referred to as the Liceu Barcelona in Catalan or Liceo Barcelona in Spanish, Barcelona’s opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu is one of the largest opera theatres in Europe. Yet unlike many of the grand opera houses in other old European cities, the Liceu didn’t have a royal beginning. As such, you won’t see a royal box in this opera house.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu, evolved out of the Sociedad Dramática de Aficionados, a Society of theatre-lovers which was established in 1837 in the former Convent of Montsió. A theatre was built in the convent building with the dual purpose of promoting musical education (hence the name “Liceu”) and staging opera performances by the Liceu students.
With Barcelona’s economy and population growing fast, it was decided that the city needed a music conservatory. This led to the conversion of the Sociedad Dramática into the Liceo Filármonico Dramático Barcelonés de S.M. la Reina Isabel II (Barcelona Dramatic and Philharmonic Lyceum of HM Queen Isabel II). It wasn’t too long before space became a problem and with the nuns recovering their rights to the convent, the Liceu had to find new premises.
The opera house that was built on Barcelona’s historic avenue of La Rambla was opened in 1847. The construction did not receive any funding from the Queen, nor was its upkeep paid for by the monarchy. Instead, the project was funded by selling shares to a group of investors, which meant that many of the boxes and seats were to be privately owned. The shareholders formed the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu and they ran the Liceu from 1855 onwards. This system prevailed until 1980 when a new Consortium made up of the Catalonian government and local councils took over the operation of the opera theatre.
A fire in 1994 destroyed the auditorium and stage and also put the Liceu’s existence into question. A decision was made to rebuild the opera house as a reproduction of the 19th century theatre, but with the addition of greatly improved facilities, a new rehearsal hall, a new chamber opera , a small play theatre, and much more public space. In looks, the new theatre resembled its predecessor, but is much larger as adjoining lots on the Rambla were acquired and it was geared with state-of-the-art technical equipment. It opened its doors on 7 October 1999.
The main entrance to the Liceu is in the Rambla, between La Unió and Sant Pau streets. Above the porch is part of the historic façade. The horseshoe-shaped Auditorium is an exact replica of the original structure designed in 1847. There are 2,292 seats, spread over six floors. At interval time, opera and concert attendees can retreat to the Mirror Salon, characterized in style by mirrors and paintings.
Today the Liceu is publicly-owned by the Government of Catalonia, Barcelona City Council, Barcelona Provincial Council and the Spanish Ministry of Culture.
To this day, the Liceu continues to fulfil its role as a culture and arts centre and is one of the symbols of Barcelona. The Liceu’s repertoire of performances includes opera, dance, concerts and recitals. See what’s on and book tickets online here.
Gran Teatre Del Liceu
La Rambla, 51-59