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Gran Teatre del Liceu
Liceu façade (2006)
La Rambla, 51-59
Country Spain
Architect Miquel Garriga i Roca (1847), Josep Oriol Mestres (1862), Ignasi de Solà-Morales (1999)
Owned by public theatre
Capacity 2,292 seats on 6 levels
Type Opera House
Opened 1847 (founded 1837 in another place)
Years active in active
Rebuilt 1862, 1999 (after fires in 1861 and 1994)
Previous names Teatro del Liceo de Montesión (1837-1847)
Production Consorci del Gran Teatre del Liceu

The Gran Teatre del Liceu (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈɡɾan təˈatɾə dəɫ ɫiˈsɛw]), or simply Liceu in Catalan and Liceo in Spanish, is an opera house on La Rambla in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain). The Liceu opened on April 4, 1847.



Inside of Gran Teatre del Liceu, after 1999 rebuilding

In contrast with other European cities, where the monarchy took on the responsibility of the building and upkeep of opera houses, the Liceu was funded by private shareholders of what would become the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Great Liceu Theater Society), organized in a similar way to a trading company or societat. This is reflected in the building's architecture; for example, there is no royal box.



In 1837, a battalion of the Spanish army, commanded by Manuel Gibert Sans, created, in the secularized convent of Montsió (next to the present Portal de l'Àngel), the Liceo Filodramático de Montesión (Philodramatic Lyceum of Montesión). Its purpose was to both promote the musical education (hence the name "Liceu", or lyceum) and organize scenic representations of opera, performed by Liceu students. A theater was built in the convent building — named Teatro de Montesión or Teatro del Liceo de Montesión — and plays and operas performed: the first was Bellini's Norma (1838, February 3). The repertoire was Italian: the most performed composers were Donizetti and Mercadante; after, Bellini, Rossini; there also was the Barcelona premiere of Hérold's Zampa.

In 1838, the society changed its name to Liceo Dramático Filarmónico de S. M. la Reina Isabel II (Dramatic Philharmonic Lyceum of H.M Queen Elisabeth). Lack of space and pressures brought to bear by a group of nuns— who were old proprietors of convent, that had recovered rights that were lost, and protested to return—motivated that Liceu would leave its headquarters, in 1844. The last theatre performance was in September 8.

Therefore, the building of a Trinitarian convent, located in the centre of the town, at La Rambla, was purchased. The managers of the Liceu entrusted Joaquim de Gispert d'Anglí with a project to made the construction of the new building viable. Two different societies were created: a "building society" and a "auxiliary building society". Shareholders of the first obtained, in exchange for their economic contributions, the right of use to perpetuity of some theatre boxes and seats in the future theatre. Those of the second society contributed the rest of necessary money in exchange for the property of other spaces in the building—some shops and the Círculo del Liceo, a private club.

The queen did not contributed to the construction: this fact conditioned even the structure of the new building, lacking a royal box; the name of the society was changed to Liceo Filarmónico Dramático, deleting the queen's name from it.

Miquel Garriga i Roca was the architect contracted to project the building. The works began April 11, 1845, and the Theatre was inaugurated April 4, 1847.

Opening, fire and rebuilding (1847-1862)

The façade of the Liceu, as viewed from La Rambla

The inauguration—April 4, 1847—presented a mixed program including the premieres of: a José Melchor Gomis' musical ouverture, a history play (Ventura de la Vega's Don Fernando de Antequera), a ballet (La rondeña (The girl from Ronda) by Josep Jurch), and a cantata (Il regio himene with music by Marià Obiols, musical director of the theatre). Some days after (April 17) was performed the first complete opera, Donizetti's Anna Bolena. At this moment, Liceu was the biggest opera house in Europe: it had 3,500 seats. Other operas performed in the Liceu during the first year were, in this order, I due Foscari (Verdi), Il bravo (Mercadante), Parisina d’Este (Donizetti), Giovanna d’Arco (Verdi), Leonora (Mercadante), Ernani (Verdi), Norma (Bellini), Linda di Chamounix (Donizetti) and Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini).

The building was severely damaged by fire in April 9, 1861, but it was quickly rebuilt by the architect Josep Oriol Mestres. It was newly open in April 20, 1862 performing Bellini's I puritani. From the old building, only the façade, the entrance hall and the foyer (Mirrors Hall) remained.

From 1862 to Civil War

On November 7, 1893, the opening night of the season, during the second act of the opera Guillaume Tell, by Rossini, two Orsini bombs were thrown into the stalls of the opera house. Only one of the bombs exploded, but some twenty people were killed, and many more injured. The attack was the work of Santiago Salvador, an anarchist, and it deeply shocked Barcelona, becoming the symbol of the turbulent social unrest of the time. The Liceu reopened its doors on January 18, 1894, but the seats occupied by those killed by the bombs were not used for a number of years.

Explosion of Liceu of Barcelona by the anarchist Santiago Salvador in the cover of the newspaper Le Petit Journal, 1893

In 1909, auditorium ornamentation was renewed. Spanish neutrality during World War I allowed the Catalan textile industry to amass enormous wealth through supplying the warring parties. The 1920s were prosperous years. The Liceu became fully established as a leading opera house, and welcomed better singers, the orchestra leaders of the time, and companies such as Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

When the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931, political instability meant that the Liceu suffered a severe financial crisis, which was only overcome though subsidies from Barcelona City Council and the government of Catalonia. During the Spanish Civil War, the Liceu was nationalized and took the name the Teatre del Liceu - Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (Liceu Opera House - the National Theatre of Catalonia). The opera seasons were suspended. After the war, in 1939, it was returned to its original owners.

"Silver Age" and crisis: from 1940 to 1980

From 1940 to 1960s, seasons were high quality ones. The Liceu was visited by the best voices and companies. The year 1955, thanks to the creation of a special board, saw a historic event: for the first time since its foundation, the Bayreuth Festival was staged away from its normal venue, with memorable performances of Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde and Die Walküre, and innovative stage sets by Wieland Wagner, which were enthusiastically received.

In the 1970s, economic crisis affected the theatre: the private-based organization was not able to afford the increasing budgets of modern opera productions, and general quality declined.

New direction and 1994 fire

The death of Pàmias in 1980 revealed the need for the intervention of the official bodies if the institution was to remain a leading opera house. In 1981 the Generalitat de Catalunya, alongside Barcelona's City Council and the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu, created the Consorci del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Consortium of the Great Liceu Theater) that was since then responsible for the theater's management and exploitation. The Diputation of Barcelona and the Spanish Ministry of Culture joined the Consortium on 1985 and 1986 respectively. In little time, the Consortium managed to attract the public back to the Liceu, owing to the considerable improvement in its artistic standard. This included a more complete and up-to-date perspective of the very nature of an opera performance, a great improvement in the choir and orchestra, careful casting, and attracting the interest of the public to other aspects of productions besides the leading roles alone. This approach, coupled with the new economic support and a more demanding and discerning public, resulted in a high standard of productions.

The seasons organised by the Consortium maintained high standards in casting, production and public loyalty, as measured by public attendance, but all this came to a halt with the fire on 31 January 1994.

On this day, the building was destroyed by fire, caused by a spark that accidentally fell on the curtain during a routine repair. At this time, Paul Hindemith's Mathis der Maler was performing at the theatre; the following opera to be performed was Puccini's Turandot.

Public and institutional response was unanimous on the need to rebuild a new opera house on the same site, with improved facilities. The new Liceu is the result of a series of actions to preserve those parts of the building unaffected by the fire (the same ones remained in the 1861 fire); the auditorium was rebuilt with the same layout (except roof paintings, replaced by new art works by Perejaume) and state-of-the-art stage technology.

In order to rebuild and improve the theater, the theater became public. The Fundació del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Liceu Great Theater Foundation) was created and the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu handed over property of the building to the Foundation. Some owners didn't agree with the decision and challenged it in court, but lost.

From reopening to now

From 1994 to reopening in 1999, opera seasons in Barcelona took place in: Palau Sant Jordi arena (only some massive performances in 1994), Palau de la Música Catalana and Teatre Victòria. The rebuilt, improved and expanded theater opened on October 7, 1999: Puccini's Turandot was performed, as previewed in 1994, before the fire. The new venue has the same traditional horseshoe-shaped auditorium as before, but with greatly improved technical, rehearsal, office and educational facilities, a new rehearsal hall, a new chamber opera and small performances hall, and much more public space. The venue is claimed to be one of the most modern theatre facilities in Europe. Architects for the rebuilding project were Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Xavier Fabré i Lluís Dilmé.

Many of the seats now include individual monitors for the electronic libretto system,

Surtitles, projected onto a screen above the proscenium, are used for all opera performances and some lieder concerts. Also, the electronic libretto system provides translations (to English, Spanish or Catalan, as you choose) onto small individual monitors for the most of the seats.

The opera house building

The theatre is in La Rambla, in the downtown. The building, until 1994, was not isolated: it has only two façades, being the other two sides limited by dwelling buildings.

From the first building remain some parts:

  • the main façade in La Rambla (1847): it is a modest and not appealing façade.
  • the hall and the staircase (1861), with a Vallmitjana's statue of the Music (1901).
  • the foyer (Saló de Miralls or Mirrors Hall) (1847). It preserves romantic ornamentation, with round paintings of musicians, singers and dancers from that moment (Pasta, Rubini, Donizetti, Bellini, Gluck, Marie Taglioni...). It was partially redecorated in 1877 by Elies Rogent. The roof painting, with the Parnassus, is from this moment.
Foyer of Gran Teatre del Liceu, named Saló dels Miralls (Mirrors Hall), preserved from the 1994 fire.

The auditorium is huge and gorgeous. Rebuilt after the 1994 fire, it is a faithful rebuilding of the 1861 auditorium, with some improvements and 2,292 seats, one of the biggest opera houses in Europe. It is a typical Italian horseshoe-shaped theatre. Maximum length and wide are 33 and 27 m. There is a platea (main floor) and five tiers or balconies. Boxes, with small rooms before, are in the forestage, in the platea, and in the some of the galleries. However, there is no significant physical divisions among boxes: only a low screen separates a box from another. No columns are in the theatre (only in the inside of platea): so, the appearance of the galleries are that of a golden horseshoe, without visual interruptions. Another peculiarity is the amfiteatre, ubicated in the first gallery: is a projecting part of this gallery with a less pronounced horseshoe shape, that allows to locate there three ranks of seats, undoubtedly the best in the theatre.

Building expenses were covered by the sale of boxes and seats. Box insides were lavishly decorated by their owners, but all them disappeared in the 1994 fire. Liceu soon became the prominent meeting place for noble and wealthy Barcelonese people. Upper balconies (4th and 5th tiers), the cheapest seats, is called galliner (literally "henroost"). It is typically crowded with the most critical opera aficionados, who can be ecstatic or merciless towards singers' perceived successes or failures.

Small room in a box of the Gran Teatre del Liceu; before the 1994 fire, all the boxes in the theatre were ornated by different artists (this was by A. Utrillo). They disappeared with the fire.

Forestage or proscenium reproduces the old one, rebuilt in 1909. It has a big central arch, with two Corinthian columns in both sides and, among the columns, four tiers of boxes parapets, the wider and luxurious boxes in the theatre, called banyeres (literally "bathtubs").

Auditorium ornamentation reproduces the one of 1909: sumptuous, with golden and polychromed plaster moldings, as usual in 19th century European theatres. Lamps are of brass and glass, everyone with the shape of a drake. Armchairs in the main floor it are made of strained iron and red velvet.

In the rebuilding some modern features were introduced. The eight circular paintings in the roof, and the three in the forestage, all lost in the fire, has been newly created by contemporary artist Perejaume. The stage curtain is a work of the Catalan designer Antoni Miró. The new hemispheric lamp in the center of the roof is, actually, a platform for technological facilities (lighting, sound and computer).

Other technological facilities are control and projecting cabines in some balconies, a "technical floor" over the roof, and a high-tech equipment to record and broadcast performances, with computerized cameras: the auditorium could be a real TV set.

Stage facilities are among the most modern, and allow quick scene changes and to perform until four different with sets simultaneously.

A new foyer has been built under the main auditorium. It is a room where is the main bar and the restaurant, and is used also to stage concerts, small format performances, lectures, cultural activities, meetings, etc.

Artistic history

Performed works

Liceu, at the moment, is both a receiving and producing house, as it also produces its own productions (two or three new productions a year). Liceu company is formed by a permanent orchestra and choir, and some singers for the supporting roles. Leading roles are, usually, sung by guest singers. Stagecraft is, in part, produced internally by the theatre (alone or together with other opera houses); in part is rented from other external houses. Until 1990s Liceu had its own ballet company—at its best in the 1920-1930s, under Joan Magriñà.

The most of the performed operas are from Italian and German schools of 19th century: Verdi, Wagner, belcanto authors... Now, Puccini, Richard Strauss and Mozart also are among the most usual authors.

Liceu premieres history is a good instance of the evolution European opera tastes. After a first period when opera was only a part of the artistic activities [opera alternated with other performances of the most diverse nature: zarzuela (Spanish light opera), classical dance (Giselle was given its first Barcelona performance in 1847), theatrical performances, magic shows and a large number of curious activities which today might appear more appropriate for a variety concert or a music hall], Liceu becomes an opera house, centering its activities in opera and ballet performances.

Gaetano Donizetti, composer of Anna Bolena, the first opera performed at the Liceu.

The first performed operas —Donizetti's Anna Bolena and Verdi's I due Foscari— are symptomatic of the taste for belcanto and Italian romantic melodrama: Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, etc. They still are in repertory (Verdi is, by far, the most performed author). Other very performed authors, but now forgotten, are other belcanto authors as Mercadante or Pacini, and French Grand Opera authors: Auber, Meyerbeer, [[Fromental Halévy|Halévy, Hérold, etc. Other later French authors still remain: Gounod, Bizet, Massenet or Saint-Saëns.

The first operas by non Italian composers which were put on in the Liceu were Ferdinand Hérold's Zampa (1848), Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz (1849), Giacomo Meyerbeer's Robert le diable, Auber's La muette de Portici (1852) and Fra Diavolo, also by Auber (1853). All of which were sung in Italian, as was the custom of the time.

The first performances of Il Trovatore (1854) and La Traviata (1855) led to the crowning of Giuseppe Verdi as king of opera. In 1866, Mozart was staged at the Liceu for the first time with Don Giovanni.

1883 is a landmark: Wagner's Lohengrin is first performed. From there, and especially from 1880s to 1950s, Wagner become one of the most beloved and well appraised authors at Liceu. The theatre staged the first legal performance of Parsifal outside Bayreuth, December 31, 1913, with Francesc Viñas in the title role, and under the baton of Franz Beidler. In 1955 Bayreuth Festival company visited the theatre, performing three operas.

Verismo, especially Puccini, is, from the end of 19th century, a very esteemed school. The first Russian opera was given in 1915, with a great success. Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky are from there usually performed. The first years of the twentieth century saw Richard Strauss conducting his own works. In 1904, Siegfried Wagner conducted a concert, and a year afterwards Pietro Mascagni conducted a work.

In 1915, impresario Mestres Calvet increased repertory and introduced authors as Mozart, and other new as Richard Strauss, de Falla, Stravinsky, etc. it was a golden age for Russian and German opera, which were now sung in their original language. Mestres also was closely related to the success obtained, commencing in 1917, by the ballets of Diaghilev, with Nijinsky, Massine, Lopokova, Chernicheva and other great figures (years later, another mythical dancer, Anna Pavlova, was also to perform). During these years, the most renowned conductors also conducted in the Liceu: Serge Koussevitzky, Igor Stravinsky, Felix Weingartner, Hans Knappertsbusch, Otto Klemperer and Bruno Walter. In subsequent years, despite the difficulties experienced by the impresario Rodés by the proclamation of the Second Republic, new important figures were to appear.

In 1947, the directing company changed and came into the hands of Arquer and Pàmias. In view of the preceding years that marked by the almost exclusive programming of the great repertory works, and the conditions imposed by the war and the prevailing political situation, the first season of the new directorship was like a breath of fresh air, with a special renewal of the repertoire, based on various revivals, which featured Donizetti's Anna Bolena, which had first been staged in the Liceu one hundred years earlier. For thirty-three years, Pàmias was the leading figure of the Liceu's activity, during a period when it seemed that it would be impossible to maintain the opera house without any official aid. He renewed the repertoire and promoted the first performances in Barcelona of some one hundred works by a large number of composers, including Stravinsky, Respighi, Lalo, Menotti, Bartók, Honegger, Gershwin, Pizzetti, Poulenc, Montsalvatge, Berg, Janáček, Busser, Ravel, Shostakovich, Lortzing, Prokofiev, Kurt Weill, Martinů, Britten, Rota, Malipiero and Manuel de Falla.

Now, the repertory is mainly the most performed titles in the world and, from 1950s to now, practically all the great 20th century authors: Bartók, Honegger, Gershwin, Berg, Janáček, Weill, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Britten, Schönberg, Hindemith, etc., along with Baroque and classicism authors: Monteverdi, Handel or Gluck.

Catalan and Spanish musicians — Felipe Pedrell, Granados, Morera, Pahissa, Vives, Toldrà, Xavier Montsalvatge, Gerhard, among others — have given their works at Liceu.

Ballet seasons, with some of the better companies in the world -from Diaghilev to Béjart-, are an important part of the theatre activities, with figures such as: ballets of Diaghilev, with Nijinsky, Massine, Lopokova, Chernicheva, Anna Pavlova, Jerome Robbins leading the U.S.A. Ballet, Serge Lifar, Margot Fonteyn, Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Alicia Alonso; the ballets of the Marqués de Cuevas, the Kirov, Paris Opera, Maurice Béjart, the Royal Ballet Company and City of London Ballet Company.

Most performed operas

Most performed operas in the history of Liceu are (in January 2009):

Premieres at the theatre

As a prominent theatre in an artistically vital city, the Liceu has been the location for the premieres of several works of theatre and music, and for the Spanish premieres of a lot of musical works. Among the absolute premieres are:

  • 1847 (April 4) Ventura de la Vega's history play Don Fernando de Antequera, one of his best plays.
  • 1851 (June) El granuja, zarzuela with music by N. Gardyn.
  • 1853 (January 8) Temistocle Solera's Spanish opera La hermana de Pelayo; La tapada del retiro, Nicolau Manent's zarzuela; Sueño y realidad, zarzuela with music by Felipe Pedrell.
  • 1854 (February 16) J. Freixas' opera La figlia del deserto.
  • 1857 (May 23) Nicolau Manent's opera Gualtero di Monsonís.
  • 1858 Pujadas' Catalan zarzuela Setze jutges (Sixteen judges), the first all-Catalan language play performed at Liceu.
  • 1858 Juan Garín, o, Las peñas de Montserrat, music by Mariano Soriano Fuertes, Nicolau Manent and Francisco Porcell
  • 1859 (May 12) Nicolau Guanyabéns' opera Arnaldo d'Erill.
  • 1859 Josep Anselm Clavé's Catalan zarzuela L'aplec del Remei.
  • 1867 (March 23) Francesc Sánchez Gavagnach's opera Rahabba.
  • 1874 (January 28) Marià Obiols' opera Editta di Belcourt.
  • 1874 (April 14) Felipe Pedrell's opera L'ultimo Abenzerraggio.
  • 1878 (November 27) Salvatore Auteri-Manzocchi's opera Il negriero
  • 1885 (June 6) Manuel Giró's opera Il rinnegato Alonso García"
  • 1885 (June 12) Antoni Baratta's opera Lo desengany, first Catalan language opera sung at Liceu.
  • 1889 (July 10) Francesc Sánchez Gavagnach's opera La messagiera.
  • 1892 (May 14) Tomás Bretón's opera Garín.
  • 1895 (May 8) Isaac Albéniz's opera Henry Clifford.
  • 1896 (January 5) Isaac Albéniz's opera Pepita Jiménez.
  • 1902 (January 4) Felipe Pedrell's grand-opera Els Pirineus.
  • 1903 (December 3) Joan Manén's opera Acté.
  • 1906 (January 20) Enric Morera's opera Empòrium.
  • 1906 (April 21) Enric Morera's opera Bruniselda.
  • 1907 (January 21) Joan Lamote de Grignon's opera Hesperia.
  • 1912 (January 17) Enric Morera's Titaina, with libretto by Àngel Guimerà.
  • 1913 (January 15) Jaume Pahissa's first opera Gal·la Placídia.
  • 1913 Jesús Guridi's opera Mirentxu (premiered as zarzuela in 1910, at Bilbao, and revised as opera by the author)
  • 1916 (January 18) Enric Morera's opera Tassarba.
  • 1919 (February 15) Jaume Pahissa's opera La morisca.
  • 1920 (January 24) Joaquim Cassadó's Lo monjo negre.
  • 1923 (March 31) Jaume Pahissa's Marianela.
  • 1924 (December 20) A. Marqués' opera Sor Beatriu.
  • 1927 (January 12) Facundo de la Viña's opera La espigadora'.
  • 1928 (February 28) Jaume Pahissa's La princesa Margarida.
  • 1929 (February 12) Ricard Lamote de Grignon's ballet Somnis.
  • 1929 ([December 14]) Jose Maria Usandizaga's opera Las golondrinas (premiered as zarzuela in 1914 and revised as opera by Ramón Usandizaga)
  • 1932 (March 3) Joan Manén's opera Neró i Acté.
  • 1935 (January 15) Joan Gaig's opera El estudiante de Salamanca.
  • 1938 Salvador Bacarisse's ballet Corrida de feria.
  • 1948 (January 10) Xavier Montsalvatge's children opera El gato con botas.
  • 1948 (January 10) Carlos Surinach's opera El mozo que casó con mujer brava.
  • 1950 (December 14) Conrado del Campo's opera Lola la Piconera.
  • 1952 (December 12) Joan Manén's opera Soledad; his ballet Rosario la Tirana.
  • 1953 (May 21) Antoni Massana's Canigó, the first Catalan-language opera after the Civil War.
  • 1955 (December 17) Ángel Barrios' opera La Lola se va a los puertos'.
  • 1955 (December 19) Joaquín Rodrigo's ballet Pavana real.
  • 1956 (April 28) Frederic Mompou and Xavier Montsalvatge's ballet Perlimplinada.
  • 1959 (January 1) Joan Altisent's opera Amunt!.
  • 1960 (February) Ricard Lamote de Grignon's opera La cabeza del dragón (written in 1939).
  • 1960 (May 1)Cristóbal Halffter's ballet Jugando al toro; Matilde Salvador's ballet El segoviano esquivo
  • 1961 (November 24) Manuel de Falla and Ernesto Halffter's scenic cantata Atlàntida.
  • 1962 (December 11) Xavier Montsalvatge's opera Una voce in off.
  • 1969 (February 1) Joan Guinjoan's ballet Els cinc continents.
  • 1974 (January 19) Matilde Salvador's opera Vinatea.
  • 1975 (November 29) J. Ventura Tort's 'opera 'Rondalla d'esparvers.
  • 1986 (May 22) Josep Soler's opera Oedipus et Iocasta (premiered as oratorio at Palau de la Música Catalana, 1972).
  • 1988 (September 21) Xavier Benguerel's scenic cantata Llibre vermell.
  • 1989 (September 24) Leonardo Balada's opera Cristóbal Colón.
  • 2000 (October 2) José Luis Turina's opera D.Q., Don Quijote en Barcelona, with settings by La Fura dels Baus.
  • 2004 (November 3) Joan Guinjoan's opera Gaudí.
  • 2006 (April 6) Josep Mestres Quadreny's camera opera El ganxo.
  • 2009 (April 20) Enric Palomar's opera La cabeza del Bautista.
Some opera Spanish premieres at the theatre

Liceu has also been the location for the Spanish premieres of prominent operas, some of them briefly after their world premiere. Among them:

Directors, orchestra, and company


The theatre is managed by a director or impresario (empresari o administrador). From 1980 there is, too, an art director (director artístic) for artistic matters.

The empresaris has been:

  • Albert Bernis (1901-1911), who balanced the presence of Italian and Wagner operas, included ancient works, more premieres and contracted the best singers, becoming one of the leading European opera houses.
  • Francesc Casanovas (1911-1913), who worked with similar guidelines.
  • Alfredo Volpini (1913-1914), with the first legal performance of Parsifal out of Bayreuth, December 31, 1913 at Liceu.
  • Joan Mestres i Calvet (1915-1947): the great impresario of the theatre, faced a new era for the Liceu. It was, actually, a Golden Age.
  • Josep F. Arquer (to 1959) & Joan Pàmias, (1947-1980), with Napoleone Annovazzi as artistic director (only to 1952). Brilliant years, with the visit of Bayreuth Festival company (1955) and the debuts and continuous presence of the best voices, most of them Catalan voices (Victoria de los Ángeles, Caballé, Carreras, Jaume Aragall, etc.). The 70s, however, was a critical period: budget was not enough and Liceu declined.
  • Lluís Portabella (1981-1986), Josep M. Busquets (1986-1992), Jordi Maluquer (1992-1993)
  • Josep Caminal (1993-2005). Opera seasons were consolidating, but the 1994 fire destroyed the theatre. Caminal was able to manage this situation. Performing activities, reduced in number of performances, continued in other stages, and the rebuilt of the Liceu begun. Reopening (1999) and new seasons were an extraordinary success: the number of performances, public and subscriber grew year after year. Parallel programming for children and other activities (concerts, etc.) related to operas being performed has been highly praised by other theatres.
  • Rosa Cullell (2005-2008), Joan Francesc Marco (from 2008).

Artistic directors, from 1980, has been:

  • Lluís Andreu (1981-1990)
  • Albin Häsenroth (1990-1996)
  • Joan Matabosch, from 1996 to now.

Orchestra and conductors

The theatre has its own orchestra from its foundation in 1847: the Orquestra Simfònica del Gran Teatre del Liceu. It is the oldest orchestra still working in Barcelona, and the oldest in Spain. Its first conductor was Marià Obiols.

Orchestra musical directors, and head conductors has been:

  • Michael Boder, 2009-
  • Sebastian Weigle, 2004-2009
  • Bertrand de Billy, 1999-2004.
  • Uwe Mund, 1987-1994.
  • Eugenio Marco, 1981-1984.
  • Ernest Xancó, 1959-1961.

Previously, the orchestra had not head conductors, but invited ones. Some of the conductors that have worked at Liceu has been: Franco Faccio, Felix Weingartner, Manuel de Falla, Alexander Glazunov, Richard Strauss, Igor Strawinsky, Joan Lamote de Grignon, Joan Manén, Jaume Pahissa, Siegfried Wagner, Ottorino Respighi, Pietro Mascagni, Karl Elmendorff, Max von Schillings, Joseph Keilberth, Clemens Krauss, Bruno Walter, Arturo Toscanini, Hans Knappertsbusch, Otto Klemperer, Albert Coates, George Sebastian, Erich Kleiber, Franz Konwitschny, Antal Doráti, Hans Swarowsky, André Cluytens, Antonino Votto, Richard Bonynge, Rafael Frübeck de Burgos, Jesús López Cobos, Riccardo Muti, Václav Neumann, Josep Pons, Antoni Ros-Marbà, Clement Power, Pinchas Steinberg, Friedrich Haider, Peter Schneider, Silvio Varviso, Sylvain Cambreling or Víctor Pablo Pérez.

Choir conductors

Choir has been consolidated during the 1960s by its conductor, Riccardo Bottino (1960-1982). From 1982, choir conductors were Romano Gandolfi (1982-1993), with Vittorio Sicuri (1982-1990), and Andrés Máspero (from 1990). Now, the choir conductor is William Spaulding.

Stage directors and stagecraft

During the second half of 19th century, a school of stagecraft and theatrical scenery was developed at the Liceu. After the beginnings of Joan Ballester, well-known for his setting for L'Africaine, the leading scenographer was Francesc Soler i Rovirosa, working in the 1880-1900s. The style was very realistic, using painted paper flats and curtains. At that moment, settings and costumes were made in the theatre workshops.

From 1900s to 1930s, this school is represented by scenic painters as: Maurici Vilomara, Fèlix Urgellés, Salvador Alarma, Oleguer Junyent... The last of these painters was Josep Mestres Cabanes, who painted sceneries in the 1930-1950s.

Among the present stage directors who has worked at the Liceu were: Giuseppe de Tomasi, Franco Zeffirelli, Wieland Wagner, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Götz Friedrich, Nikolaus Lehnhoff, Luca Ronconi, Pier Luigi Pizzi, Piero Faggioni, Peter Sellars, Herbert Wernicke, Núria Espert, Mario Gas, Manuel Huerga, Calixto Bieito, Graham Vick, Willy Decker, Luc Bondy, Andreas Homoki, Giancarlo del Monaco, Robert Carsen, Harry Kupfer, Peter Konwitschny, La Fura dels Baus or Els Comediants.


A lot of great singers have sung at Liceu. The most of the Catalan singers have begun their career there. Barcelona public loves voices. Camille Saint-Saëns, visiting the Liceu, said, talking about the public: "Ils aiment trop the ténor" (They [the public] love tenors too much). Often, public have showed its passion for some singers.

Among the most beloved of them, with many and relevant performances in Liceu stage, there are (in brackets, date of his/her presentation and his/her last performance, both at Liceu):

Turandot (Liceu, 1980) with Montserrat Caballé and Pedro Lavirgen

Also sang at Liceu, but without success Enrico Caruso (1904), Aureliano Pertile (1916), Mario del Monaco.

Other well-known singer sang at Liceu, but very few times: so, Tito Schipa (1916), Beniamino Gigli (1917), Viorica Ursuleac, Ettore Bastianini (1948/1950), Maria Callas (1959, a concert), Leyla Gencer, Teresa Berganza, Franco Corelli, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Renata Scotto, Lisa Della Casa, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Gundula Janowitz, Nicolai Gedda, Teresa Stich-Randall, Beverly Sills, Norman Treigle, Pilar Lorengar, Lucia Popp, Christa Ludwig, Marilyn Horne, Brigitte Fassbaender, Luciano Pavarotti, Renée Fleming (2007), etc.

Conservatori de Música del Liceu

Linked to the theatre is the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu, a music college founded in 1837. Actually, the theatre and the school were parts of the same corporation.

Circle of the Lyceum

A few months after the foundation of the Liceu, on November 20, 1847, created the Círculo del Liceo (Liceu Circle), a private club, according to the date of inscription of 125 founders that consists in the first book of associates' record. The first article of the bylaws says: "The Círculo del Liceo is an association that has for object provide to its individuals the playtime and entertainments of the good society and to be foreign to any act that has political trend".

The Círculo is an exclusive private club, based on English model, located in the Liceu building, and communicated with the theatre, but it is an independent society, without more links among them. Only men or their widows could be club members; with the recent inauguration after the fire of 1994, a strong polemic was originated for denying to any woman to be a member of the club, and the society statute was changed. So, in 2001 two Catalan businesswomen, Adela Subirana and Magda Ferrer-Dalmau, were formalizing their inscriptions, turning into the first women in forming a part of the club. Nevertheless, the rest of the 10 women who applied were rjected (including Montserrat Caballé). Nowadays, there are 1.100 associates.

La sargantaine, Júlia Peraire's portrait (1907) by Ramon Casas, painting at the Círculo del Liceo

As recreative club, it receives the most select of the Catalan society being the first social club of the city. The own history of the Círculo has allowed that the entity should have a phenomenal art heritage. It has a library more than notable. In the majority of its dependences it is possible to enjoy Art Nouveau decoration. There are four large windows in the low foyer that they are a direct testimony of the strong influence of Wagnerism in the Catalan culture of the beginning of the 20th century.

Besides the furniture and of the decoration, the club is a vivacious and splendid sample of sculptures, marquetry, enamels, engravings, etchings and paintings of the best Catalan artists of the epoch: Alexandre de Riquer, Santiago Rusiñol, Modest Urgell Inglada and Francesc Miralles, among others. The most famous work of the club is the wall set, of twelve oils on fabric, commissioned to Ramon Casas and installed in the famous rotunda of the club. Each of twelve paintings, Casas' most ambitious work, is inspired by a musical topic.

The Liceu in fiction, cinema, etc.

Fiction: novels, plays, etc.

  • Frederic Soler's satirical comedy "Liceístas" i "cruzados" (1865), about the quarrels among theater-goer fans of Liceu and fans of the Teatre Principal, the main opera houses—there was a great rivality among them—in Barcelona in 19th century.
  • Narcís Oller's novel La febre d'or (1892).
  • Artur Masriera's sketch book Los buenos barceloneses: hombres, costumbres y anécdotas de la Barcelona ochocentista (1850-1870) (1925).
  • Ignacio Agustí's novels: Mariona Rebull (1944) and El viudo Rius (1945), where the 1893 bomb at Liceu is narrated.
  • Eduardo Mendoza's novel La ciudad de los prodigios (1986). However, the film based on it was filmed at Teatre Fortuny at Reus, not at Liceu.
  • Joan Agut's short stories book El dia que es va cremar el Liceu (The day the Liceu was burnt) (1995).


See also

External links


  • Roger Alier. El gran llibre del Liceu. Barcelona: Carroggio, DL 1999.
  • Roger Alier. El Gran Teatro del Liceo: historia artística. Barcelona: Francesc X. Mata, 1991.
  • Roger Alier. Historia del Gran Teatro del Liceo. Barcelona: La Vanguardia, 1983.
  • Anuari 1947-1997 del Gran Teatre del Liceu. Recerca i recopilació: Pau Nadal. Barcelona: Amics del Liceu: Àmbit, DL 1997.
  • Josep Artís. El Gran Teatro del Liceo. Col·lecció Barcelona histórica y monumental. Barcelona: Aymá, 1946.
  • Crònica il·lustrada del Gran Teatre del Liceu: 1947-1997. Barcelona: Amics del Liceu : Àmbit, DL 1997.
  • Teresa Lloret. Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona. [Barcelona: Fundació Gran Teatre del Liceu], cop. 2002.
  • Òpera Liceu: una exposició en cinc actes: Museu d'Història de Catalunya, 19 setembre de 1997-11 de gener de 1998, Barcelona. [Barcelona]: Generalitat de Catalunya, Departament de Cultura : Proa : Fundació Gran Teatre del Liceu, DL 1997.
  • Jaume Radigales. Els orígens del Gran Teatre del Liceu: 1837-1847: de la plaça de Santa Anna a la Rambla: història del Liceu Filharmònic d'Isabel II o Liceu Filodramàtic de Barcelona. Barcelona: Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, 1998.
  • José Subirá. La ópera en los teatros de Barcelona: estudio histórico cronológico desde el siglo XVIII al XX . Monografías históricas de Barcelona, 9. Millà. 1946.
  • Jaume Tribó. Annals 1847-1897 del Gran Teatre del Liceu. Barcelona: Amics del Liceu: Gran Teatre del Liceu, 2004.

Coordinates: 41°22′49″N 2°10′25″E / 41.38028°N 2.17361°E / 41.38028; 2.17361


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