Last Monday, April 4th, Gran Teatre del Liceu celebrated 169 years of its first opening. Today, Barcelona’s Opera House is among the most important opera halls in Europe and a landmark of the city. The building stands at La Rambla as it first stood in 1847, after surviving two fires, a bombing, and a Civil War. Today, you can discover it by attending any of its musical performances or engaging in a guided tour in the symbolic building, which combines the neoclassical architecture and state-of-the-art technical equipment.
In the mid XIX century, Barcelona’s economy and population were growing fast and a group of armed liberal citizens created a Music Conservatory and, soon afterward a new theater was built in the center of the city’s activities: La Rambla. It was the Big Theater of a growing city and held all kind of theatrical and musical performances. Some years after its inauguration, the building caught fire and the auditorium and stage were completely destroyed. It was quickly rebuilt and reopened in less than a year.
Since its foundation, the theater was a private property administrated by a Society and funded by the selling of shares, whose owners owned, as well, a seat on the boxes and auditorium. At the end of the XIX and beginning of the XX, Liceu Theater was a symbol of the bourgeoisie, the place where the richest met and cultivated their social relationships. Liceu was, and somehow still is, a symbol of the elite of the city. In 1893, this symbol was assaulted by the anarchists with a bomb attack which killed 20 people.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, the Opera House was nationalized as a means to protect it but the property was given back to the Owners Society after the conflict. It was not until Spain regained democracy that the Theater passed onto the hands of the public institutions. But the building had still to suffer another setback: in 1994, the stage and auditorium were again burnt down by a fire. The authorities then decided to invest on the future of Liceu with a whole reconstruction of the building. The stage was equipped with cutting edge technical features with a structure that is taller than the Columbus monument at the end of La Rambla and the rest of the building was refurbished in its neoclassical style, preserving only the original facade.
Nowadays, Gran Teatre del Liceu, has a more opened spirit, holding modern and classical opera performances, but also other musical activities and events for a broader audience. The guided tours offered daily make an excellent opportunity to visit a building of a majestic and elegant architecture, which reminds the glorious days of a prosperous past and also a music hall equipped with modern technology and facilities.
Information on Guided Tours at Gran Teatre del Liceu website.
To expand on the age of the bourgeois Barcelona, you should also visit Cafè de l’Òpera, on the other side of La Rambla, just in front of Liceu. This café, which opened at the end of the XVIII century, was frequented by Liceu goers and preserves the architecture of the age, as well as the flavor and style of the XIX century.