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Grand Theatre of Liceo

Barcelona

Audioguide of the Grand Theatre of Liceo

What to see in the Grand Theatre of Liceo

Well, it turns out that a certain Giacomo Casanova, who loved walking through Catalan lands, was amazed by the enthusiasm that the people from Barcelona had for the opera. It was the eighteenth century, and at the time people went to hear the singers at the Santa Cruz Theatre, which would later be called Principal and which already had a long tradition as an operatic stage.

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Well, it turns out that a certain Giacomo Casanova, who loved walking through Catalan lands, was amazed by the enthusiasm that the people from Barcelona had for the opera. It was the eighteenth century, and at the time people went to hear the singers at the Santa Cruz Theatre, which would later be called Principal and which already had a long tradition as an operatic stage.

But in the following century, the Principal Theatre got a competitor, the one you are looking at between numbers 51 and 59 of La Rambla. The Gran Teatro del Liceo, or Liceu, was inaugurated in 1847, among other things, because the buoyant Catalan bourgeoisie had no desire to be left behind Paris or London’s glamour.

The building, between Neoclassical and Neo-Baroque, was for a century the theatre with the highest capacity in Europe, and it is said that it was necessary to have an income of at least 100,000 reales a year, the coin used in those times, to be able to have a couple of seats reserved. Due to these class issues, there was a fierce competition with the Principal Theatre, attended by people with less money but with more interest in music. The Gran Theatre del Liceu, the critics say, was for the Jet Set of the time to be seen, talk about business and then take a nap in the box with the live music in the background. It’s a much better way to sleep!

It was the reputation of the Liceu with the wealthy bourgeoisie that in 1893 made it the scene of a tragedy. A crazy anarchist went up to the fifth floor of the theatre, he quietly listened to the first act of William Tell and then threw two bombs into the seating area that caused a horrific carnage.

Unfortunately, that is not the only misfortune in the turbulent history of the building. A fire swept it in 1861 and another one in 1994, but five years later the Theatre reopened its doors as one of the most modern and technological theatres on the planet.

We will add that the people of Barcelona owe the Liceu the privilege of being able to perform plays in a language other than Spanish when that was severely forbidden. Carlos IV was the one with the idea of the prohibition. Apparently, he wanted to avoid, back in 1799, that foreign companies monopolised Spanish theatres. But the people of Barcelona, passionate about Italian opera, felt genuinely aggrieved by the measure and insisted with great pressure until, a couple of years later, such rule did not apply in this room.


Grand Theatre of Liceo

La Rambla, 51-59
08002 Barcelona
(+34) 934 85 99 00

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Tags: Eclecticism

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