Gran Teatre del Liceu | Barcelona Bus Turístic

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Gran Teatre del Liceu

The grand opera house of the Catalan bourgeoisie

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The Gran Teatre del Liceu, known locally as El Liceu, is considered to be one of the world’s most important opera houses. Located on La Rambla, it was built in 1847 to house the city’s Music Conservatory and to provide a space where the city’s middle class could enjoy the opera.

Why visit the Gran Teatre del Liceu?

Some of the opera world’s most renowned singers have graced its stage. Its history, however, has been associated with a curse, as over the years it has suffered two fires (one in 1861 and another in 1994) and a bomb attack in 1893. The current building is a faithful restoration of the original, constructed after the 1994 fire.

El Liceu was designed by the architect Miquel Garriga i Roca, who was commissioned by the Philharmonic and Dramatic Lyceum of Her Majesty Queen Isabella II, which was created in 1838 by the National Militia as a teaching centre for music, singing and the dramatic arts. Its construction was completed in 1847 and its inaugural opera in that same year was Donizetti’s "Anna Bolena". It was constructed on the plot of a former Trinitarian monastery with a design inspired by the canonical form of Italian opera houses, specifically La Scala in Milan.

It has a horseshoe-shaped auditorium with stalls and five tiers of balconies, three of which have boxes that, peculiarly, are separated only by low partitions. In the first hundred years of its history the opera house had the largest capacity in Europe. In Barcelona, it was the centre of bourgeois life and of the Wagnerian movement, which had many devotees in the city and still does to this day.

El Liceu can currently seat 2,292. In addition to attending one of its performances, no visit would be complete without visiting its great hall, foyer, hall of mirrors, and its private club, the Cercle del Liceu, whose rooms are decorated with paintings by Ramon Casas, Modest Urgell, Santiago Rusiñol and Francesc Miralles, among others.

 

How do you get to the Gran Teatre del Liceu?

El Liceu is almost halfway down La Rambla. You can get there by hopping off at Plaça de Catalunya, which is the start and end of the Red and Blue Routes of Barcelona Bus Turístic, or at the Colom – Museu Marítim stop on the Red Route.

 

For the most curious of you

  • Did you know? In contrast to other European cities, where funding for opera houses was generally provided by the monarchy, the Gran Teatre del Liceu was built thanks to contributions made by middle-class supporters of the arts. Even though aid was sought from Queen Isabella II, she refused to contribute to its construction, which is why the structure of the building was designed without a royal box.
  • Local’s tip: The best way to enjoy El Liceu is to see a performance. The opera, dance and music season starts in September and runs through to July, so if you are not visiting in August, you should consult the schedule.
  • A must: For opera, dance and classical music buffs.