The Gran Teatre del Liceu, popularly known simply as the Liceu, is a theater of opera situated in the Ramblas of Barcelona, at no. 51-59. It opened on April 4, 1847, though its history begins in 1837. It was, by capacity, the largest opera house in Europe for its first hundred years.
It is characterized by a rugged past, of which it has repeatedly resurfaced. Since its opening and for almost a century, the Liceu has been, in addition to the first opera house in Catalonia and Spain, the point of reference, confluence and expansion of the artistic, social and political life of Barcelona. It was the thermometer of its stages of splendor, of development, of decay and of its restlessness. Then, from the third decade of the 20th century, the Liceu lost its direct relation with the ups and downs of social life to assume a more determined artistic and musical hegemony.
The General Director, named in May 2018 by the Board of Trustees of the Gran Teatre del Liceu and the Consortium, is Valentí Oviedo, who replaces Roger Guasch, who has been since 2013, and who, in turn, replace Joan Francesc Marco.
The theater is on La Rambla, in the city center. Until 1994, it was not a secluded building and had only two facades on the street, limiting the other two sides to median homes. This limited their growth. As a result of the fire, the neighboring estates were expropriated, and the extension of the theater, which has facades on La Rambla, and on Union and Sant Pau streets, has been built on the ground. The reconstruction project, made from a renovation of the theater in 1986, was by the architects Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Xavier Fabré and Lluís Dilmé.
The building has some parts from the previous ones:
The main facade of the Rambla, which is the original of 1847, by Miquel Garriga i Roca (although the facade, although the plan was signed by Garriga, does not appear to be his, but to an unknown French architect): it is a modest and unattractive facade.
The lobby and the staircase (1861), with a sculpture by Venanci Vallmitjana representing Music (1901).
The rest room (Hall the Mirrors or Verger) (1847). It retains the original romantic decoration, with medallions painted with portraits of musicians, singers and dancers of the moment: (Pasta, Rubini, Donizetti, Bellini, Gluck, Marie Taglioni…). On the ledge there are phrases, in golden letters, related to music and theater, representing the tastes of the moment of construction of the theater. It was partially redecorated in 1877 by Elies Rogent. The painting of the ceiling, by Josep Mirabent, that represents the Parnàs, is of then. In 1941 it fell and was replaced and restored by Josep Mestres Cabanes, which also restored the paintings on the stairs.
The auditorium roomIt was rebuilt after the fire, faithfully reproducing the look of the room in 1861 (or rather, the one in 1909, when the room had been redecorated), with some improvements. It has 2,292 seats, making it one of the largest opera houses in Europe. It’s a horseshoe-shaped Italian theater that closes as you approach proscenium. The maximum length of the room is 33 m, and the width is 27 m. It has silver and five floors (in addition to the boxes of silverplates). There are four large boxes on each side of the proscenium, and boxes on the deck, on the first floor, and on the sides of the second and third. However, there is no architectural separation between them, only a low bulkhead, so no columns can be seen in the theater. That, and the fact that there is no royal or presidential box, it gives continuity to the floors that make the impression of being a golden horseshoe, without interruption. Another peculiarity is the amphitheater, located on the first floor: it is a flying continuation of the first floor, with three rows of chairs (arguably the best in the theater), which projects over the platform without any pillars or columns. support (they are supported directly on the iron beams, which in 1861 was daring enough). This amphitheater was already in the room in 1847; in addition, there was a similar one on the second floor, with two rows of armchairs. projecting above the pedestal without a pillar or support column (they rest directly on the iron beams, which in 1861 was quite bold). This amphitheater was already in the room in 1847; in addition, there was a similar one on the second floor, with two rows of armchairs. projecting above the pedestal without a pillar or support column (they rest directly on the iron beams, which in 1861 was quite bold). This amphitheater was already in the room in 1847; in addition, there was a similar one on the second floor, with two rows of armchairs.
The costs of original construction were covered by the sale of boxes and seats: Over the years, homeowners decorated the sidewalks in very different ways, and often with cabbage. Collaboration of great artists and craftsmen, forming a set of great historical and artistic interest. All of them, however, disappeared in the 1994 fire.
The Liceu was a meeting place for the wealthy bourgeoisie of Barcelona; The upper, fourth and fifth floors, where the cheapest tickets were, was called a henhouse and were where the resourceless fans went, usually more knowledgeable and critical of the shows. It was they who made the singers succeed or fail. The public of these floors has the reputation of being the most discerning.
The proscenium reproduces the old one, redecorated in 1909. It has a large central arch, with a carpanel arch; On each side, two large Corinthian columns frame four stories of large, so-called “bathtubs”.
The decoration of the room faithfully reproduces the 1909 decoration: sumptuous, with gilded and polychrome chrome and stucco reliefs, as was the custom in 19th-century theaters. The lamps are made of bronze and glass, shaped like a dragon. The armchairs are made of cast iron and red velvet, this color is common in all the armchairs in the room.
Some changes were introduced in the 1999 reconstruction. The nine circular paintings on the ceiling and the three on the proscenium were lost in the fire; the new ones were commissioned by artist Perejaume, who placed nine large photo montages with landscapes made up of theater seats. The curtain is the work of tailor Antoni Miró. A large, hemispherically shaped light was placed in the center of the ceiling, incorporating elements for lighting and sound control.
Also added were the control and projection booths on some floors and a “technical floor” above the ceiling, with state-of-the-art equipment for recording renderings and computer-led cameras. The stage equipment was considered among the most modern in Europe, allowing for quick scene changes and simultaneous programming of four different scenarios.
Under the room, in the basement, a new room, called Foyer, was built, identical to that of the stall, where a bar was located, but which, when closed, is available to make There are small-format shows: recitals, concerts, chamber opera, conferences and various activities.
References ornamentation musical theater
The decoration of the theater includes written (inscriptions, etc.) and iconographic (paintings, reliefs, medallions, etc.) references to theater and music, reflecting the taste of the moment.
The facade, a vestige of the time of the construction of the first theater, is presided over by two inscriptions on the side windows (in the central one there is the name of the theater) that say: ” Calderón – Mozart ” and ” Rossini – Moratín “, in reference to the highest representatives of the history of theater and music (Calderón and Mozart, although in 1847 they were not widely represented) and of their actuality: Rossini was a still popular author and Moratín was the paradigm of “modern” theater in good taste, as the romantic theater was still a novelty.
In these three large windows, under the inscriptions, are six medallions with busts of musicians: in the center, Beethoven and Auber; to the left, Donizetti and Meyerbeer, and to the right, Rossini and Mozart.
Hall of Mirrors
The Hall of Mirrors, also a survivor of 1847, is decorated with medallions and phrases relating to art and theater. It has a rectangular floor plan, but with two chamfers at the corners of the bottom facing the Rambla façade, it presents:
on the center wall at the bottom is the phrase “Art has no homeland”, and the portrait medallion with the legend “Gluck”, which forms the axis of the room;
on the left “chamfer”: “The theater is the sanctuary of the arts” and the portraits of “Haydn” and “Meyerbeer”: representatives of modern symphonic music and of contemporary French school opera..
to the “chamfer” on the right: the phrase “Comedy is the mirror of life”, with the portraits of “Lauvenant” and “Metastasio”, as a model of an opera librettist.
to the right wall: the phrase “Music is the only pleasure of the senses of which vice cannot abuse”, with the portraits of “Pasta”, “Donizetti”, “Sontag” and “Moliere”. In addition to two of the greatest sopranos of the moment, Donizetti represents the most famous Italian author of the moment and Molière theater classic that follows the rules of classicism.
on the left wall: the phrase “Music is the word of the sensitive soul, as the word is the language of the intellectual soul”, with the portraits of “Mercadante” (then very popular musician), “Taglioni” (the most important of the moment), “Calderón” (as a paradigm of classic Spanish playwright) and “Rubini” (the most acclaimed tenor of the time).
to the wall of the entrance: the phrase “The simplicity and the truth are the principles of the beauty of all the manifestations of art” and the portraits of “Maiquez”, “Bellini” (on the axis of the room) and ” Lope de Rueda “: the best theater actor of the preceding generation, the most valued” modern “musician at the moment, and the” father “of the Spanish-language theater, although he never performed at the Liceu. In the hallways on the right is a portrait of “Shiller”, the most recognized modern playwright, and on the left is ” Malibran “, the most celebrated singer of the previous generation.
On the ceiling, the oil panel by Josep Mirabent represents Parnàs, with Apollo, god of the arts and the fountain that nourishes the nine muses, standing at their feet, with attributes of the arts. In four friezes there are angels: in two of them they play musical instruments, as an allegory of music; in others there are those of dance and theater; at the corners of the foot of the panel, two medallions with the portraits of Homer and Dant, as a representation of Poetry.
From 1861 to 1994, the ceiling of the show hall was decorated with eight circular oils with representations of various works that formed allegories of different theatrical and musical genres. Works by Ramon Martí i Alsina, Joan Vicens, Agustí Rigalt and Antoni Caba, represented (from the axis of the theater, the closest to the entrance, clockwise):
The steel of Madrid, comedy of Lope de Vega, like allegory of the classic theater of the Century of Gold and the “modern” comedy; painted by Antoni Caba.
William Tell firing the crossbow, at the same time representing the drama of Friedrich Schiller, paradigm of the theater of the moment, and of the opera of Gioachino Rossini Guillaume Tell, as a model of modern opera; painted by Joan Vicens.
Scene from The Persians of Aeschylus as a symbol of classical tragedy; by Ramon Martí i Alsina.
Orphan tearing up the beasts with the lyre: allegory of music, with the musician god par excellence; by Agustí Rigalt.
A scene from The Frogs of Aristophanes, a representation of classic comedy; by Martí and Alsina.
A concert at the Odéon de Perèles, as an allegory of the birth of music and its cultivation in the classical world; by Joan Vicens.
Macbeth, allegory of tragedy “modern” works by Macbeth by William Shakespeare; by Martí and Alsina.
Palestrina playing Pope Marcela’s Mass, as a representation of sacred music; by Agustí Rigalt.
In the reform of 1881, by Pere Falqués, the roof received a new design, designed by Marià Carreras, where the roof featured a sky behind which the sky with clouds can be seen; the circular oils were placed on this base and accompanied by a sumptuous decoration of moldings and gilding. Each medallion was accompanied by a smaller one where musicians and poets were seen: they were suppressed in the 1909 reform.
Above the proscenium were installed, in 1909, three panels with scenes of operas representing the three main opera schools and their most recognized representatives: on the left, the Italian, with a scene of Otello and the inscription ” Verdi “; the center, the greater the German school, with the departure of Wotan in Die Walküre and the inscription ” Wagner ” and right, with the French scene Manon with the inscription ” Massenet “.
Finally, the sill of the amphitheater is decorated with stuccos of angels holding fourteen medallions with heads of musicians, by Josep Llimona for the renovation of the room in 1893; authors such as Christoph Willibald Gluck, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gioachino Rossini, Charles Gounod or Jules Massenet, among others; destroyed by the 1994 fire, they were rebuilt, with the addition of more modern ones, such as Giacomo Puccini, Richard Strauss or Igor Stravinski. The amphitheater’s proscenium boxes feature Verdi’s medallions(left) and Wagner (right).
In January 2016, the artist Frederic Amat announced that he intended to make an artistic intervention in connection with the maintenance and renovation of the façade’s lighting. It was a second skin consisting of 150 or 200 (at first 365 were called) red enameled ceramic rings in the form of a 105 cm diameter open circle. that plays the horseshoe of the theater. According to the artist, “the open circle evokes the presence of the public, it is the people”. The project is expected to be funded by patron Josep Suñol.
Origins and Theater of Montsió
From 1750, the Teatre Principal monopolized opera in Barcelona by royal privileges that were not lost until 1833 with the liberal revolution.
In 1837, on February 24, a National Militia Battalion, with Manuel Gibert and Sans at the helm, created, in the Convent of Montsió, which was in the vicinity of what is now the Portal de l’Angel, the Society Amateur Drama, which was known as the Montesión Philodramatic Lyceum. The goals of the new entity were, on the one hand, to promote music teaching (hence the name “grammar school”) and, on the other hand, the organization of stage and opera performances by students. A theater was equipped in the convent,, where plays and operas were performed from 1838 to 1844.
The first performance, on August 21, was the comedy El husido de mi mujer by Ventura de la Vega. The first performance of an opera was Norma de Bellini, on February 3, 1838, performed with Catalan artists. The repertoire was mainly Italian, as dictated fashion: Donizetti and Mercadante were the authors represented with Bellini and Rossini, and apart from the opening in Barcelona Zampa to Herold.
On June 25 of 1838, the company changed its name to Liceo philharmonic Drama Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Prosperity and lack of space suggested the idea of giving the project a larger dimension, and the government was asked to cede the barefoot Trinitarian church and convent on La Rambla. The pressures of the nuns, former owners of the Convent, who had regained their lost rights and claimed to return, prompted the Liceu to leave the convent in 1844; the last performance was on September 8.
In return, the city council granted him the purchase of the building of the old Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, located in the center of the city, on the Rambla. Acquired on June 9, work began on the demolition of this convent in September, in order to build a new building that can accommodate all the activities of the Liceu. The management of the theater commissioned the management project to Joaquim de Gispert d’Anglí. The new regulations were approved on July 25and formed, in order to obtain the necessary resources for its construction, two companies: the Construction Society and the Construction Auxiliary Society. The shareholders of the former obtained, in exchange for their financial contributions, the right to use in perpetuity of some boxes and armchairs of the future theater. Those of the second, however, contributed the rest of the money needed to build the theater in exchange for ownership of other spaces in the building – part of the ground floor, where shops were located, and the Cercle del Liceu, a private club. Finally, the construction cost 338,029 duros, a figure not very high at that time.
Thus, unlike in other European cities, where the monarchy was responsible for the construction and maintenance of opera houses, in Barcelona the construction of the Gran Teatre del Liceu was made through the contributions of private shareholders, according to a structure of mercantile society. In addition, Queen Elizabeth, despite being asked for help, did not contribute to the construction. These facts even conditioned the structure of the new building, lacking, for example of royal box market; in addition, the society changed its name, removing the name of the queen and becoming Liceo Filarmónico Dramático. This was how the Liceu became not just a royal theater but a bourgeoisie’s.
Miquel Garriga i Roca was the architect in charge of the construction of the Liceu. The works began on April 23 of 1845 and the Theater opened on 4 April of 1847, amid major changes in urban Barcelona started with confiscations 27 years. The architect who finally completed such a great work was Josep Oriol Mestres. At the time of its inauguration, it was the largest theater in Europe: it could seat 3,500 spectators.
From a typological point of view, the design was inspired by the canonical form of Italian theaters and, more specifically, in La Scala in Milan (by Giuseppe Piermarini of 1778), with a room arranged in the shape of a horseshoe, with a plate and five floors with boxes in three of them, but with the peculiarity that the boxes of the Liceu were separated only with low bulkheads, without columns or walls that created cells. The interior façade that surrounds the room is determined by a horseshoe-shaped wall, supporting the vault of the ceiling and the sillsoverhangs of the five floors, overhangs since there are no vertical supports. In addition, on the first and second floors there were individual cantilevered horseshoes that, advancing on the hollow in the central part and part of the lateral ones, increased the capacity of the floors by three or four rows.
Opening and early years, until the fire of 1861
When the Lyceum opened, it was not summer, but Lent, and the solemn opening took place on Easter Sunday. The inauguration consisted of a mixed program that included music, theater, singing and dance, as a programmatic statement of the activities to be performed; they premiered: a musical opening by the Valencian composer Josep Melcior Gomis; the historical drama in three acts Don Fernando that of Antequera, of Ventura de la Vega, with such well-known actors as Carlos Latorre and Bárbara Lamadrid; the ballet La rondeña deJosep Jurch, with choreography by Joan Camprubí, and the cantata, with Italian text by Joan Cortada and music by Marià Obiols (musical director of the theater) entitled Il regio imene, dedicated to the wedding of Isabel II and Francesc d’Assís de Bourbon..
The event drew such a large audience to the theater that more than 4,000 people (many without a locality) were slaughtered while a band was cheering on the boulevard on the Rambla. Some girls distributed flowers and poems to the public, who, when admired, contemplated for the first time the interior of the Liceu.
A few days after the opening, on April 17, the first opera was premiered: Anna Bolena, by Gaetano Donizetti, with the direction of Marià Obiols, and a cast headed by Giovanna Rossi-Caccia, a Catalan singer from Italian mother much appreciated at the time, Carlotta Maironi, Manuel Renou and Andrea Castellan. Other operas that were performed at the Liceu during their first year of life were, in this order, I due Foscari (Verdi), Il bravo (Mercadante), Parisina d’Este(Donizetti), Giovanna d’Arco (Verdi), Leonora (Merchant), Ernani (Verdi) Norma (Bellini), Linda di Chamounix (Donizetti), Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini), Don Pasquale (Donizetti) and L’elisir of Amore (Donizetti). Donizetti, the author who was fashionable at the time, prevailed, and Mercadante, teacher of the director Marià Obiols, both prominent composers of the Belcanto.that had the days counted on the appearance of Macbeth that same year.
The second season began in May 1848 with I Lombardi de Verdi, sung by Alberto Bocceti. The season featured a total of 15 operas, including Lucrezia Borgia, another Donizetti piece sung again by Giovanna Rossi-Caccia. The high number of performances is due to the fact that there was no summer break at that time. It also helped that the assemblies were not complicated, as they were made with painted fabrics, which were even used for different operas.
In those years, the Liceu opera alternated with other theater text, preferably in Spanish (with the occasional presence of works in French, Italian or Catalan), operetta, ballet, concerts and recitals, as well of a variety of shows, common then in the great theaters: magic numbers,ambulism, gymnastics, circus, varieties, etc., often preceded by a piece of music (overtures, symphonies, etc.), announced without specifying- its author.
The early stage of the Liceu, until the year of the memorable fire, was characterized in a lyric sense by the Italianist boom, polarizing mainly towards Donizetti – who was the idol author of those years – and by the first Verdi’s biggest hits. The lyric repertoire was also nourished by zarzuela, with special triumphs by Barbieri, and some comedies or dramas by local authors that limited themselves to mimicking the Italian style without much concealment.
It was not until the 4th of August of 1849 when the first opera premiered German: Der Freischütz of Weber. The premiere in Catalonia of this opera was very important for the emergence of a taste for choral singing in Catalonia. The heart of the hunters was the trigger for the choral tastes that Clavé would later derive from his activities. The first female choir (also of hunters) would not arrive until 1860 in the Main Theater and on March 5, 1861 in the Liceu with Martha de Flotow.
It is worth noting the arrival, in 1859, of the French opera La juive, by Halévy, which would be popular for many years, though always sung in Italian.
In 1854, the sections dedicated to theater and the conservatory were separated: the Society of the Gran Teatre del Liceu would be responsible for the operation of the theater, and it would become independent of the Conservatoire del Teatre del Liceu.
From its opening, the Liceu became the main rival of the Teatre Principal, until then a theater that monopolized opera in Barcelona. This is how the quarrel arose between “liceistas” and “cruzados” (or “principalistas”), that Pitarra portrayedin a well-known sainet. It has often been said that the Lyceumists were the Progressives and the Principalists were the Conservatives, but this was not exactly the case: In fact, the Lyceum and the Principal competed with the same theatrical and lyric titles and tried to hire the same artists. But the Liceu was a “great” theater that attracted more people, especially young audiences, because of the quality of the show, and from the 1950’s it took the initiative definitively, which was undisputed when, around the 1970’s, the Principal went into crisis and was in the back seat, at least in terms of opera programming. The quarrels between lyceums and crusaders were beneficial to everyone, as culture always needed tensions and participation.
On 9 April of 1861, the flames destroyed the theater for the first time. It was the day after the performance of a play María la cieguita by Enrique Gil y Zárate; the day before, Verdi ‘s opera Rigoletto had been performed, and on the 9th there was another play, Fortuna contra fortuna by Tomás Rodríguez Rubí. The fire started on the fourth floor of the tailor’s shop, probably with an oil lampbad power off. The fire spread very quickly and they did not have time to use the water tanks. Being all wooden, only the stone casing of the theater was left. There is an urban legend that the neighbors tried to put out the fire with long lines passing the water buckets. It was a considerable misfortune, at that time the Lyceum was an eminently popular theater. The rest room structures, the stairs to the lobby, part of the corridors, and the Cercle del Liceu units, however, were saved from the destruction. The theater was thus reborn in its primitive form even better and more richly decorated than it was before the disaster. The images preserved from that first fire show exactly the same skeleton that was seen in the second fire of 1994. This means that it was rebuilt with the same system in 1847 and taking advantage of the structure that remained.
The owners collaborated generously and seamlessly, the local entities directly related to the Liceu, too. Only Elizabeth II did not live up to the circumstances and refused to provide the collaboration that had been requested of her with meanness.
First step: Click the Italian opera
The theater became a fief of Italian opera, which premiered shortly after its premiere by the most important Italian authors of the time: Donizetti, Bellini, Mercadante and Verdi, to which must be added the Franco-German Giacomo Meyerbeer. Singers as well as Fanny Salvini-Donatelli, who had premiered La Traviata in Venice, performed at the Liceu. Some French authors, such as Ferdinand Hérold and Daniel-François Esprit Auber, were also introduced, but sung in Italian, according to the customs of the time.
From the catastrophe of 1861, the Lyceum gained new impetus. The rise of Italian opera was added in the French repertoire led by the premiere of Il prophet and the African of Meyerbeer, which gave birth to the “meyerbisme” among the most conspicuous and aficionats- operas by Gounod, Thomas, Halévy, Auber, etc.
On April 20 of 1862, only a year after the fire, it re-opened the doors of the theater audience with a performance of the opera by Bellini I Puritani, starring tenor Pietro Mongini. The restoration was carried out by the architect Josep Oriol Mestres. The room was brand new, leaving only the parts that the fire had respected from the previous building: the facades and the body of the Rambla façade, with the Mirror Room, the lobby and the premises of the Cercle del Liceu and the Conservatory. Shortly after, on May 30, the first test of use of electric light on stage was performed.
The Liceu seduced the image of a great theater, surpassing in supply and economic performance the many others that had emerged in Barcelona in those years. The lyrical offer, internationally renowned singers and, above all, the guarantee of having a full theater, thanks to the subscriptions and the distribution of the property of boxes and armchairs of tiles and first floor among many owners, unwilling to come off ‘ n, it distinguished the public of the Grammar school by its bourgeois origin. Between them, however, it is certified that lyricism was the fashionable distraction that had contaminated all strata of society and in many areas of cultural life.
The reverential silence that exists in opera houses today was not there at the time. People were talking, they were in, they were coming out. Even in the hall of mirrors, while the opera was being performed, it often turned into a small bag where titles were bought and sold. At times back and forth as people went up or down they complained about the noise.
In 1863 it represented Il giuramento possibly the best work of Mercadante and had already premiered at Theater Montsió in 1839 Mercadante was a great friend and mentor of the first director of the Lyceum, Mariano Obiols on which whenever it could program works of its teacher.
In 1866 a Mozart opera was first performed: Don Giovanni. Mozart was revered but not fully represented in Romanticism. In fact, this opera was not very enjoyable despite being Mozart’s most romantic, and it was not repeated until 1880.
Sonada was the inauguration of the season in 1868. For some years now, when the city walls have been opened, in summer the public moved to the theaters and playgrounds, and the Liceu closed the summer to solemnly open on October 10 to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II. But shortly before that date, and during the revolution of 1868, the queen had been dethroned, and her bust torn out of the niche at the top of the main staircase and thrown to the sea. So it opened a few days later, with Guglielmo Tell, a title very appropriate for its apology of freedom. The political situation and the fact that the queen, again, had not contributed to the reconstruction of the theater after the fire, caused the memory of Elizabeth II to be permanently deleted from the theater, replacing her bust with a sculpture allegorical
On February 25, 1877, one year after its premiere at the Teatro Principal, it was performed for the first time at the Aida Lyceum in Verdi with resounding success. The Teatre Principal had a lost battle with the Liceu, but from time to time it tried to strike and import important works.
Consolidation as an opera house
From the eighties of the nineteenth century, the Liceu has gradually become an opera and dance theater, consolidating a structure of programming based on the allocation of genres in each of the three seasons that constitute the annual artistic offer of the theater: the winter one, exclusively for opera; to the Cuaresma, alternating concerts with ballet and the operetta, and spring, both dedicated to opera as operetta. Thus, the Liceu was devoting itself to the great genres, leaving the rest for the other theaters. The Liceu hosted the bourgeoisie in its expensive and more sophisticated shows, while the theaters in Passeig de Gràcia they hosted artisans in shows, in principle, of less demanding: theater, zarzuela, comic opera, etc.
Gradually, the monopoly of the Italian operatic supply was broken thanks to the arrival of French operatic repertoire, with as outstanding milestones as the Faust (1864) and Roméo et Juliette (1884) of Gounod, Carmen de Bizet (1888).
Richard Wagner’s first opera would not arrive until March 6, 1883 with Lohengrin. Wagner would be very important at the Lyceum. Barcelona’s Wagnerian tradition is known all over the world, though by that time the boom had not yet arrived. But once again the Principal had anticipated the premiere before the Liceu this Lohengrin although in a very unsuccessful way having to have Italian singers who did not know how to sing Wagner. On the other hand, the staging of the Liceu was more resourceful and pleased the earliest Wagnerians although it was also sung in Italian, as the singers of the time did not know German.
Wagner was something special at the Liceu and in Catalonia from the moment the first opera was premiered. But the first to introduce Wagner to Catalonia had been Clavé and their hearts, who brought Tannhäuser to Barcelona after listening to him in Paris. It was July 16, 1862, and it would be Wagner’s first notes that sounded in Barcelona. The whole work did not arrive at the Liceu until 1887.
At that time, all the works were sung in Italian, except some in French, because most of the singers were Italian and it was considered the language of opera. Therefore, less in Germany, Wagner was also sung in Italian.
From 1880 to 1890 there was a great rivalry between two illustrious tenors: the Navarrese Julian Gayarre and the Italian Angelo Masini, who sang at both the Liceu and the Principal: the “gayarristas” and “masinistas” revived the old rivalry. The 1888 was the last year in Barcelona Gayarre, first tenor and the Catalan Francesc Viñas, a specialist in the operas of Wagner. The Catalan tenor when he had to make bits of a fragment of Wagner’s operas made them in his Catalan translation.
In 1890, Victor Maurel, as he had been at the premiere in Milan, was also Iago at the premiere at the Liceu in the green Otello, while Francesco Tamagno (protagonist at the La Scala premiere) the one in later representations.
Bourgeois Modernism: From the End of the Century to the Great War
With the modernist movement, in a certain climate of euphoria, there is a desire to endow Catalan culture, in both the economic (the consolidation of a prosperous bourgeoisie) and the political (a growing Catalan nationalist) and cultural affair. the signs of modernity that equate it with any other European nation. This climate also has an impact on the Liceu with the premiere of operas by Catalan composers in tune with the artistic currents of the moment such as those of Felipe Pedrell, Jaume Pahissa and Jo, Joan Lamote de Grignon or Enric Morera, and with texts by Víctor Balaguer, Angel Guimerà or Eduard Marquina, which were well received, but failed to consolidate into the usual repertoire.
The Liceu also became the social showcase of a bourgeoisie that saw a refined and prestigious space. At the same time, anarchism, which had seized the social revolt movements of the time, saw in the Lyceum one of the symbols of the ruling oligarchy. This identification tragically affected the life of the theater on November 7 of 1893, the opening night of the season (depicted William Tell, by Rossini), the anarchist Santiago Salvador Franch and threw two bombs type Orsini on the theater stalls, of which only one was killed, which caused about twenty deaths., as this event became known shocked the city; the lyceum public (and, in general, the city’s theaters) returned to normal and for years the armchairs used by those killed by the bomb were not used. At the same time, the “Liceu bomb” strengthened, and often distorted, the class image of the Liceu. The poet Maragall, who was in the theater that night, wrote one of his most tantric poems in the wake of this event.
The Liceu closed and did not reopen until 18 January 1894 with concerts conducted by Antoni Nicolau. Shortly afterwards, L’Mico Fritz, of Mascagni, and Manon, of Massenet, were portrayed for the first time, with Hariclea Darclée.
The inauguration of the 1909 season in the fall was important because the theater had been rejuvenated, new seats were installed, and the proscenium was decorated with paintings by Ramiro Lorenzale. The neutrality of Spain during the First World War allowed the Catalan textile industry to grow as a supplier of the countries in war. Great fortunes were made there and prosperity in the 1920’s. The Lyceum became a front-line theater and hosted the best singers and conductors of the time, as well as companies such as the Russian Ballets by Sergei Diaghilev. The first performance at the Liceu was on June 23, 1917 at the inauguration of the season and a short cycle of ballets that influenced the Liceu program in the following years. The famous Nijinsky and Lydia Lopokova danced.
Until the definitive outbreak of Wagnerism in 1899, the Liceu opera audience suffered a growing conservative overthrow, and they declared themselves in favor of the Italian opera to contradict young nationalist movements and contrary to the novelties that young people considered essential. Rivalry among operatic entrepreneurs sometimes led to premieres at the Liceu, the bourgeoisie’s best performing theater, such as Carmen, which premiered at the new Lyric Theater (1881), or Lohengrin., premiered in the Principal (1882).
The rivalry between theaters and hobbies was very illustrative of the passion lyrical, and led to tense situations between supporters of Wagnerian operas and Puccini’s defenders. There was also a debate between supporters of the show’s reform and all that involved staging the opera and theater’s proponents as a bourgeois social center seriously and seriously. It should be remembered that at that time the room lights remained on during the session, as sociability among the audience was considered a main interest.
Gradually the seasons, for reasons of operation and mechanics of contracts, fertilizers, etc., ended up being divided into two: autumn-winter season and spring season. At the end of the century, the start time of the functions is set at 8.30 pm. This formalization, which has been consolidated in the theater, is significant because it represents that the Liceu had begun to be a theater, preferably dedicated to full performances of opera and dance. One of the first consequences is that an audience is beginning to form, and therefore a tradition, which will become an expert in valuing a lyrical repertoire that, on the other hand, has been reduced to fewer titles, such as rest of Europe. Viewers are already considered experts and therefore able to value.
The Liceu had, from the beginning, maintained the desire to incorporate the great voices of the opera into the programming of the theater, which had consolidated an audience interested almost exclusively in the vocal competence of the singers, and surely lacked the possibility of value other stimuli. So the myth of a demanding, knowledgeable and unforgiving Lyceum with some famous singers, which amused the fans, was soon formed. But at the same time, with great success, there was the introduction of new aesthetics: wagnerism, Russian opera and Russian ballets, and some examples of the musical and plastic avant-garde.
The Liceu and Wagner
During the period from the Lohengrin premiere (1883) to the famous performance of Parsifal (1913), the audience prefers the work of Richard Wagner, which was not peculiarly introduced in Catalonia by the Liceu and, on the other hand, the its programming encountered all kinds of resistance from the most orthodox Wagnerians – the Wagnerian Association was established in 1901 to study the work of the German composer and to disseminate it in Catalan – because they considered Wagner not adequately represented at the Lyceum. performed in Italian, without appropriate dramaturgy, and often with singers not specialized in Wagnerian technique.
Thus, the opening of the season of the Universal Exhibition, May 17, 1888, was very solemn. The opera of choice was Lohengrin. Wagnerism was beginning to occupy an important place in Catalan society. The function was attended by several European monarchs and the ruling queen of Spain, Maria Cristina.
From 1914 to 1936, Wagnerian performances only grow in quantity and quality, sung in German by large Wagnerian voices, with appropriate scenery, and directed by the best international German-language opera directors. As a sample:
In 1899 the season opened with Tristan und Isolde, which was an extraordinary success.
In the same year, Die Walküre premieres, with the scene of the parade taking place with an amazing film projection shot in Montserrat and with the room for the first time in the dark.
In 1910 and 1911, they represented the complete representation of seven tetralogies and more than 23 representations of six other his works.
The premiere of Parsifal on the last day of 1913 has a special symbolic and emotional charge, since until 1914 this play could only be performed in full at the Bayreuth Festival. The director obtained permission from Bayreuth to begin the play at 10.30pm on December 31, 1913, arguing the time difference: it was, therefore, the first theater outside of Bayreuth and legally (n ‘ there had been other places where he had represented himself without permission), Parsifal represented.
With the entry of the 20th century, the Wagnerian fury and the first great successes of the so-called verista school are combined (Manon Lescaut and La Bohème de Puccini, Andrea Chénier de Giordano, Cavalleria rusticana de Mascagni, Pagliacci de Leoncavallo). A Russian opera was also staging for the first time on the stage of the Lyceum, Neron, by Anton Rubinstein, although sung in Italian.
The Russian repertoire
The premiere of Boris Godunov, by Mussorgsky on November 20 of 1915, marks the beginning of the splendor of the Russian opera at the Lyceum. The Catalan public applauds the works of an oriental atmosphere, where the people (the choir) take center stage. Passion by Slavic authors makes the Lyceum 1926 the first new theater, outside Russia, The Invisible City of Kitege, by Rimski-Korsakov. The Liceu orchestra and choir gain a more stable status. Great orchestras and directors give concerts to the theater: Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinski, Pau Casals, Ottorino Respighi, etc.
Twenties Civil War
In the 1920’s, the theater remained the showcase for the upper classes, with the exception of the fourth and fifth floors, a haven for the underprivileged music lovers. Artistically, the theater is renewed and its repertoire and quality of performances are expanded.
With the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, political instability led the theater to an economic crisis that was overcome by the contributions of the Barcelona City Council and the Generalitat of Catalonia. On January 14, 1933, the Liceu was reopened, following a crisis that was about to close, thanks to the joint action of people and entities that formed the Pro- Liceu, chaired by tenor Viñas. During the Spanish Civil War, the Liceu was nationalized and it was named Teatre del Liceu – Teatre Nacional de Catalunya. The opera season was postponed, but plays, concerts and zarzuela performances were performed. On October 19, 1938, the last concert of Pau Casals before leaving for exile took place. After the war, in 1939, he was returned to the Society of Owners.
The splendor of the crisis: 1940-1980
The Liceu, which during the war had become dependent on the Generalitat, returned to the Board of Owners, and so that a sufficient number had returned to the city, a directive chaired by the Marquis of Sentmenat was formed, which he subsequently requested to the former employer, Joan Mestres i Calvet, who organized as quickly as possible a winter season. The sad opening of the season already under the Franco regime was on December 9, 1939 with La Bohème, by Puccini, in a charity function “as a tribute to the Army and to the benefit of Social Aid and the Hospital Clinico de Barcelona”. The price of the most expensive tickets was of 500 pesetas, the equivalent of three months of salary of a worker. As a female protagonist, Mercè Capsir was hired, who had been in Italy during the war years, and became the undisputed star of the Liceu immediately after the war, participating in various representations as early as 1939. Mercè Capsir went on to to receive, on January 5, 1940, the gold medal of the city of Barcelona, “for his artistic merits, and for his repeated proofs of well-founded Spanishism”. The Lyceum was dyed the deep blue of those who imposed three public anthems on it – the ‘Face the sun and the Spanish national anthem with your arm raised. Also premiered was Goyescas, from Granados, and also performed by Alicia de Larrocha.
Catalan society was rebuilding and the Liceu regaining its status. The “new rich” and strangers who sought an alleged social splendor in the lyrics took over the Lyceum: all the inaugurations were “very solemn” and a vanity fair like the ones before. But the business owners, Joan Mestres and, from 1947, Joan Antoni Pàmias and Josep Fugarolas, were concerned about the really artistic level of the event. From the 1940s to the 1960s, the seasons reached a high standard.
The theater was visited by the best voices and companies, and the repertoire was expanded with new works and authors: the works of contemporary authors were frequent, as well as the recovery of old titles. Thus, in 1947, on the 100th anniversary of the theater, Anna Bolena de Donizetti was replaced, at a time when she had not performed anywhere for years.
The most popular opera of the 1949-1950 season was La Gioconda de Ponchielli, but also had the Salomé de Strauss, Louise de Charpentier, L’Africaine de Meyerbeer, when no one else performed, as well as Aida de Verdi.. But the season was mostly Wagnerian with Tristan und Isolde, Götterdämmerung and Die Walküre because Pamias brought to the Lyceum a great Wagnerian song figure: Kirsten Flagstad
In 1951 a tribute is paid to Kirsten Flagstad, which preceded the first opera of the season and with a brilliance that shook the illustrious artist. The 1953 season begins on November 4, 1953 with the debut of Renata Tebaldi in La Traviata. In 1955, thanks to the work of a special commission, the Lyceum received a full visit from the Bayreuth Festival company on its first tour outside of Bayreuth. Memorable performances from Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde and Die Walküre were given with innovative scenarios by Wieland Wagner, which were enthusiastically welcomed.
The 1960-1961 season opened with Il Barbiere di Siviglia on a stellar night with Alfredo Kraus and Gianna D’Angelo. Jaume Aragall inaugurated the season with the same soprano and Manuel Ausensi, on November 9, 1965. Also bright was the inauguration of the season offered by Montserrat Caballé, on the same day of 1968, with Roberto Devereux, and not the least splendid., Adriana Lecouvreur (1972) with the same Caballé and the new lyrical value discovered by her, Josep Carreras.
During the seventies, the theater was severely affected by the economic crisis: the owners could not afford the growing costs of performing, and the overall quality of the shows suffered.
Consortium, renovation and fire
The death of the last employer, Joan Antoni Pàmias in 1980, revealed the need for a public administration intervention in the institution if it was to become a major opera house. In 1981 the Generalitat de Catalunya, together with Barcelona City Council and the Gran Teatre del Liceu Society, created the Gran Teatre del Liceu Consortiumwho was then responsible for the management and operation of the theater. The Barcelona Provincial Council and the Spanish Ministry of Culture joined the Consortium in 1985 and 1986, respectively. In a short time, the Consortium was able to improve significantly the artistic level, and the theater filled the audience again. The choir and orchestra were renewed and improved, good castes were contracted, with particular care to attract audiences with great singers, and the stage performances of the performances were improved. This, coupled with a significant investment of money, resulted in a high average level in new productions and in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The number of tickets increased as demand for tickets increased (the popularity of
However, everything was cut short by the fire that destroyed the theater on January 31, 1994.
The 1994 fire
Between two and three quarters of eleven in the morning of January 31 of 1994, while two operators working in the repair of the Iron Curtain that in case of fire, had prevented the fire happened on the stage the room – the irony of fate – the sparkles of his blower seized the folds of the keeper, the fixed three-body curtain hiding at the top of the stage. Pieces of clothing fell on the floor, and although the workers hurried to turn them off and the steel curtain lowered, everything was futile: the flames had already leaped to the velvet curtain and soared. loom and roof.
The fire was already uncontrollable when firefighters arrived minutes after eleven o’clock. Maybe a little too late, because in the meantime, workers had reportedly tried to put out the fire with their means, instead of immediately calling for extinction services.
In those days Paul Hindemith ‘s opera Mathis der Maler was being staged in the theater, followed by Puccini’s Turandot.
Public institutions unanimously agreed that the theater would be rebuilt in the same place as it was, but with all the necessary improvements. To make possible the reconstruction of the Liceu, the Gran Teatre del Liceu Foundation was created, and the Society of the Gran Teatre del Liceu ceded the ownership of the theater to public administrations: the theater was, finally, publicly owned, despite opposition from a small number of owners. In order to obtain resources, the Foundation launched a fundraising campaign, involving a large number of private companies and institutions, which acted as sponsors and patrons and contributed to the reconstruction of the theater: the result it was that almost half of the final budget for this reconstruction came from private resources.
From 1994 to 1999, when it reopened, the opera seasons of the Liceu (the “Liceu in Exile”, as it became known) took place in different rooms: the Palau Sant Jordi (only in three shows massive attendance, the same 1994), the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Teatre Victoria. Some performances were also performed at the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya and the Teatre del Mercat de les Flors.
The new and improved theater opened on October 7, 1999, with Puccini’s Turandot, which was the play that was to be performed when the theater burned out – thus closing a circle, returning the theater to normal after five years. The new theater combines the conserved parts of the old building (façades, Miró Hall, Liceu Circle and Conservatory) with the new ones, such as the main room, which was rebuilt in accordance with its original appearance (except for the ceiling paintings, replaced by works by Perejaume), but equipped with the latest technological innovations. Also new are the stage, the office spaces, rehearsals, a new room for small-format shows and more public spaces. The architects of the reconstruction project were Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Xavier Fabré and Lluís Dilmé.
The theater has a system of subtitles that are projected on a screen about the proscenium, giving the text, translated into Catalan, of operas and sung works. There is also a system of electronic booklet gives translations (English, Spanish and Catalan, as they choose) in individual monitors located in most seats.
Since the reopening, in addition to the regular opera and ballet program, with more performances of each title, the theater has launched campaigns to make it more accessible. Popular sessions with young singers’ castings, discounted rates, last minute ticket deals, live shows broadcasting in cinemas (Opera Open) and online, Liceu Opera Barcelona channel production on YouTube, collaboration with universities and schools, etc. Especially noteworthy are the programs for children and young people, with music shows adapted to this type of audience. In addition, the production and edition of DVDs have been increased with shows performed in the theater, some of which have received great acclaim from critics.
The response of the public in the new stage caused that it went from 7,789 subscribers in 1993 to 22,407 in 2008.
In 2012, the Liceu was not left out of the political moments in Catalonia. Coinciding with the proximity of the Day of September 11, they wore starring in various events. One of them was in the performance of Lohengrin performed by the Bayreuth Festival orchestra. At the end of the performance, in full ovation, a stelae unfolded from the audience that was clearly visible. In May 2013, in an unusual situation, the princes of Asturias were forcefully shuffled inside the room before Donizetti ‘s representation of Elisir d’Amore.
The 2015/16 season the Gran Teatre del Liceu, under the artistic direction of Christina Scheppelmann (Hamburg, 1965), strengthening the role of the institution as regards the level of artistic productions, many innovative, and the quality of their voices, with a world debut. The budget for the season was € 41.5 million and the number of features increased, from 108 to 114. It remained virtually the same in number of titles: 24, compared to 25 this year (one of them). double program), of which 12 correspond to opera. The season began in September with dance, but the official opera premiere was on October 7 with Nabucco, in a co-production of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London and Lyric Opera in Chicago.