Romantic theater

The romantic drama, or romantic theater, refers to a theatrical movement born at the beginning of the xix th century in opposition to the principles of the tragedy classic.

It is Victor Hugo who codifies in Cromwell’s Preface (1827) the aesthetics of romantic theater in France. He divides literary history into three great periods: primitive times (harmony between man and nature, thus lyric poetry), antiquity (violence and epic poetry) and Christianity (mixture of genres).

Victor Hugo bases the romantic aesthetic on five crucial points: reproduction of real life (mixture of genres), rejection of the classic carcan (rule of three units, propriety, likelihood), search for a great creative freedom, maintaining versification and painting a “local color”.

The representations of the plays of the romantic theater gave rise to confrontations between the “modern” and the “classics”. In 1830, Victor Hugo’s Hernani set off passions and provoked the battle of Hernani because of its theme, style and composition. Authors such as Théophile Gautier, Alfred de Musset and Alfred de Vigny will support this modern vision of theater.

Throughout the nineteenth century developed in Europe the romanticism, a movement that involves a major renovation of the arts and the way of seeing the world. At the theater level, the figure of William Shakespeare is revalued and a greater creative freedom is proclaimed. In this context, a new genre, the romantic drama, is created. This pretends to be a mirror in which the whole society can be reflected.

The Spanish romantic theater coincides with its general guidelines with what is happening in Germany and France at this time. Thus, it is characterized by a will of transgression, materialized in the mixture of genres, and by the combination of verse and prose. Dynamic actions that take place at different times and spaces and which require long explanatory points are presented; The pieces, in addition, tend to have five acts instead of three. One of the most frequent themes is love, impossible and perfect, and that is usually presented with a historical background or legend. References to abusive power and the emergence of heroes of mysterious origin, close to myth, of uncertain destiny due to political injustices.

Many of the dramaturgical formulas that are used in this period follow the classical tradition, although they are presented in a renewed way. They are works that pose great scenographic possibilities, that demand new scenic effects and new machineries. It is therefore a moment of transition in which the comedy corridors go to a consolidation of the theaters to the Italian.

During romanticism, the stage scene lives a stage of fullness. The most prominent name of this period is Francesc Soler i Rovirosa, the first to experiment with electric light in 1874. In Germany, he knows first hand the stage design of Richard Wagner’s works at the Bayreuth theater and is one of the artists who most tries to adapt it to the Catalan theater.

The most renowned disciples of Francesc Soler i Rovirosa are Fèlix Urgellès, Maurici Vilomara, Joan Morales and Salvador Alarma. The set design will create a school that arrives until the middle of the 20th century by the hand of Josep Mestres Cabanes.

The workshops where the stage scene is built, whose period of splendor dates from 1850 to 1950, are originally located in the same theater, on the stage. Later, in order to be able to attend the requests of other theaters, the set designers settle in old theaters or big premises. Its structure conditions the productivity and it is necessary that they have a great height to display the curtains, place to store the utensils, a good lighting and above all a bridge or corridor to see all the decorations from above.

New locales
Throughout the 19th century, as the city of Barcelona grew, the theaters were distributed throughout the urban area. Although in the first half of the century all the scenic spaces are located in the walls – on the Rambla and in the nearby streets -, later, with their demolition, they will extend along the Passeig de Gràcia and Paral•lel. Thus, in this period, the theaters of Barcelona are grouped into three main axes:

The axis of the Rambla: The axis of the Rambla is formed by the Teatre Principal, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Odeon Theater, the Olympus and the Circus Barcelonès Theater, and the later Teatre Romea, Teatre Nou and El Dorado Theater. The Teatre Principal (also called the Santa Creu) is the oldest and the only one that operated at the beginning of the century, with a stable company of Italian opera and another of comedies. This theater is the direct competition of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, which causes multiple confrontations that come to violence.
The axis of the Passeig de Gràcia: In the first half of the 19th century, Passeig de Gràcia is still a place full of orchards, where Barcelonians are going to take a weekend excursion. Thus, some of the first constructions that are erected are sources and attractions such as Los Campos Elisis or Els Jardins del Tívoli, where the Tívoli Theater of Casp Street will be built later. This theater, together with the Teatre Novetats and the Teatre Gran Via, will form the axis of Passeig de Gràcia.
The Axis of the Parallel: The axis of the Parallel, together with the old town of the city on Carrer Nou de la Rambla and the round of Sant Antoni, groups theaters like the Spanish Theater, the Apollo Theater, the Arnau Theater, the Teatre Condal or the Teatre Victòria, some of them ‘coffees-singers’.

Throughout the second half of the century, many new theater spaces also open in Barcelona and in other Catalan cities. During this period of the theaters, all over Catalonia, among others, the Teatre Principal d’Olesa (1847), the Theater El Círculo de Palma (1851), the Teatre Principal de Sabadell (1866), the Evergreen theater of Esparreguera (1870), the theater Retirement of Sitges (built in 1870 and renovated in 1914), the Ateneo Igualadí Working Class (1879), the Teatre Principal de Tortosa (1879, the Teatre Fortuny ofReus (1882) and the Teatre Principal d’Olot (1887).

Source from Wikipedia