On Las Ramblas, in the heart of Barcelona, just a few metres from the Hotel España and the Boqueria Market. This is where you will find the Gran Teatre del Liceu, which has been putting on opera performances for more than 150 years. The world’s leading singers, ballet troupes and dance companies have all played the Liceu. But even if you do not go to see a show, the building is worth a visit as it is a historic monument in its own right.
Verdi’s Aida, Puccini’s La Bohème or Wagner’s Parsifal – no opera can resist the charms of the Liceu, which has seen singers such as Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras grace the stage. Since it opened in 1847, opera legends including Enrico Caruso, Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti have all stalked its stage.
However, at the Liceu the drama isn’t confined to above the boards. It’s very history is steeped in tragedies and resurgences. Two years after the Olympic flame was lit in Barcelona, fire once again held the city in its thrall – but this time in the worst possible way. On 31st January 1994 a fire destroyed the auditorium and stage.
It wasn’t the first time this symbol of Barcelona had gone up in flames. A fire in 1861 ravaged it almost completely and the theatre was the scene of an anarchist attack in 1893, when a bomb exploded onstage in the middle of a performance, leaving 22 people dead and injuring 35.
Luckily, the building has survived. Today’s Liceu is a faithful reproduction of the former one, but it has been expanded and many technical improvements have been made. Entering its main hall is like stepping back into the 19th century. A large marble staircase in the neo-Classical style leads you up to the first floor, with the Hall of Mirrors, a beautiful room that preserves the atmosphere of the old theatre.
This room, inspired by the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, has a horseshoe floor design with five levels of stalls that can seat over 2,000 people. Two Catalans of international renown decorated this space. The curtain is the work of designer Antoni Miró and the paintings that adorn the ceiling are by the famous artist Perejaume.
When the show starts you will be able to sit tranquilly. It is almost impossible for the theatre to catch fire again because it is now made from fireproof materials. It is much more likely that you will burn with passion during the performance.
Gran Teatre del Liceu
La Rambla, 51-59,
Tel. 93 485 99 00