The Barcelona Opera House, or Gran Teatre del Liceu, was founded in 1847 and erected on its most famous boulevard, la Rambla, where it has continued over the years to fulfill its role as a culture and arts center and one of the symbols of the city. The first opera staged at the brand new opera house was Donizetti’s Anna Bolena.
Founded by private patrons, the Gran Teatre del Liceu was devastated by fire on two occasions. The first happened in 1861, but the theater was rebuilt in only one year and reopened on April 20, 1862. The Liceu fell prey to the flames for a second time on January 30, 1994. It was reconstructed with the similar aspect and in the same premises thanks to private and public collaboration. It reopened on October 7, 1999 with a staging of Turandot by Puccini. Between the two fires another convulsive event happened when in the middle of a performance of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell that opened the season in 1893, an anarchist threw two Orsini bombs on the orchestra causing around 20 deaths.
Artistically, the Gran Teatre del Liceu has been a center of an excellent operatic activity. The Liceu has received the Bayreuth Festival on two occasions (1955 and 2012) showing the Wagnerian character of Barcelona. It has also been the scenario of great artistry – the list of great performers ranges from Francesc Viñas to Maria Callas, and from the Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes to Maurice Béjart – and has been the cradle of great voices, such as Victoria de los Ángeles, Montserrat Caballé, Josep Carreras, Joan Pons and Jaume Aragall, among others.
This tradition continues nowadays with balanced seasons between repertoire operas and innovative titles and the visits of the best opera singers, musicians, stage directors, conductors and dancers. Also with a solid orchestra and chorus and the innovative educational program Petit Liceu that adapts operas for children.
Today it is publicly owned (by the Government of Catalonia, the Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Provincial Council and the Spanish Ministry of Culture) and is administered by the Fundació del Gran Teatre del Liceu which, in addition to the aforementioned bodies, incorporates the Patronage Council and the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu (the old society of owners).