The Gran Teatre del Liceu stands in the central part of Barcelona's bustling Rambla, the iconic promenade in the Old Quarter, which has retained its leading role and colourful personality over the years
It covers an area of 36,000 square metres, of which 70% is taken up with the stage and services area, while the remaining 30% is for the public areas.
Entered via the Rambla, the main vestibule is one of the areas that were saved from the 1994 fire.
The vestibule is of an eclectic style, based on the Renaissance, a style known in the mid nineteenth century as “Florentine” and which was the more or less free interpretation given to the neo-Classical style in the reign of Isabel II.
The central staircase is of marble and leads to the first floor, where the “Hall of Mirrors” is found. The staircase is also in the neo-Classical style. Crowning it all is the sculpture of the “Muse of Music”, by Venanci Vallmitjana, which has stood here since 1901.
The faithful reconstruction of the Main Hall and stage, completely destroyed by the fire, has made a number of changes and improvements possible.
The main hall, explicitly inspired by Milan's Teatro alla Scala, is laid out in the shape of a horseshoe (maximum depth and width of 33 and 27 metres), with stalls and five levels, making it one of the most outstanding auditoria of nineteenth-century European architecture.
Seating capacity is 2,292, one of the largest opera houses in Europe.
The boxes, with small box foyers, are in the proscenium, around the stalls and the amphitheatre.
The proscenium area follows the 1909 redesign, with a large central arch emerging from the side transoms, each one clearly defined by the two Corinthian columns that hold the parapets of the four floors of boxes in the proscenium, the most spacious and luxurious in the theatre.
There have been a number of curtains throughout the theatre's history. The present front stage curtain (in velvet) was designed by fashion designer Antoni Miró and can open in two ways: vertically and sideways.
The paintings in the eight occulums or medallions on the ceiling and over the proscenium arch are the work of artist Perejaume. Of these eight occulums, five are retractable (movable) so that the paintings can be moved to reveal a series of spotlights that are part of the lighting equipment.
The orchestra pit is also a platform that can be raised or kept two metres below the level of the stage, depending on the type of performance.
Together, the main hall and the stage now have the technical equipment needed to fully meet the demands posed by opera productions.
Formerly known as “El Vergel”, or The Garden, the Hall of Mirrors is a public meeting area. Rescued from the fire and painstakingly restored, the room, with its ceiling paintings and the curious texts referring to art and music that run along the tops of the walls, is a space where the atmosphere of the old Liceu survives intact.
The Foyer is a rest and public meeting area below the main hall. It is a multi-purpose space used both as a café during intervals and as a room for small-format concerts and performances, information sessions prior to each opera performance and as a venue for business and social events.
The Liceu's stage is the largest area in the whole of the theatre and the core around which the entire building is organised. It is the heart of a large stage tower that rises 40 metres above the level of the stage and goes down 24 metres below this level.
It is fitted with equipment of a large scope and complexity which allows a great deal of flexibility in assembling and striking productions, scene changes and alternating titles in the programme.
The structure is in the form of a cross. In the centre is the stage per se, with annexe areas to the sides and the rear.
The forestage (apron) is 14 metres wide while the stage is 15 metres wide and 16 metres deep (which is what the audience sees). The space is made up of two large platforms with an ascending and descending movement that work as lifts.
On stage, at ground level in other words, stands the large stage tower, measuring 33 metres in height as far as the apex, with a further seven metres to the ceiling. It goes down sixteen metres and eight metres to provide room for the platforms below this ground level.
The Espai Liceu is on the first floor of the basement, with access from La Rambla and Carrer de Sant Pau, and connected to the Foyer. The starting point for tours of the Liceu, it is also a cultural and commercial area for promoting the theatre and lyrical music. There is a small, spherical-shaped auditorium where visitors can listen to music and watch projections of operas, a media library, a café and the commercial area related to music and the arts. The Espai Liceu also include the box office.