Barcelona's opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, was founded on the Rambla in 1847 and has continued over the years to fulfil its role as a culture and arts centre. Its more than 150 years of history have made it an operatic landmark both at home and abroad. The most eminent soloists and teams of artists have performed there. It ranks among the world's 15 leading opera houses.
The basic goals of the Gran Teatre del Liceu are to create and perform works of art that use music as their primary language and to disseminate this art to the widest possible audience. Apart from operas, it stages mainly dance performances and symphonic music. A “Programme Contract” between the government institutions and the opera house sets out the artistic programme which is the main tool that enables it to attain these goals.
The basic lines of the Liceu's artistic project are as follows:
- Like other leading European theatres, the Liceu seeks, for financial and artistic reasons, to present a balanced programme combining new works and composers – to provide the fullest possible view of operatic art – with works from the classical repertoire which enjoy an established tradition and widespread popularity among the audience. In all cases a balance is also sought between soloists of worldwide renown and local talent.
- It strives to offer consistently top-quality performances by its orchestra and chorus. This key goal conditions the Liceu’s artistic discourse, the success of its programme, and its international prestige. These factors in turn determine the outcome of many essential initiatives designed to disseminate its artistic activities, such as invitations to perform elsewhere and the publication of audiovisuals.
- It seeks to stage productions featuring artists of international prestige and to uphold standards of quality that are acknowledged the world over. To limit expenditure on fees, soloists must be hired well in advance (this is its established practice) and the necessary rights must be secured to make dissemination of the works viable. The Liceu must also continue to contribute to the training and promotion of young singers by offering them the chance to take part in both small-format and full-scale shows, thus helping them to consolidate their reputation.
- The Liceu operates on a "season" basis, staging a limited number of productions each year. This entails providing the greatest possible variety by making more traditional versions alternate with new interpretations and ground-breaking dramaturgy. Opportunities must also be afforded for technological development, which can open up new artistic and creative trends in drama.
- The Liceu offers a wide selection of productions for children and family audiences, which must also take the form of a regular season. In line with the collective goals laid out in the agreement between the Liceu and other institutions, these shows must also be staged in other locations.