The Gran Teatre del Liceu (Catalan pronunciation: ), or simply Liceu in Catalan and Liceo in Spanish, is an opera house on La Rambla in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The Liceu opened on April 4, 1847.


In contrast with other European cities, where the monarchy took on the responsibility of the building and upkeep of opera houses, the Liceu was funded by private shareholders of what would become the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Great Liceu Theater Society), organized in a similar way to a trading company or societat. This is reflected in the building's architecture; for example, there is no royal box.


In 1837 a battalion of the Spanish army, commanded by Manuel Gibert Sans, was created in the secularized convent of Montsió (next to the present Portal de l'Àngel), the Liceo Filodramático de Montesión (Philodramatic Lyceum of Montesión). Its purpose was to both promote the musical education (hence the name "Liceu", or lyceum) and organize scenic representations of opera performed by Liceu students. A theater was built in the convent building — named Teatro de Montesión or Teatro del Liceo de Montesión — and plays and operas performed: the first was Bellini's Norma (February 3, 1838). The repertoire was Italian with the most performed composers being Donizetti and Mercadante as well as Bellini and Rossini. The Barcelona premiere of Hérold's Zampa was held here.

In 1838 the society changed its name to Liceo Dramático Filarmónico de S. M. la Reina Isabel II (Dramatic Philharmonic Lyceum of H.M Queen Elisabeth). Lack of space, as well as pressures brought to bear by a group of nuns who were old proprietors of convent that had recovered rights lost and we protesting to return, motivated the Liceu to leave its headquarters in 1844. The last theatre performance was on September 8.

The Trinitarian convent building located in the centre of the town at la Rambla was purchased. The managers of the Liceu entrusted Joaquim de Gispert d'Anglí with a project to make the construction of the new building viable. Two different societies were created: a "building society" and an "auxiliary building society". Shareholders of the building society obtained the right of use in perpetuity of some theatre boxes and seats in exchange for their economic contributions,. Those of the second society contributed the rest of the money necessary in exchange for property of other spaces in the building including some shops and a private club called the Círculo del Liceo.

The queen did not contribute to the construction, which is why there is no royal box, and the name of the society was changed to Liceo Filarmónico Dramático, deleting the queen's name from it.

Miquel Garriga i Roca was the architect contracted; construction began on April 11, 1845. The Theatre was inaugurated on April 4, 1847.

Opening, fire and rebuilding (1847–1862)

The inauguration on April 4, 1847, presented a mixed program including the premieres of José Melchor Gomis' musical ouverture, a historical play Don Fernando de Antequera by Ventura de la Vega, the ballet La rondeña (The girl from Ronda) by Josep Jurch, and a cantata Il regio himene with music by the musical director of the theatre Marià Obiols. The first complete opera, Donizetti's Anna Bolena on April 17. At this point Liceu was the biggest opera house in Europe with 3,500 seats. Other operas performed in the Liceu during the first year were (in chronological order): I due Foscari (Verdi), Il bravo (Mercadante), Parisina d'Este (Donizetti), Giovanna d'Arco (Verdi), Leonora (Mercadante), Ernani (Verdi), Norma (Bellini), Linda di Chamounix (Donizetti) and Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini).

The building was severely damaged by fire on April 9, 1861, but it was rebuilt by the architect Josep Oriol Mestres and opened on April 20, 1862, performing Bellini's I puritani. From the old building only the façade, the entrance hall and the foyer (Mirrors Hall) remained.

From 1862 to Civil War

On November 7, 1893, on the opening night of the season and during the second act of the opera Guillaume Tell by Rossini, two Orsini bombs were thrown into the stalls of the opera house. Only one of the bombs exploded and some twenty people were killed with many more being injured. The attack was the work of the anarchist Santiago Salvador and it deeply shocked Barcelona, becoming the symbol of the turbulent social unrest of the time. The Liceu reopened its doors on January 18, 1894, but the seats occupied by those killed by the bombs were not used for a number of years. The second bomb was put on display in the Van Gogh Museum in 2007 during an exhibit on Barcelona around 1900.

In 1909 the auditorium ornamentation was renewed. Spanish neutrality during World War I allowed the Catalan textile industry to amass enormous wealth through supplying the warring parties. The 1920s were prosperous years and the Liceu became fully established as a leading opera house welcoming better singers, the orchestra leaders of the time and companies such as Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

When the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931 political instability meant that the Liceu suffered a severe financial crisis which was only overcome though subsidies from Barcelona City Council and the government of Catalonia. During the Spanish Civil War the Liceu was nationalized and took the name the Teatre del Liceu – Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (Liceu Opera House – the National Theatre of Catalonia). The opera seasons were suspended. After the war it was returned to its original owners in 1939.

"Silver Age" and crisis: from 1940 to 1980

From 1940 to the 1960s the seasons were high quality ones. The year 1955, thanks to the creation of a special board, saw a historic event when for the first time since its foundation the Bayreuth Festival was staged away from its normal venue. Performances of Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde and Die Walküre with innovative stage sets by Wieland Wagner were enthusiastically received.

In the 1970s an economic crisis affected the theatre and the privately-based organization was not able to afford the increasing budgets of modern opera productions and general quality declined.

New direction and 1994 fire

The death of Pàmias in 1980 revealed the need for the intervention of the official bodies if the institution was to remain a leading opera house. In 1981 the Generalitat de Catalunya with Barcelona's City Council and the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu created the Consorci del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Consortium of the Great Liceu Theater) responsible for the theater's management.

The Diputation of Barcelona and the Spanish Ministry of Culture joined the Consortium in 1985 and 1986 respectively. The Consortium managed to quickly attract the public back to the Liceu owing to a considerable improvement in its artistic standard. This included a more complete and up-to-date perspective of the very nature of an opera performance, a great improvement in the choir and orchestra, careful casting, and attracting the interest of the public to other aspects of productions besides the leading roles alone. This approach, coupled with the new economic support and a more demanding and discerning public, resulted in a high standard of productions.

The seasons organised by the Consortium maintained high standards in casting, production and public loyalty, as measured by public attendance, but all this came to a halt with a fire on January 31, 1994. The building was destroyed by a fire caused by a spark that accidentally fell on the curtain during a routine repair. At this time Paul Hindemith's Mathis der Maler was performing at the theatre and the following opera to be performed was Puccini's Turandot.

Public and institutional response was unanimous on the need to rebuild a new opera house on the same site with improved facilities. The new Liceu is the result of a series of actions to preserve those parts of the building unaffected by the fire, the same ones as had survived the 1861 fire. The auditorium was rebuilt with the same layout, except for the roof paintings which were replaced by new art works by Perejaume, and state-of-the-art stage technology.

In order to rebuild and improve the theater, the theater became public. The Fundació del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Liceu Great Theater Foundation) was created and the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu handed over owners of the building to the Foundation. Some owners didn't agree with the decision which was challenged unsucessfully in court.

From reopening to now

From 1994 until the reopening in 1999 the opera seasons in Barcelona took place in: Palau Sant Jordi arena (only some massive performances in 1994), Palau de la Música Catalana and Teatre Victòria. The rebuilt, improved and expanded theater opened on October 7, 1999, with Puccini's Turandot as previewed in 1994 before the fire. The new venue had the same traditional horseshoe-shaped auditorium as before but with greatly improved technical, rehearsal, office and educational facilities, a new rehearsal hall, a new chamber opera and small performances hall, and much more public space. Architects for the rebuilding project were Ignasi de Solà-Morales and Xavier Fabré i Lluís Dilmé.

Surtitles, projected onto a screen above the proscenium, are used for all opera performances and some lieder concerts. Also, the electronic libretto system provides translations (to English, Spanish or Catalan, as you choose) onto small individual monitors for the most of the seats.

The opera house building

The theatre is in la Rambla, in downtown Barcelona. The building has only two façades as the other two sides were limited, until 1994, by dwelling buildings.

Some parts of the first building remain:

  • the main façade in la Rambla (1847)
  • the hall and the staircase (1861), with a Vallmitjana's statue of the Music (1901)
  • the foyer (Saló de Miralls or Mirrors Hall) (1847). It preserves romantic ornamentation with round paintings of musicians, singers and dancers from that time of Pasta, Rubini, Donizetti, Bellini, Gluck, Marie Taglioni. It was partially redecorated in 1877 by Elies Rogent and the roof painting, with the Parnassus, is from this period.

The auditorium is huge. Rebuilt after the 1994 fire it is a faithful rebuilding of the 1861 auditorium with some improvements. With 2,292 seats it is one of the biggest opera houses in Europe. It is a typical Italian horseshoe-shaped theatre. Maximum length and width are 33 and 27 m. There is a platea (main floor) and five tiers (or balconies). Boxes, with small rooms attached, are in the forestage, in the platea and in the some of the galleries. There is no significant physical divisions among boxes: only a low screen separates one box from another. No columns are in the theatre apart from inside the platea giving the appearance of the galleries of a golden horseshoe without visual interruptions. Another peculiarity is in the first gallery where the amfiteatre ubicare is located. This is a projecting part of this gallery, with a less pronounced horseshoe shape, that allows three ranks of seats to be located there and are considered the best in the theatre.

Building expenses were covered by the sale of boxes and seats. Boxes were lavishly decorated by their owners but all them disappeared in the 1994 fire. Upper balconies (4th and 5th tiers) are the cheapest seats and are is called the galliner (literally "henroost").

The forestage, or proscenium, reproduces the old one which was rebuilt in 1909. It has a big central arch with two Corinthian columns on both sides and, among the columns, four tiers of boxes parapets with the wider and more luxurious boxes in the theatre being called banyeres (literally "bathtubs").

The auditorium ornamentation reproduces that of 1909: sumptuous with golden and polychromed plaster moldings, as usual in 19th century European theatres. Lamps are of brass and glass in the shape of a drake. Armchairs on the main floor are made of strained iron and red velvet.

In the rebuilding some modern features were introduced. The eight circular paintings in the roof, and the three in the forestage, were all lost in the fire and have been re-created by contemporary artist Perejaume. The stage curtain is a work of the Catalan designer Antoni Miró. The new hemispheric lamp in the center of the roof is a platform for technological facilities (lighting, sound and computer).

Other technological facilities are control and projecting cabins in some balconies, a "technical floor" over the roof, and high-tech equipment to record and broadcast performances. With computerized cameras the auditorium could also be used as a TV set. Stage facilities are among the most modern and allow quick scene changes and to perform four different sets simultaneously.

A new foyer has been built under the main auditorium. It is a room where is the main bar and the restaurant are located and is used also to stage concerts, small format performances, lectures, cultural activities, and meetings etc.

Artistic history
Performed works

The Liceu is, at present, both a receiving and producing house as it also produces its own productions (two or three new productions a year). The Liceu company consists of a permanent orchestra and choir and some singers for the supporting roles. Leading roles are usually sung by guest singers. Stagecraft is in part produced internally by the theatre (alone or together with other opera houses) and also rented from other external houses. Until the 1990s Liceu had its own ballet company which was at its best in the 1920-1930s under Joan Magriñà.

Most of the performed operas were from the Italian and German schools of 19th century: Verdi, Wagner, belcanto authors and in more recent times Puccini, Richard Strauss and Mozart are included.

The history of Liceu premieres is a good instance of the evolution of European opera tastes. At first opera was only a part of the artistic activities and opera alternated with other forms of performance such zarzuela (Spanish light opera), classical dance (Giselle was given its first Barcelona performance in 1847), theatrical performances, magic shows and a large number of activities which today might appear more appropriate for a variety concert or a music hall.

The first performed operas, Donizetti's Anna Bolena and Verdi's I due Foscari, are symptomatic of the taste for belcanto and Italian romantic melodrama: Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and Verdi etc. They are still in the reperatory and Verdi is by far the most performed composer.

The first operas by non Italian composers which were put on in the Liceu were Ferdinand Hérold's Zampa (1848), Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz (1849), Giacomo Meyerbeer's Robert le diable, Auber's La muette de Portici (1852) and Fra Diavolo (1853). All of these were sung in Italian as was the custom of the time.

The first performances of Il trovatore (1854) and La traviata (1855) led to the crowning of Giuseppe Verdi as the king of opera. In 1866 Mozart was staged at the Liceu for the first time with Don Giovanni.

1883 is a landmark when Wagner's Lohengrin is first performed. From there, and especially from 1880s to 1950s, Wagner become one of the most beloved and well appraised authors at Liceu. The theatre had the first staged performance of Parsifal outside Bayreuth on December 31, 1913, after the Beyreuth monopoly ended (although performance started 30 minutes before the deadline of 00:00 on January 1, 1914) with Francesc Viñas in the title role and conducted by Franz Beidler. In 1955 the Bayreuth Festival company visited the theatre and performed three operas.

Verismo, especially Puccini, is an esteemed school from the end of 19th century. The first Russian opera was given in 1915 with a great success. Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky being often performed. The first years of the 20th century saw Richard Strauss conducting his own works. In 1904, Siegfried Wagner conducted a concert and a year afterwards Pietro Mascagni conducted a work.

In 1915 impresario Mestres Calvet increased repertory and introduced composers such as Mozart, Richard Strauss, de Falla, Stravinsky, etc. it was a golden age for Russian and German opera which were now sung in their original language. Mestres also was closely related to the success commencing in 1917 with the ballets of Diaghilev, with Nijinsky, Massine, Lopokova, Chernicheva and other great figures. Years later another famous dancer, Anna Pavlova, was also to perform here.

In 1947 the directing company changed and came into the hands of Arquer and Pàmias. In contrast with the preceding years, which had been marked by the almost exclusive programming of the great repertory works, the first season of the new directorship saw a special renewal of the repertoire featuring the first performances in Barcelona of some 100 works by a large number of composers. Various revivals featured Donizetti's Anna Bolena, which had first been staged in the Liceu one hundred years earlier. For 33 years, Pàmias was the leading figure of the Liceu's activity during a period when it seemed that it would be impossible to maintain the opera house without any official aid.

From the 1950s to now, the repertory has largely comprised the most performed titles in the world, including practically all the great 20th-century composers: Bartók, Honegger, Gershwin, Berg, Janáček, Weill, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Britten, Schönberg, Hindemith, etc., along with Baroque and classical composers Monteverdi, Handel and Gluck.

Ballet seasons are an important part of the theatre's activities with some of the better companies in the world performing, including Diaghilev and Béjart.

Most performed operas in the history of Liceu are (in January 2009):

  • Verdi's Aida, with 442 performances from 1877 to 2008.
  • Verdi's Rigoletto with 359 performances from 1853 to 2005.
  • Gounod's Faust with 297 performances from 1864 to 1988.
  • Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor with 274 performances from 1849 to 2007.
  • Donizetti's La favorita with 263 performances from 1850 to 2002 (last 10 performances are from the French version)
  • Verdi's Il trovatore with 259 performances from 1854 to 1993.
  • Wagner's Lohengrin with 241 performances from 1883 to 2006.
  • Puccini's La bohème with 238 performances from 1898 to 2001.
  • Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia with 233 performances from 1847 to 1991.
  • Verdi's La traviata with 231 performances from 1855 to 2002.
  • Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots with 228 performances from 1856 to 1971 (mostly in Italian version).
  • Bizet's Carmen with 205 performances from 1888 to 1993.
  • Boito's Mefistofele with 195 performances from 1880 to 1988.
  • Meyerbeer's L'Africaine with 191 performances from 1866 to 1977 (mostly in Italian version).
  • Wagner's Die Walküre with 182 performances from 1899 to 2008.

As a prominent theatre the Liceu has been the location for the premieres of several works of theatre and music, and for the Spanish premieres of a lot of musical works. Among these premieres are:

  • 1847 (April 4) Ventura de la Vega's history play Don Fernando de Antequera.
  • 1851 (June) El granuja, zarzuela with music by N. Gardyn.
  • 1853 (January 8) Temistocle Solera's Spanish opera La hermana de Pelayo; La tapada del retiro, Nicolau Manent's zarzuela; Sueño y realidad, zarzuela with music by Felipe Pedrell.
  • 1854 (February 16) J. Freixas' opera La figlia del deserto.
  • 1857 (May 23) Nicolau Manent's opera Gualtero di Monsonís.
  • 1858 Pujadas' Catalan zarzuela Setze jutges (Sixteen judges), the first all-Catalan language play performed at Liceu.
  • 1858 Juan Garín, o, Las peñas de Montserrat, music by Mariano Soriano Fuertes, Nicolau Manent and Francisco Porcell
  • 1859 (May 12) Nicolau Guanyabéns' opera Arnaldo d'Erill.
  • 1859 Josep Anselm Clavé's Catalan zarzuela L'aplec del Remei.
  • 1867 (March 23) Francesc Sánchez Gavagnach's opera Rahabba.
  • 1874 (January 28) Marià Obiols' opera Editta di Belcourt.
  • 1874 (April 14) Felipe Pedrell's opera L'ultimo Abenzerraggio.
  • 1878 (November 27) Salvatore Auteri-Manzocchi's opera Il negriero
  • 1885 (June 6) Manuel Giró's opera Il rinnegato Alonso García
  • 1885 (June 12) Antoni Baratta's opera Lo desengany, first Catalan language opera sung at Liceu.
  • 1889 (July 10) Francesc Sánchez Gavagnach's opera La messagiera.
  • 1892 (May 14) Tomás Bretón's opera Garín.
  • 1895 (May 8) Isaac Albéniz's opera Henry Clifford.
  • 1896 (January 5) Isaac Albéniz's opera Pepita Jiménez.
  • 1902 (January 4) Felipe Pedrell's grand-opera Els Pirineus.
  • 1903 (December 3) Joan Manén's opera Acté.
  • 1906 (January 20) Enric Morera's opera Empòrium.
  • 1906 (April 21) Enric Morera's opera Bruniselda.
  • 1907 (January 21) Joan Lamote de Grignon's opera Hesperia.
  • 1912 (January 17) Enric Morera's Titaina, with libretto by Àngel Guimerà.
  • 1913 (January 15) Jaume Pahissa's first opera Gal·la Placídia.
  • 1913 Jesús Guridi's opera Mirentxu (premiered as zarzuela in 1910, at Bilbao, and revised as opera by the author)
  • 1916 (January 18) Enric Morera's opera Tassarba.
  • 1919 (February 15) Jaume Pahissa's opera La morisca.
  • 1920 (January 24) Joaquim Cassadó's Lo monjo negre.
  • 1923 (March 31) Jaume Pahissa's Marianela.
  • 1924 (December 20) A. Marqués' opera Sor Beatriu.
  • 1927 (January 12) Facundo de la Viña's opera La espigadora.
  • 1928 (February 28) Jaume Pahissa's La princesa Margarida.
  • 1929 (February 12) Ricard Lamote de Grignon's ballet Somnis.
  • 1929 () Jose Maria Usandizaga's opera Las golondrinas (premiered as zarzuela in 1914 and revised as opera by Ramón Usandizaga)
  • 1932 (March 3) Joan Manén's opera Neró i Acté.
  • 1935 (January 15) Joan Gaig's opera El estudiante de Salamanca.
  • 1938 Salvador Bacarisse's ballet Corrida de feria.
  • 1948 (January 10) Xavier Montsalvatge's children opera l gato con botas.
  • 1948 (January 10) Carlos Surinach's opera El mozo que casó con mujer brava.
  • 1950 (December 14) Conrado del Campo's opera Lola la Piconera.
  • 1952 (December 12) Joan Manén's opera Soledad; his ballet Rosario la Tirana.
  • 1953 (May 21) Antoni Massana's Canigó, the first Catalan-language opera after the Civil War.
  • 1955 (December 17) Ángel Barrios' opera La Lola se va a los puertos.
  • 1955 (December 19) Joaquín Rodrigo's ballet Pavana real.
  • 1956 (April 28) Frederic Mompou and Xavier Montsalvatge's ballet Perlimplinada.
  • 1959 (January 1) Joan Altisent's opera Amunt!.
  • 1960 (February) Ricard Lamote de Grignon's opera La cabeza del dragón (written in 1939).
  • 1960 (May 1)Cristóbal Halffter's ballet Jugando al toro; Matilde Salvador's ballet El segoviano esquivo
  • 1961 (November 24) Manuel de Falla and Ernesto Halffter's scenic cantata Atlàntida.
  • 1962 (December 11) Xavier Montsalvatge's opera Una voce in off.
  • 1969 (February 1) Joan Guinjoan's ballet Els cinc continents.
  • 1974 (January 19) Matilde Salvador's opera Vinatea.
  • 1975 (November 29) J. Ventura Tort's opera Rondalla d'esparvers.
  • 1986 (May 22) Josep Soler's opera Oedipus et Iocasta (premiered as oratorio at Palau de la Música Catalana, 1972).
  • 1988 (September 21) Xavier Benguerel's scenic cantata Llibre vermell.
  • 1989 (September 24) Leonardo Balada's opera Cristóbal Colón.
  • 2000 (October 2) José Luis Turina's opera D.Q., Don Quijote en Barcelona, with settings by La Fura dels Baus.
  • 2004 (November 3) Joan Guinjoan's opera Gaudí.
  • 2006 (April 6) Josep Mestres Quadreny's camera opera El ganxo.
  • 2009 (April 20) Enric Palomar's opera La cabeza del Bautista.

The Liceu has also been the location for the Spanish premieres of prominent operas. Amongst them are:

  • 1847 Giuseppe Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco (1845).
  • 1848 Saverio Mercadante's Gli Orazii ed i Curiazii (1846).
  • 1849 Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz(1821); Giuseppe Verdi's Alzira (1847); Gaetano Donizetti's Les martyrs (1840, in Italian).
  • 1853 Daniel-François Auber's Fra Diavolo (1830).
  • 1854 Giuseppe Verdi's Il trovatore (1853).
  • 1856 Giuseppe Verdi's I vespri siciliani (1855, 1856), in Italian; Giacomo Meyerbeer's Les huguenots (in Italian) (1836).
  • 1861 Giuseppe Verdi's Un ballo in maschera (1859).
  • 1862 Giuseppe Verdi's Simon Boccanegra (1857).
  • 1863 Giacomo Meyerbeer's Le prophète (in Italian) (1849).
  • 1864 Charles Gounod's Faust (1859).
  • 1868 Giacomo Meyerbeer's Dinorah (in Italian) (1859).
  • 1870 Giuseppe Verdi's Don Carlo (1868, Italian version 1869).
  • 1875 Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem (1874); Ambroise Thomas's Mignon (1866).
  • 1876 Carlos Gomes' Il guarany (1870).
  • 1880 Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele (1868, rev. 1875).
  • 1883 Amilcare Ponchielli's La Gioconda (1876).
  • 1885 Richard Wagner's Die fliegende Höllander (1843).
  • 1887 Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser (1845, 1861).
  • 1891 Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana (1890).
  • 1894 Pietro Mascagni's L'amico Fritz (1891); Jules Massenet's Manon (1884).
  • 1897 Camille Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila (1877).
  • 1898 Giacomo Puccini's La bohème (1896); Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chénier (1896).
  • 1899 Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (1865); Jules Massenet's Werther (1892).
  • 1900 Umberto Giordano's Fedora(1898); Pietro Mascagni's Iris (1898); Richard Wagner's Siegfried (1876); Christoph Willibald Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride (1779).
  • 1901 Richard Wagner's Götterdammerung(1876); Engelbert Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel (1893).
  • 1903 Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur (1902).
  • 1904 Gustave Charpentier's Louise (1900).
  • 1905 Jules Massenet's Thaïs (1894); Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868).
  • 1907 Pietro Mascagni's Amica (1905).
  • 1908 Camille Saint-Saëns's Les barbares(1901).
  • 1910 Richard Strauss' Salome (1905); Eugen d'Albert's Tiefland (1903) (sung in Catalan).
  • 1911 Claude Debussy's L'Enfant prodigue (1884).
  • 1913 Richard Wagner's Parsifal (1883).
  • 1915 Giacomo Puccini's La fanciulla del West (1914); Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov (1869).
  • 1916 Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's Il segreto di Susanna (1909); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro (1786).
  • 1919 Jules Massenet's Le jongleur de Notre-Dame (1902); Pietro Mascagni's Guglielmo Rattcliff (1895)
  • 1920 Pietro Mascagni's Isabeau (1911).
  • 1921 Richard Strauss' Rosenkavalier (1911); Vincent d'Indy's L'étranger (1901).
  • 1922 Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Schnegouroschka (1885); Alexander Borodin's Prince Igor (1890); Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pikovaia dama (1890).
  • 1923 Modest Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina (1886, 1913 first Western performance).
  • 1924 Antonín Dvořák's Russalka (1900); Bedrich Smetana's Prodaná nevesta (1866, The bartered bride); Jacques Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann (1881); Jules Massenet's Hérodiade (1881).
  • 1925 Umberto Giordano's La cena delle beffe (1924); Richard Strauss' Intermezzo (1924); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Die Zauberflöte(1791).
  • 1926 Riccardo Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini (1914); Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's The legend of the invisible town of Kitege (1907), (first performance out of Russia), Pskovityanka (1873, 1892) and May night (1879).
  • 1928 Igor Stravinsky's ballet La sacre du printemps (1913); Giacomo Puccini's Turandot (1926); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (1782).
  • 1929 Jules Massenet's Don Quichotte (1910).
  • 1930 Italo Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re (1913).
  • 1933 Igor Stravinsky's Oedipus rex (1927).
  • 1936 Antonín Dvořák's Jakobin (1897, rev.).
  • 1939 Enric Granados's Goyescas (1916).
  • 1943 Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos (1912).
  • 1948 Giacomo Puccini's Il trittico (1918); Ottorino Respighi's La fiamma (1934); Igor Stravinsky's Le rossignol (1914).
  • 1949 Richard Strauss' Elektra (1909); Édouard Lalo's Le roi d'Ys (1888).
  • 1951 Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schätten (1918).
  • 1952 Gian Carlo Menotti's The consul (1950).
  • 1953 Riccardo Zandonai's I cavalieri di Ekebù (1925).
  • 1954 Gian Carlo Menotti's Amelia al ballo (1937); Béla Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's castle (1919); Giacomo Puccini's La rondine (1920, 1924).
  • 1955 Ildebrando Pizzetti's Debora e Jaele(1921); George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess(1935); Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Eugene Oneguin (1879).
  • 1956 Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1689).
  • 1957 Ottorino Respighi's Maria Egiziaca (1932); Gian Carlo Menotti's The saint of Bleecker Street (1955).
  • 1958 Ildebrando Pizzetti's Assassinio nella catedrale (1958); Carl Orff's Die Kluge (1943).
  • 1959 Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des carmelites(1959); Franco Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac]] (1936).
  • 1962 Richard Strauss' Arabella (1932).
  • 1963 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's La clemenza di Tito (1791).
  • 1964 Alban Berg's Wozzeck (1925); Georg Friedrich Haendel's Giulio Cesare (1724).
  • 1965 Dmitri Shostakovich's Katerina Ismailova (1956); Leoš Janáček's Jenůfa (1904).
  • 1966 José Pablo Moncayo's La mulata de Córdoba (1948); Luis Sandi's Carlota; Salvador Moreno's Severino; Alfredo Keil's A serrana (1899); Francis Poulenc's La voix humaine (1959); Henri Busser's La carrosse du Saint-Sacrement; Ruggero Leoncavallo's La bohème (1896).
  • 1969 Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (1962); Alban Berg's Lulu (1938); Mikhail Glinka's The life for the Tsar.
  • 1971 Kurt Weill's Mahagonny.
  • 1972 Bohuslav Martinu's A Greek Passion; Bedrich Smetana's Dalibor.
  • 1973 Leoš Janáček's Katia Kabanova; Gaetano Donizetti's Caterina Cornaro.
  • 1975 Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd (1941); Nino Rota's Il cappello di paglia di Firenze; Gian Francesco Malipiero's Il capitano Spavento; Igor Stravinsky's Mavra.
  • 1976 Leoš Janáček's From the Dead House.
  • 1977 Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace; Hector Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini; Luigi Cherubini's Medea.
  • 1985 Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aaron.
  • 1987 Alban Berg's Lulu (Friedrich Cerha's completed version, 1979); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Lucio Silla.
  • 1991 Richard Strauss' Capriccio (1942).
  • 1992 Philip Glass' Einstein on the Beach (1976); János Vajda's Mario and the magician.
  • 1994 Paul Hindemith's Mathis der Maler (1938).
  • 1999 Leoš Janáček's Vec Makropoulos.
  • 2000 Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's Sly.
  • 2001 Benjamin Britten's Gloriana.
  • 2002 Dmitri Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth de Msenk (original version) (1934); Gaetano Donizetti's La favorite French version (1850).
  • 2003 Philippe Boesmans' WIntermärchen (1999).
  • 2004 Jules Massenet's Cléopâtre (1914).
  • 2005 Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960); Giuseppe Verdi's Il corsaro (1848); Gioacchino Rossini's La gazzetta (1816).
  • 2006 Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Die tote Stadt; Georg Friedrich Haendel's Ariodante (1735).
  • 2007 Hans Werner Henze's Boulevard Solitude(1952); Jules Massenet's Le portrait de Manon (1894); Giuseppe Verdi's Don Carlos French original version (1868).
  • 2008 Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice; L'ape musicale (1789), pasticcio by Lorenzo da Ponte with music by Mozart, Vicente Martín y Soler, Giuseppe Gazzaniga, Domenico Cimarosa, Giordani and Tarchi.
  • 2009 Karol Szymanowski's Król Roger (1926); Héctor Parra's Hypermusic prologue (2009).
Directors, orchestra, and company

The theatre is managed by a director or impresario (empresari o administrador). From 1980 there is also an art director (director artístic).


  • Albert Bernis (1901–1911)
  • Francesc Casanovas (1911–1913)
  • Alfredo Volpini (1913–1914)
  • Joan Mestres i Calvet (1915–1947)
  • Josep F. Arquer (to 1959) & Joan Pàmias, (1947–1980)
  • Lluís Portabella (1981–1986)
  • Josep M. Busquets (1986–1992)
  • Jordi Maluquer (1992–1993)
  • Josep Caminal (1993–2005)
  • Rosa Cullell (2005–2008)
  • Joan Francesc Marco (from 2008).

Artistic directors:

  • Napoleone Annovazzi (1947–1952)
  • Lluís Andreu (1981–1990)
  • Albin Häsenroth (1990–1996)
  • Joan Matabosch from 1996 to the present.

The theatre has had its own orchestra from its foundation in 1847, the Orquestra Simfònica del Gran Teatre del Liceu. It is the oldest still working orchestra in Spain. Its first conductor was Marià Obiols.

Orchestra musical directors and head conductors:

  • Ernest Xancó, 1959–1961.
  • Eugenio Marco, 1981–1984.
  • Uwe Mund, 1987–1994.
  • Bertrand de Billy, 1999–2004.
  • Sebastian Weigle, 2004–2009
  • Michael Boder, 2009–

Previously the orchestra invited conductors rather than having the position permanently filled.

The choir was consolidated during the 1960s by its conductor Riccardo Bottino (1960–1982). From 1982 the choir conductors were Romano Gandolfi (1982–1993), with Vittorio Sicuri (1982–1990), and Andrés Máspero (from 1990). The present choir conductor is William Spaulding.

During the second half of the 19th century, a school of stagecraft and theatrical scenery was developed at the Liceu. After the beginnings with Joan Ballester, well-known for his setting for L'Africaine, the leading scenographer was Francesc Soler i Rovirosa, working in the 1880-1900s. The style was very realistic using painted paper flats and curtains. Settings and costumes were made in the theatre workshops. From the 1900s to 1930s thw school is represented by scenic painters including Maurici Vilomara, Fèlix Urgellés, Salvador Alarma and Oleguer Junyent. The last of these painters was Josep Mestres Cabanes who painted sceneries in the 1930-1950s.


A lot of famous singers have sung at Liceu. Camille Saint-Saëns, visiting the Liceu talking about the public said: "Ils aiment trop the ténor" (They love tenors too much).

In brackets are the dates of his/her premiere and his/her last performances at Liceu:

  • Manuela Rossi-Caccia (1847), Pietro Mongini (1860/1862), Giuseppe Mario (1863), Roberto Stagno (1867), Rosa Vercolini, Francesco Tamagno (1876/1890), Adelaida d'Alberti, Francesc Mateu (Francesco Uetam) (1874/1877), Carolina Cepeda (1877), Angelo Masini (1881), Julián Gayarre (1881/1888), Victor Maurel, Francesc Viñas (1888/1913), Hariclea Darclée (1894), Luisa Tetrazzini (1896), Geneviève Vix, Josefina Huguet (1896), Maria Barrientos (1898/1918), Rosina Storchio (1898).
  • In 1904 Enrico Caruso (in his only Liceu appearance) participated in two performances of Rigoletto. Gemma Bellincioni played the title role in a Salomé, the Catalan singer Conchita Supervía made her debut. Success was recorded by other performers such as: Mario Sammarco (1902), Adamo Didur (1905), Mattia Battistini (1906), Graziella Pareto (1906/1928), Giuseppe Anselmi (1907), Titta Ruffo (1908/1926), Riccardo Stracciari (1909/1939), Elvira de Hidalgo (1911), Ebe Stignani, Conchita Supervía (1912/1928), Hipólito Lázaro (1914/1945), Giovanni Zenatello, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (1922/1945 and 1972) Miguel Fleta (1925/1933), Toti Dal Monte (1925/1934), Feodor Chaliapin (1927/1934), Lauritz Melchior (1927/1930), Tina Poli Randaccio, Lily Hafgren, Carlo Galeffi, Gilda Dalla Rizza, Georges Thill, Giannina Arangi Lombardi and Gina Cigna.
  • Giulietta Simionato (1945/1951), Victoria de los Ángeles (1945/1968 and 1994), Giuseppe di Stefano (1946/1970 and 1986), Maria Caniglia (1947/1954), Gianni Poggi (1947/1963), Kirsten Flagstad (1949/1952), Hans Hotter (1948/1987), Max Lorenz (1950/1954), Boris Christoff (1951/1952), Renata Tebaldi (1953/1959), Giuseppe Taddei (1953/1986), Wolfgang Windgassen (1954/1959), Walter Berry (1954/1985), Anton Dermota (1955/1966), Gianna d'Angelo (1957/1965), Enriqueta Tarrés (1957/1992), Fedora Barbieri, Margherita Carosio, Astrid Varnay (1955/1957), Gertrude Grob-Prandl, Birgit Nilsson (1957/1958), Régine Crespin (1958/1966), Carlo Bergonzi (1958/1982), Alfredo Kraus (1958/1994).
  • Joan Sutherland (1960/1989), Piero Cappuccilli (1961/1994), Fiorenza Cossotto (1961/1994), Montserrat Caballé (1962/2007), Virginia Zeani (1963/1977), Pedro Lavirgen (1964/1989), Plácido Domingo (1966/2008), Jaume Aragall (1964–1997), Vicente Sardinero (1964/1997), Richard Tucker (1965/1975), Grace Bumbry (1966/1988), Anja Silja (1966/2000).
  • Mirella Freni (1970/1994), Josep Carreras (1958, as child, and 1970/2008), Joan Pons (1970/2006), Elena Obraztsova (1970/1984), Agnes Baltsa (1971/1992), Edita Gruberova (1977/2008)
  • Simon Estes (1981/1997), Matti Salminen (1981/2004), Ewa Podles (1981/2007), Martti Talvela (1982/1989), Eva Marton (1982/2006), Gwyneth Jones (1985/1997), Nicolai Ghiaurov (1985/1992), Rockwell Blake (1986/1996), Dolora Zajick (1988/2008).
  • Josep Bros (1992/2007), Deborah Polaski (2000), Angela Denoke (2002), Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez (2002/2008), Rolando Villazón (2005/2008), Peter Seiffert or Fiorenza Cedolins (2005/2007).
Conservatori de Música del Liceu

Linked to the theatre is the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu, a music college founded in 1837 which is part of the same corporation.

Circle of the Lyceum

A few months after the foundation of the Liceu the Círculo del Liceo (Liceu Circle) was created, according to the date of inscription of 125 founders that consists in the first book of associates' record on November 20, 1847.

The Círculo is an exclusive private club located in the Liceu building but it is an independent society. Only men or the widows of members could be club members. After the fire of 1994 a strong polemic was started for denying to any woman membership of the club, and the society statute was changed. In 2001 two Catalan businesswomen, Adela Subirana and Magda Ferrer-Dalmau, were formalizing their inscriptions becoming the first women to join the club. Nevertheless, the rest of the 10 women who applied were rejected including Montserrat Caballé. At present there are 1,100 associates.

As recreational club it was the first social club of the city. The history of the Círculo has allowed that it should have a phenomenal art heritage. It has a library which is more than notable and a majority of its dependences have Art Nouveau decoration. There are four large windows in the low foyer that they are a direct testimony of the strong influence of Wagnerism in the Catalan culture during the beginning of the 20th century.

Besides the furniture and the decoration the club is a vivacious and splendid sample of sculptures, marquetry, enamels, engravings, etchings and paintings of the best Catalan artists of the epoch: Alexandre de Riquer, Santiago Rusiñol, Modest Urgell Inglada and Francesc Miralles, among others. The most famous work of the club is the wall set of twelve oils on fabric, commissioned to Ramon Casas and installed in the rotunda of the club. Each of twelve paintings, Casas' most ambitious work, is inspired by a musical topic.

The Liceu in fiction, cinema, etc.
Fiction: novels, plays, etc.
  • Frederic Soler's satirical comedy "Liceístas" i "cruzados" (1865), about the quarrels amongst the fans of the Liceu and fans of the Teatre Principal, the two main opera houses as there was a great rivalry among them in Barcelona during the 19th century.
  • Narcís Oller's novel La febre d'or (1892).
  • Artur Masriera's sketch book Los buenos barceloneses: hombres, costumbres y anécdotas de la Barcelona ochocentista (1850–1870) (1925).
  • Ignacio Agustí's novels: Mariona Rebull (1944) and El viudo Rius (1945), where the 1893 bomb at Liceu is narrated.
  • Eduardo Mendoza's novel La ciudad de los prodigios (1986). However the film based on it was filmed at Teatre Fortuny at Reus, not at Liceu.
  • Joan Agut's short stories book El dia que es va cremar el Liceu (The day the Liceu was burnt) (1995).
  • Mariona Rebull (1947), directed by José Luis Sáenz de Heredia
  • Gayarre (1958), by Domingo Viladomat, a biopic about Julián Gayarre, performed by Alfredo Kraus.
  • Circus world (1964), directed by Henry Hathaway, with John Wayne and Claudia Cardinale; some circus scenes are filmed inside the Liceu theatre.
  • Romanza final (1986), directed by José María Forqué, a film about Julián Gayarre's life with Josep Carreras.
  • Un submarí a les estovalles (1990), directed by Ignasi Pere Ferré.
  • La febre d'or (1993), directed by Gonzalo Herralde, with Fernando Guillén, Rosa M. Sardà and Àlex Casanovas, with fragments of a performance of Gounod's Faust.
  • The Life of David Gale (2003), directed by Alan Parker, with Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet.


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