Things to do in Barcelona – Visit the Gran Teatre del Liceu
If you’re interested in seeing inside one of Europe’s grand opera houses, reportedly one of the continent’s largest, consider visiting Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu.
The Liceu, situated midway along the city’s busy La Rambla, was founded in 1847 by the former Sociedad Dramática de Aficionados (Society of Theatre-Lovers) and funded by the sale of private shares to wealthy patrons, the former Societat de Proprietaries (Society of Owners). Now publicly owned and managed by the Fundació del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Foundation of the Grand Liceu Theater), the theatre continues in its role as a center of culture and performing arts – presenting performances of ballet, music, and opera – and is open to the public for tours.
The building’s modest exterior, sometimes easy to miss unless you first notice the line of people waiting at the entrance, features an arcaded walkway topped by rows of decorative arched windows and a rooftop clock.
By comparison, the interior – beautifully restored following a bombing by anarchists in 1893 and several fires (most recently in 1994) – is a spectacular mix of Neoclassical and Renaissance styles. Some of what you’ll see includes:
El Vestíbul (The Vestibule) – this opulently decorated main lobby, original to the 19th century structure, features an intricately designed skylight, painted ceilings, and a central staircase (escala principal) of white marble, flanked by corinthian columns and gilded candelabra.
At the top of the landing, where she’s stood since 1901, you’ll see ‘la Musa de la Música’ (the Muse of Music) by local sculptor Venanci Vallmitjana. Also on display in the Vestibule is a cut-away model of the theatre.
Sala principal (Main Hall) – this impressive classic red and gold, horseshoe-shaped auditorium (modeled after the Teatro all Scala in Milan, Italy) was completely reconstructed (and expanded) following the fire of 1994.
The Hall features five tiers of seats and boxes (llotjes)
and several painted ceiling medallions, some of which serve as access panels for stage lighting.
Saló dels Miralls (Hall of Mirrors) – spared from complete destruction in the recent fire, this beautifully restored room – previously known as El Vergel (The Garden) – serves as a public meeting area during performances.
Decorated with sparkling chandeliers, ceiling paintings depicting Apollo and the muses (these are reproductions of the originals), Corinthian columns, gilded reliefs, and medallion paintings of composers and performers, such as German composer Christoph Gluck,tenor Giovanni Rubini,and French actor and playwright Molière. The letters along the upper walls are phrases relating to art and music, such as El arte no tiene patria (art has no country).
Llotges – these formerly private boxes or loges, belonging to the members of the Society of Owners can be seen surrounding the Hall.
The entrances to the boxes (these days much smaller than their predecessors) are simply decorated. However, in the heyday of the Liceu Theater, many of the wealthy patrons/owners outfitted these private rooms with the finest furnishings and décor often found in the grandest of homes. Today, the most elegant of llotges are the proscenium boxes located closest to the stage. These elaborately decorated boxes feature gilded Corinthian columns and reliefs.
The Foyer – this multi-purpose space, located below the Main Hall, is used as a concession area and venue for small scale concerts, performances and other social or business events.
Cercle del Liceu – founded in 1847, this private club (some of whose members were owners of the adjoining Liceu Theater) features Catalan Modernist interior design and decorative works of art, as well as an impressive collection of original paintings. Among these are:
Fatigada! (Tired) – Francesc Masriera, 1894
Automòbil (Car) – Ramon Casas, 1901-1902
Cos de ball (Corps de Ballet) – Ramon Casas, 1901-1902
and La Sargantain – Ramon Casas, 1907
Gran Teatre del Liceu is located at La Rambla,51-59.
Adult Admission (50-minute tour) = 16.00€; includes Vestíbul + Sala principal + Saló dels Miralls + Foyer + Cercle del Liceu
Adult Admission (45-minute tour) = 9.00€; includes Vestíbul + Sala principal + Saló dels Miralls + Foyer
Adult Admission (30-minute tour) = 6.00€; includes Vestíbul + Sala principal + Saló dels Miralls + Foyer
Adult Admission (Backstage-Only tour) = 24.00€; includes dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, wardrobe and make-up departments
The theater offers a variety of discount options; visit their website for more information.
Note: Due to performance/event schedules, some of the rooms included in the various tour options may not be accessible for tours on the day of your visit. Check the tour calendar for updates or inquire at the ticket counter.