A night in review, Tosca at the Gran Teatre Liceu

We have had a wonderfully, culturally, fun filled week as we count down the days to our first retreat which begins next Saturday.

Wednesday night we headed to the Gran Teatre Liceu where we enjoyed Puccini’s Tosca immensely.

Dress by Catalan designer Natalie Capell.  If you are ever in Barcelona  a visit to her tiny atelier in the Borne is a must!  The cape is a very generous hand me down from my Mother in Law.  Accesorised only pre show with our little Papillon.

Dress by Catalan designer Natalie Capell. If you are ever in Barcelona a visit to her tiny atelier in the Borne is a must! The cape is a very generous hand me down from my Mother in Law. Accesorised only pre show with our little Papillon.

Enjoying our box seats with time to take a pre-show selfie.  Fascinator by Secretas de Alcoba who we are delighted to share with our retreat guests during our in hotel night of shopping during their stay.

Enjoying our box seats with time to take a pre-show selfie. Fascinator by Secretas de Alcoba who we are delighted to share with our retreat guests during our in hotel night of shopping during their stay.

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It is quite difficult to capture the beauty of the Palau with an iPhone camera shot, but as we were about to begin watching act 3, I noticed that the lighting appeared to be smiling at us.

If you are an opera fan, I would highly suggest a visit to the Gran Teatre Liceu during your stay in Barcelona.

Up next for us before the retreat? We’re heading to the Beethovens Moonlight Sonata at the Palau de la Musica this week before our guests arrive in to town.


For more about the history of the Gran Teatre de Liceu please read below:

History

Interior of the Gran Teatre del Liceu after the 1999 rebuilding

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 orsocietat. This is reflected in the building’s architecture; for example, there is no royal box.

Origins

In 1838 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 (3 February 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 8 September.
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 11 April 1845. The Theatre was inaugurated on 4 April 1847.

Opening, fire and rebuilding (1847–1862)

The façade of the Liceu, as viewed from La Rambla

The inauguration 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 17 April. 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 9 April 1861, but it was rebuilt by the architect Josep Oriol Mestres and opened on 20 April 1862, performingBellini‘s I puritani. From the old building only the façade, the entrance hall and the foyer (Mirrors Hall) remained.

From 1862 to Civil War

Explosion of Liceu of Barcelona by the anarchist Santiago Salvador in the cover of the newspaper Le Petit Journal, 1893

On 7 November 1893, on the opening night of the season and during the second act of the opera Guillaume Tell byRossini, two Orsini bombs were thrown into the stalls of the opera house. Only one of the bombs exploded; some twenty people were killed and many more were injured. The attack was the work of the anarchist Santiago Salvador and it deeply shocked Barcelona, becoming a symbol of the turbulent social unrest of the time. The Liceu reopened its doors on 18 January 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 ParsifalTristan 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 Joan Antoni Pàmias (es) 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 31 January 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 byPerejaume, 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 disagreed with the decision, which was challenged unsuccessfully 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 7 October 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 PastaRubiniDonizettiBelliniGluck,Marie Taglioni. It was partially redecorated in 1877 by Elies Rogent and the roof painting, with the Parnassus, is from this period.

Foyer of Gran Teatre del Liceu, named Saló dels Miralls (Mirrors Hall), preserved from the 1994 fire.

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 television 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.

One night at the Palau de la Musica Barcelona

After Antoni Gaudi saw a performance of Hansel and Gretal at the Palau de la Musica it is said that is where his inspiration for Parc Guell arrived. Though we didn’t see Hansel and Gretal, I can see his inspiration after having spent a lovely evening in this art nouveau building.

A few photos from our evening. We can’t say enough wonderful things about the performance of the Russian Musical Chamber Ensemble Victoria. Upon their return to Barcelona we will certainly try to get to another show, and of course we will let you know as well.

Coming later this week…Puccini’s Tosca, at the Teatro Gran Liceu.

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Pre-performance cafe cava. I think I could sit in the cafe all day long.
The best part? You don’t have to be attending a performance to enjoy the beautiful art nouveau cafe!

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Can you imagine a better view? What a treat to sit in the front row with a view of this grand pipe organ and all of the architectural detail.

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We couldn’t get enough of the cafe! Post-show cava. So happy to be in my new outfit from Colmillo de Morsa, designers from Barcelona, living in Barcelona, creating in Barcelona, and selling in Barcelona.

Happenings at the Palau de la Musica

We are super excited to be able to go and see tonights performance of Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons in the Palau de la Musica played by the Russian Victoria Ensemble. Tickets are still available if you would like to catch the show!  Buy your ticket here!
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Russian Ensemble Victoria
Rodion Zamuruev, solo violinist
Russian Victoria Ensemble
Rodion Zamuruev, violin soloist
program
A. Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
A. Piazzola: Seasons Buenos Aires
Born in 2002 as a project of three musicians Moscow Conservatory graduates Official Music awards at international contests and Moscow, to provide an image of the virtuous skillful works of classical music. Participating in numerous festivals in countries of Western Europe.
Rodion Zamuruev, Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory graduate, began playing in the most prestigious halls of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities of Russia at the age of 7 years. He has won several national and international awards such as first prize peer to Tibor Varga Competition.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Palau de la Musica, read below about this magical art nouveau building.

THE ART NOUVEAU BUILDING

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The Palau de la Música Catalana was built between 1905 and 1908 by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner as a home for the Orfeó Català, financed by popular subscription.

The Palau de la Música Catalana is an architectural jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau, the only concert venue in this style to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (4th December 1997), which today represents an essential landmark in the cultural and social life of Catalonia. Moreover it represents a symbolic emotional heritage for a whole people who identify with its history.

The building is designed around a central metal structure covered in glass, which exploits natural light to make the make Domènech i Montaner’s masterpiece into a magical music box which brings together all the decorative arts: sculpture, mosaic, stained glass and ironwork. The guided tours offered by the Palau de la Música Catalana are a must on any visit to Barcelona.

The Concert Auditorium – one of the most distinctive in the world – is for more than hundred years the privileged setting for the musical life, both national and international, of the city of Barcelona. It has hosted world premieres and iit is a landmark symphonic and choral music. Dominated by the organover the stage and with a central skylight portraying the sun, the auditorium is filled with natural light. A mystical, paradoxical hall, packed with figures like the muses which surround the stage, a bust of Anselm Clavé on one side and Beethoven on the other, and hundreds of natural motifs, including flowers, palms, fruit, jars and cases filled with jewels.
As well as the large Concert Auditorium, the Palau has two other venues for the artistic life of the institution. One is the Petit Palau, a modern auditorium opened in 2004, ideal for chamber music or small-format concerts and offering excellent acoustics and high-tech audio-visual equipment. The last venue is the little gem of the Palau de la Música, the Sala d’Assaig de l’Orfeó Català, the Orfeó Català Rehearsal Room. A cosy, intimate venue for small-format concerts, talks, presentations – and, of course, where the Orfeó Català choirs practise. The first stone of the Palau, laid in 1905, is here. With its semi-circular arc of seats facing the half moon arch on the ceiling over the Concert hall stage, it features robust columns, stained glass and period decoration.
Another very special part of the Palau is the great Sala Lluís Millet, or Lluís Millet Hall, a meeting place in intermissions dedicated to Maestro Millet, the founder of the Orfeó Català. The hall is two storeys high, with great stained glass windows decorated with floral designs, giving an extraordinary effect. Even more exceptional is the balcony which can be seen through these windows, with its double colonnade decorated with distinctive colours and ornamentation. Another exceptional setting is theFoyer of the Palau, which has room for a large number of people, even seated at tables, both when there are performances and when it is used as a separate restaurant-cafeteria. The wide arches built with bricks and green and floral-pattern glazed ceramics give this area a distinctive air or its very own.

 

BCN Brand Sneakers

 If you follow us on instagram or Facebook you will see that one of our new emerging favorite brands is BCN Brand sneakers.
 “BCN BRAND. Artisan sneakers fabricated locally in Barcelona, made with authentic natural leather individually hand-dyed. Designed following the latest trends. Think global, be local.” BCN Brand
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My husband does not wear sneakers…even cool street sneakers.  Up until BCN Brand you wouldn’t have caught him out of his leather Tods.  After leaving the showroom with a meeting with the owner of the company, said husband walked away with a pair in brown which he has worn every day since.  The quality is high, the product is wonderful, and we are so excited to have BCN Brand be part of our first Leave it to Barcelona retreat for our “In house” shopping night.
So the article below from The Business of Fashion was of particular interest to me.
As it seems fashion may be taking a turn towards sneakers and footwear, BCN Brand couldn’t have more perfect timing…and btw, BCN brand sneakers are 125euros compared to the other haute couture brands pricing $500.00 and upwards.  Whatever your taste, style, or budget, if you like sneakers and fashion, this seems to be the time for you!
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Buscemi for BoF | Source: Buscemi
For this month’s Spotlight, Buscemi has designed a custom BoF logo, featuring the company’s signature feather icon gilded in gold. “Of course [it’s] in gold, because gold makes everything better,” he says.
Though the collection is directed mainly at men, Buscemi plans to offer some of his pieces in sizes and colours designed to attract women. “I don’t want high heels in my office, but I think there is a good market out there for women who are interested in wearing men’s sneakers.”
But how do you generate distinction in a flooded market in which every luxury fashion house offers designer sneakers?
“I think the fashion houses have [adapted] to the lifestyle of the consumer, but at the end of the day you’re still dealing with a huge fashion house that is producing these shoes. My business is at a very homemade level. We’re only making a very small amount of these shoes in an atelier in Italy. The big brands are making hundreds of thousands of shoes. I can truthfully say that my product is far superior to some of these fashion houses.”
“Louboutin, Valentino, Saint Laurent and Lanvin,” names Buscemi as his primary competitors. “There’s a big shift in the sneaker community,” he adds, hinting at why he made the move upmarket. “Guys are getting sick of Vans and Converse. They’re wearing Phillip LimAlexander Wang. They’re graduating as consumers. And now the look and the feel is going all the way down to the foot.”
Indeed, in recent seasons, the humble sneaker has seen its status rise from streetwear symbol to luxury icon. But is the category becoming so successful that it might one day go out of fashion?
“Only time will tell, but I think that what’s going to happen is that the category will never die. I think it’s a survival of the fittest,” says Buscemi. “My goal is very simple: to have a relevant brand and a brand that I’ll be able to give to my son when he’s 21, 15 years from now. That’s my goal.”
Business of Fashion

Bike Friendly Barcelona

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As the weather is growing warmer and warmer I am back out on my Brompton foldable bicycle…one of my favorite ways to get around Barcelona…and if you live in Barcelona, one of the fastest!

Barcelona was was one of fifteen “bike friendly” cities listed on CNN travel.

Barcelona’s Bicing program, one of many mass bike rental systems that have popped up recently in Europe and beyond, debuted in 2007 in the Catalonian capital. An annual Bike Week is held in late May to spread the word.” Cnn.com

Whether you hire your own bike, opt for a tour, or live in Barcelona and sign up for the Bicing bike sharing program, I can confirm that Barcelona is not only a bike friendly city it…it is a fun city to bike in!

My favorite agency: okbarcelonatours.com Uses my favorite bicycle…the Brompton!

During our yoga retreats this is the company I suggest using to our guests. They have wonderful tour leaders, insider knowledge, and are extremely helpful. Visit their website or check them out on Instagram.