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The Curse of Teatre Liceu

While walking along the Ramblas, you’ll encounter Barcelona’s imposing opera house: the Gran Teatre del Liceu (or simply Teatre Liceu). A true cultural institution and an icon for Barcelona, where the greatest opera concerts and artists can be seen. But what many visitors may not know is that El Liceu is cursed, at least that’s what malicious tongues claim…

According to a legend, the Gran Teatre del Liceu is cursed
According to a legend, the Gran Teatre del Liceu is cursed

The First Fire

On April 4, 1847, the new theater “Liceo Filarmónico” was solemnly inaugurated. The theater building was located where the former Trinitarian monastery had stood: in the middle of the Ramblas, and was designed by architect Miquel Garriga i Roca. This theater hosted various festivities and performances, usually with a liberal tone, directly competing with the nearby Teatre Principal.

According to the story, during a carnival party in 1861, the revelers, under the guise of “anything goes during carnival,” and perhaps encouraged by the anonymity of the masks, misbehaved and set the theater on fire.

According to the legend, a piece of paper was found among the ashes with a very disturbing message:

Soy un búho y voy a solas, si lo volvéis a levantar, lo volveré a quemar” (“I am an owl and am alone, if you rebuild it, I will burn it down again”).

This event, known as “el diluvio del fuego” (the deluge of fire), supposedly occurred because the parties at the Liceu theater were a bit too frivolous. The buried Trinitarian monks of the old monastery could not tolerate these pagan excesses and therefore the theater had to be punished.

The Water Flood

Only the façade of the theater on the Ramblas, the entrance, and the Mirror Hall survived the fiery flames of 1861. Despite the warnings from the ‘owl’, reconstruction of the theater building began immediately.

And then it happened: a torrent of water descended over the Ramblas in 1862, and the builders were forced to lay down their work for a few days. This event, nicknamed “el diluvio del agua” (the flood of water), again caused unrest among the most superstitious Barcelonians.

A Bomb Attack

The new Teatre Liceu became more elite and attracted mainly Barcelona’s bourgeoisie, who loved opera. In an era of political violence and anarchist attacks, anarchist Santiago Salvador decided to throw two Orsini bombs at the (wealthy) audience of El Liceu. That was on November 7, 1893.

Only one of the bombs exploded, the second got stuck on a woman’s skirt (or was dampened by a dead body; reports are unclear about this), but that was enough to cause 22 deaths and 35 injuries. In all the chaos, Salvador managed to escape unnoticed, but years later he was caught and sentenced to the garrote vil (the garrote).

The Great Fire

After the shock, the Liceu theater reopened and functioned without too many surprises, until on January 31, 1994, fire took hold of it again. It was during a maintenance session that a spark hit the curtain of the concert hall, after which the fire quickly spread through the hall and set everything ablaze. The smoke cloud could be seen from miles away, exactly what the ‘owl’ had warned about.

And yet, Teatre Liceu was rebuilt again. This time bigger, more modern, and much safer, especially in terms of fire hazards. Because you obviously don’t want the ‘owl’ to visit us again…

Practical Information

  • What: Visit the Gran Teatre del Liceu
  • Where: La Rambla, 51-59
  • Metro: Liceu (L3)
  • When: Express tour every day from 14:00 to 18:00 (on Saturday and Sunday every hour from 9:30 to 12:30 and from 15:00 to 18:00). Guided tour from Monday to Friday at 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, and 12:30.
  • Price: from €9 (with audio guide) or €16 (with guide). Discount for children and pensioners.
  • Note: Photos and recordings are allowed except on stage.

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Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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