In 1982, once the Consortium of the Gran
Teatre del Liceu was up and running, a number of educational activities were set in train
with the aim of making opera more accessible to schoolchildren. The most important of
these activities were guided tours of the building which enabled some 120,000 school
students to visit the theatre between 1982 and 1994.
The fire that destroyed the Liceu building in January 1994 obviously
affected the educational activities which had taken place there and they were
substantially curtailed in just the same way as artistic activity in general.
Nevertheless, an attempt was made to keep at least some educational activity going and a
big effort was made to bring school groups to see the dress rehearsals for the operas
staged at the Teatre Vict˛ria while the Liceu was being rebuilt.
In 1998, the major legal, financial and technical hurdles having
finally been overcome, the reconstruction of the Liceu entered its final stage. With the
Liceu now under public ownership, the theatre management was aware of the responsibility
this entailed and the social obligations flowing from it. So it decided not simply to
resume the educational activities that had been going on before the fire, but to extend
them and introduce new ones. It therefore set up a specific service for this purpose, the
Educational Service, bringing under one department reporting to the theatre's artistic
management activities which had previously been spread over several departments.
The Liceu's Educational Service as now conceived has a dual mission: on
the one hand, to bring the younger element in our society into contact with the art of
opera, either through the school or the family, in a way that they can understand; and on
the other, to disseminate knowledge of the Liceu among this same sector of society,
presenting it as an important item of their cultural heritage.
The intention behind both these objectives is to broaden the base of
people in support of the Liceu, which is one of the basic conditions for gaining social
legitimacy for a cultural institution that consumes a relatively large slice of public
To achieve these goals, the Educational Service operates along four
lines of action. The first, which was already under way while rebuilding was going on,
consists in taking advantage of the opera house's regular productions that are not
specifically aimed at a young audience and using them for teaching purposes. Concretely,
this involves arranging for parties of schoolchildren to attend the dress rehearsals of
the operas being staged.
Attendance at these operas has to be arranged through the schools in
groups accompanied by teachers, as only teachers are in a position to judge whether what
is on offer is suitable for their pupils and whether they will be able to understand it.
Operas are often extremely complex cultural products stemming from a long tradition and
depend for their comprehension on the ability to interpret highly sophisticated codes.
While the opera house was being reconstructed, attendance at dress rehearsals was confined
mainly to secondary school students. In the future, however, as new activities targeting
this age group are set up, invitations will gradually be redirected to young people, such
as music or drama students, who are more likely to have a strong initial motivation to
attend a full-length, conventional operatic performance.
The second line of action consists in creating an artistic season
specifically aimed at a young audience including works whose characteristics and format
suit the needs and possibilities of such a group. So far the range available is rather
limited, although the intention is to broaden it out. The programme will begin next season
in the theatre foyer with a puppet production of Pergolesi's opera La Serva Padrona,
of which there will be 12 performances for schools and six for families, and three Petits
Concerts given by the theatre's resident singers and musicians.
The third line of action is the most ambitious from an educational
point of view. It consists in getting young people to play an active role in the artistic
creation process, essentially getting them to come up on stage. The scope, expenditure and
organisational complexity involved in such a venture are beyond the theatre's capacity to
tackle on its own. That is why the Liceu is participating in the "Ďpera a
SecundÓria" (Opera to Secondary Schools) project alongside the Barcelona Municipal
Education Institute and the Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture. The idea is for
pupils from schools in Barcelona interested in this educational experiment to take part in
performing a contemporary opera specially conceived for this purpose.
This project will get under way next season with the opera Eco
written by the composer Philippe Vallet. It will inherit, and continue, the arrangement
that allowed different institutions to work together during the 1997-98 and 1998-99
seasons on the first ever production in Spain of Hans Krßsa's opera Brundibßr,
enabling 1,500 Barcelona schoolchildren to perform in the chorus of this opera.
Lastly, the Educational Service's fourth line of action consists in
creating all the teaching and learning materials required for teachers and students to get
the greatest possible educational benefit from the other three lines described above.
During the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons, teaching packs for teachers and programmes and
educational materials specially designed for pupils have been prepared. Also along the
same lines, joint work has begun with the Catalan Education Department's Educational IT
Programme which has so far produced two CD-ROMs designed to provide youngsters with an
easily understandable and pleasant introduction to two operas from the grand repertoire
that were performed during the Gran Teatre del Liceu's 1988-99 season: Norma and The