'Turandot' reinvented - paving the way for Liceu's future

Futuristic performance of Puccini’s masterpiece kicked off 20th season since the reopening of the Liceu theater

The play was given a more futuristic air by director Franc Aleu (by Pau Cortina)
The play was given a more futuristic air by director Franc Aleu (by Pau Cortina) / Oliver Little

Oliver Little | Barcelona

October 8, 2019 12:06 PM

The curtain-raiser for the Liceu theater’s 20th season was all too fitting. Giacomo Puccini's 'Turandot' was the piece that was set to be performed on January 31, 1994, before a fire that turned the auditorium into ash, and it was the piece performed to commemorate the auditorium’s reopening on October 7, 1999.

Liceu remains the most iconic theater despite an unfortunate past, in which in the mid-19th century and the end of the 20th century, it suffered two fires.

Now, the play commemorates the 20th season since the theater's grand reopening after the last fire in 1994, and there are 14 showings of a somewhat reimagined work between October 7 and 25.

The play, well-known all around the world, had a slightly less familiar edge to hit for this year’s performance. It was attended by several leading political figures, including Catalan President Quim Torra, off the back of a no-confidence motion against his government coming up short, mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau and Interior Minister Miquel Buch.

On Monday night the attendees celebrated exactly 20 years since the theater’s reopening, and were treated to a 'high tech', futuristic version inspired by Franc Aleu, aligns with Liceu CEO Valentí Oviedo's plans for the changes in aesthetics to come for the theater. 

''We have to evolve towards what society demands,'' he said. ''Culture has always been a showcase or reflection of what is happening at any given time, and now opera cannot be on the sidelines.''

The future is now for Liceu

In Aleu's futuristic version of the play, which he claims to be set in the not-too-distant future, Turandot, rather than a Princess that discards of men, is instead a slave and victim of patriarchal society that forces her lineage upon her by almost enforcing candidates. 

Set in futuristic China, Turandot rejects men as if she is almost allergic, but they appear hooked on her as if she were some sort of drug. The play is turned into a video game, where, through visual effects scene changes are incredibly quick - indeed, critical response to the rework has said that it is at times exhaustive to follow and unearth the underlying Puccini element of the play.

Such a futuristic approach clearly lays out the plans for Liceu going forward. A renovation of the two main climatizers of the building, technological innovation and low LED lighting systems are key elements to the plans for a more sustainable Liceu theater. Indeed, for the 20th anniversary the building was refurbished and its stained-glass windows recovered.

Success for Under 35 event

1,800 people attended something of a warm-up act on Saturday night as the theatre held its first 'Under 35'. 

Liceu continues to reach out to younger generations, and a DJ and food stands were a successful warmup act for the play, as opera-attendees under the age of 35 made the most of the full opera experience.