The Grec Festival de Barcelona has come to be one of the most important theatre festivals in Europe and in the world. Learn more about it.
In 1929, something happened in Spain. A wave of modernization swept over the peninsula from the southwest to the northeast: the Ibero-American Exposition was held in Seville, which served as a catalyst to modernize the Andalusia capital city. Today, nearly 100 years later, the architecture of attractions created at the time, such as the Plaza de España and Maria Luisa Park, continue to amaze visitors. A number of monuments built for the 1929 International Expo in Barcelona would also become some of the city’s most visited sites such as: the Fuente Mágica (magic fountain), the Poble Espanyol (Spanish town) and the Teatre Grec (Greek theatre). This last structure, located atop the Montjuic hillside, is a recreation of the ancient Greek theatre of Epidaurus. From its elevated location, the Teatre Grec overlooks the city of Barcelona and its vibrant cultural life. Both of these international events share something else in common besides the year they were held: the French architect and keeper of Paris’s Bois de Boulogne park Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier. He designed both of the two garden landscapes at María Luisa Park, he came up with the idea to build the Greek theatre, and he was responsible for designing the gardens there.
After the expo of 1929, this magnificent theatre designed in classic style sat nearly abandoned until 1976. Just after the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, a group of theatre directors and actors had already begun conceiving the idea of a new independent theatre for Catalonia, and more specifically for Barcelona, a city with deep-rooted theatre traditions. For two years, this group of artists gave a series of innovative performances at the Teatre Grec. In 1979, after a one year break in activity and following Spain’s first post-Franco era democratic election, the local government of Barcelona took charge of organizing the festival. One year later, international companies began putting on shows and theatre productions at the event.
Known today as the Grec Festival of Barcelona, this event has come to be one of the most important theatre festivals in Europe and in the world. It forms part of the Kadmos network in partnership with the Avignon Festival, the Istanbul International Theatre Festival, and the Athens-Epidaurus Festival.
In July, the entire city of Barcelona dons its theatre wardrobe and its comedy and tragedy masks, where a selection of the most innovative and creative dance, theatre, and circus performances can be seen all over town. For more information on the event’s enormous activity program, which in 2013 will feature over 70 different July performances, we recommend going to grec.bcn.cat/en/.
100,000 tickets were sold for the various shows that made up the 2010 Grec festival, a figure that attests to the great interest generated by the event.
Barcelona’s Grec Festival has far exceeded the physical limits of the Greek theatre, and it is now hosted in venues such as the Teatre Lliure, the Mercat de les Flors (now the municipal theatre), the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, L’Auditori (home of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra) and different private theatres such as the Teatre Romea, the Villarroel, the Sala Beckett, and the center for choreographic research La Caldera, all of which are located in different neighborhoods around Barcelona.
The Grec Theatre Festival is a special event not only for theatre lovers, but also for producers, actors and directors as some of the most popular names in acting and music have performed here such as DarioFo, Lindsay Kemp, Peter Brook, and Vittorio Gassman. Many of Catalonia’s most important theatre companies from the last few decades have also offered performances at the festival, like DagollDagom, ElsComediants, ElsJoglarsy, and La Fura delsBaus, among others. Notable musical concerts given at the Grec include Paco de Lucia, B.B. King, and Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan.
Each year, from the 1st to the 31st of July, the Grec Festival of Barcelona is THE arts event in Europe on all different levels, a festival that has become a required experience for music and theatre lovers.