Painters such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro and architects such as Antonio Gaudi have given this city a reputation as a center of European art. Less known is its role as a musical metropolis. But Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish region of Catalonia, has produced as many virtuoso musicians as artists, and its three houses of music -- the Liceo, the Palau de la Musica Catalana and L'Auditori -- are a delight to patronize, or merely to behold.
The musical history is distinguished. Pablo Casals, the renowned cellist, founded and directed the Barcelona Symphonic Orchestra until the Spanish Civil War sent him into exile. Pianist Alicia de Larrocha debuted at the Palau de la Musica Catalana, a showpiece of art nouveau architecture, at age 7. Until recently, when Madrid's Teatro Real began staging operas, the Liceo served as the only major opera house in Spain. Singers Victoria de los Angeles, Jose Carreras and Montserrat Caballe, all born in Barcelona, made their debuts at the Liceo.
A MODERN HALL: L'Auditori was designed by [Jose Rafael Moneo], the award-winning Spanish architect who also designed the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Hisao Suzuki; OPERATIC DECOR: Built in 1847, the Liceo is the oldest of Barcelona's three major houses of music. It was extensively restored after a 1994 fire destroyed the stage, ceiling and seats.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Tino Soriano; ART NOUVEAU GEM: A detail of the Palau de la Musica Catalana facade, circa 1908, which is almost as elaborate as the interior.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Andreu Dalmau For the Times; VISUAL SPLENDOR: Flanked by carved stone muses dressed in mosaic, a wind player practices in the Palau de la Musica Catalana.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Tino Soriano; GRAPHIC: MAP: Barcelona; CREDIT: Los Angeles Times