Sevile, Opera City

Discovering history, heritage, legends and characters through opera; a beautiful way to get to know Seville and its customs.

Not in vain did prestigious composers like Mozart, Verdi, Beethoven, Bizet and others seek inspiration in our city for their great creations, over a hundred in all, including the five great operas: Don Giovanni, Carmen, Fidelio, The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. Stroll through the beautiful Santa Cruz district, with its noble houses, its typical, narrow streets, its patios and fountains… Here we can find the Hostería del Laurel, where Don Juan Tenorio met Don Luis de Mejía. See the Tobacco Factory and find yourself in the first act of Carmen, the beautiful cigarette maker, with Morales, Don José, and the bustle of the cigarette girls… And it goes on, there are many places in which visitors can feel themselves in the place of these great opera characters who have made the name of Seville so famous, far and wide.

The Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1990. Its first music director was Vjekoslav Sutej, the true architect of the orchestra, who led it until 1996. The current music director is the maestro Pedro Alffter under whom the orchestra, with over one hundred and thirty musicians from 19 countries, has become a reference point on the European Symphony music scene. With a programme full of renowned works and the constant renewal of the repertoire, the RSSO has rightfully won its place as one of the great orchestras of today.

The City of Opera could not be without a dedicated venue for “bel canto”. Two decades ago, Seville inaugurated the Maestranza Theatre. On a prime site on the banks of the Guadalquivir, it meets the highest technical specifications and stages a varied programme of opera, making it the greatest stage venue of the south of the Peninsula

Houses were typically structured around a main courtyard surrounded by round arched galleries which later in the century evolved into lintelled forms. The railing at the entrance led to a hallway. This Sevillian creation, which dates from the 18th century, gave rise to the development of the romantic houses with courtyards of the 19th century.

If the Sevillian house shares the Mudejar style of being closed to the outside, with a gate and open doorway, the patio becomes almost part of the street itself. Closing balconies with a structure of iron and glass became highly popular during this period. With this elegant feature the houses gained in seclusion as the large glass windows allowed dwellers to look discreetly outside without being seen. In addition to the bourgeois houses with courtyards, there are a series of buildings in various styles such as the Casa de las Sirenas, Villa Eugenia, and Yanduri.

Modernism was introduced to Seville by a new bourgeoisie which was eager to show its position and a generation of architects who were keen to adopt new European trends. Initially the style influenced decorative arts in particular and was incorporated to 19th century works. This is the case of the Reyes jewellers’ shop, whose interior boasts a magnificent modernist styling comparable to the best of its kind in Europe.

In 1903, José Gómez Otero built the first modernist building in the city at Calle Jerónimo Hernández 18-20. In 1904, his son in law, Aníbal González, built the gothic-like façade of the sacrarium of the Church of El Santo Ángel, very similar in style to Catalan modernism. Some of the works of his modernist period include the Café París in La Campana (no longer standing) with a splendid tower in glass and iron, and the twin buildings of Calle Alfonso XII 27-29, with their highly original decoration. In his industrial buildings, such as the Fábrica de Enrique Ramírez in Torneo (1908-1909), functional requirements led González to follow the ideas of the Vienese School. The modernist house in Tomás de Ibarra 9 was built in 1905 by Simón Barris y Bes whilst the building in Orfila 11 was built by José Espiau in 1908, at a time when the movement was at its peak in the city. Soon afterwards, a more regionalist style took over.

In 1174, Almohad Caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf ordered the construction of a bridge over the Guadalquivir River which consisted of a series boats tied to each other over which large wooden boards were arranged. Several projects were drawn to replace it but nothing was done until 1852, when the Isabel II, or Triana bridge, was built. It was the first engineering work in iron carried out in Seville and one of the first in Spain. It was designed by French architect Gustavo Steinacher and Fernando Bernadet who were inspired by the Parisian Caroussel bridge. The construction of the Triana bridge was part of a series of measures which were aimed at modernising the city under Isabel II’s reign. These included the laying of railway lines in 1859. Although the railway system revolutionised transport, it gave rise to a serious urban problem: railway lines strangled the city preventing good communication between the centre and the periphery. This problem was finally solved with the works undertaken in 1992, which included the construction of the new Santa Justa station.

When the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier came to live in the palace of San Telmo in 1849 they bought a large plot known as the Huerta de San Diego where Lecolan designed a picturesque romantic garden. Most of the garden, which was donated to the city by Duchess Maria Luisa in1893, became the park which today bears her name. In it, nature and the architectural features of fountains, arbours and buildings blend harmoniously.

As part of the various works undertaken in preparation for the Iberian-American Exposition, the Frenchman Forestier, head gardener of Paris’ parks, was commissioned to redesign the gardens. He worked with two basic ideas, the social function of a park in a modern city, and the reinterpretation of the traditional Andalusian garden, inspired by those of the Alcazar, the Alhambra and the Generalife. The new park was inaugurated in 1914, retaining from the original Montpensier family gardens the feature known as El Monte Gurugú, and the Duck and the Lotus ponds. The gardens of Los Leones and La Concha were new additions. The romantic arbour in honour of Seville-born poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870) was built in 1912 by sculptor Lorenzo Coullalt (1876-1932). The bust of the poet presides over an allegorical work symbolising a wounded and dead love, and three female figures representing the arrival, presence, and fading of love. The group surrounds a water cypress which was poignantly planted in 1870, the year of Bécquer’s death.