Designed by the architect Francesc Folguera i Grassi (1891-1960) the Teatre Circ Olympia, was built in Barcelona between 1919 and 1923 at the crossroads between the Ronda de Sant Pau and Carrer Aldana, very close to the Parallel.
The building had an iron structure and, due to its large dimensions, was soon christened by the public as the Liceu del Parallel. It had a capacity of 6,000 spectators and allowed the programming of all kinds of artistic and sports shows. The façade was in the Noucentista style with elements of terracotta and stucco and highlighted its triangular pediment with an oculus that crowned the building and gave it a classic and elegant look.
The interior was at that time the most spacious in Spain with an auditorium of 3,000 seats in horseshoe shaped formation. The circus ring was transformable into a swimming pool of 300,000 liters of water, which allowed the presentation of water shows.
The Olympia opened its doors on December 4, 1924 on the initiative of the businessman Josep Ventura Gannau. The inaugural show included musical numbers with seals, trained horses and elephants. Obviously the building incorporated stables to house the animals that could be visited by the public. For many years it was the largest and most popular multipurpose place in Barcelona.
In 1926 the Olympia witnessed the arrival of the new Charleston dance in Barcelona with Chocolate Kidiess. The first jazz band to perform at the Sam Woodings Orchestra was also performed. Since then, the hall has become one of the gateways to jazz in the city.
The dimensions and the scenic and structural equipment of the theater allowed to make great spectacles there. On May 3, 1928, Kosmópolis premiered, presented as a zarzuela in the form of a circus music magazine, the work of Josep Amich “Amichatis” with music by Joan Dotras Vila i Demon. The play was of an unusual spectacle and included the use of the swimming pool, water games, a scale railway, the projection of cinematic fragments, horses and special effects impossible in other theaters. In December of the same year, the Museum show used 150 electric reflectors for light sources, as well as a mobile stage platform, then unique in Spain.
Due to its large capacity, the Olympia Circus Theater was used, both during the times of the Second Republic and at the beginning of the Franco regime, to host numerous political rallies. After the war the Greek “y” became “Latin” and “Latin” because of the obsession of the new regime in making all the names Spanish. The Obra Sindical franquista Educación y Descanso was in charge of organizing jazz concerts. Sunday mornings featured very acceptable programs with good orchestras and groups of local musicians.
In those post-war years, the Olimpia functioned as a re-opening cinema equipped with high-fidelity sound equipment. The lineup was advertised as major pre-releases. In April 1944, under the direction of Eduard Toldrà, the Barcelona Municipal Orchestra made its popular presentation, after having made its debut in society at the Palau de la Música only a few days before.
On February 28, 1947, the last show took place, a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème. Only a year later, the solemn building would be demolished. According to Sempronio, one of the reasons for its demolition was the use of iron in its structure at a time when this metal was in short supply.
Ronda de Sant Pau, 17
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