Twenty Years Ago Today: The Burning of the Opera House

166px-LiceuOn the 31st of January, 1994, one of the world's premiere opera houses burned down in Barcelona after sparks from a welder's torch set light to the theatre curtains. The institution was in debt to the tune of £25m at the time, and safety standards had been cut back to a minimum ahead of a planned remodelling of the building set to begin in June 1995. This building is known as the Gran Teatre del Liceu, or just the Liceu. Note that this isn't the name in Spanish, which would have it as Liceo; this is because we're talking about Barcelona, the capital of the occasionally autonomous region of Catalonia (or Catalunya), and they don't always see eye to eye with Madrid.

Restoration work began immediately to rescue those parts of the building that had survived (including some that survived a previous fire in 1861). It was very much an act of regional pride to bring back the kind of building that helps establish national identity - rather important when you're trying to persuade everyone and their dog that you actually are a nation, and not just a region.