The origins of the open-air theatre that now serves as the main venue for the Grec Festival of Barcelona date back to the year 1929. We are told that the site was built at the suggestion of the landscape architect Jean-Claude-Nicolas Forestier, who, with Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí, created many of the gardens on Mount Montjuïc. Accordingly, this “Greek Theatre” was built in a disused quarry that stood at one end of the Pubill estate, acquired by Barcelona City Council in 1908.
Ramon Reventós i Farrarons, the architect who also designed the Venetian towers in Plaça d’Espanya, as well as several other projects for the 1929 International Exposition, was commissioned to build the Teatre Grec. The site was opened during the Third World Theatre Congress in that same year, with a poetry recital by the actress Josefina Tapias. Next, in September 1929, Àurea de Sarrà took to the stage to perform Deméter, a play in mime that, like most of this Catalan dancer’s choreographic creations, took its inspiration from Classical Antiquity.
An artist greatly influenced by the legendary ballerina Isadora Duncan, Àurea de Sarrà returned on several occasions to the stage of the Teatre Grec, where she even organised classical festivals featuring performances by another well-known dancer of the time, Pauleta Pàmies.
In the 1930s, the actress Margarida Xirgu performed at the Teatre Grec once or twice, but the venue was little used until at least the 1950s, when another actress, Mercedes de la Aldea persuaded the mayor of Barcelona to help revive the theatre once more. A few years later, the Montjuïc venue hosted a performance of Medea, directed by Juan-Germán Schroeder, in which the great Catalan actress Núria Espert, then just nineteen years old, thrilled audiences.
In 1956, Esteve Polls directed the first work in Catalan ever performed at the Teatre Grec: Juli Cèsar. However, generally speaking, few pieces of note were staged here. The “Festivales de España”, or Festivals of Spain, a mixed operation organised in cooperation with the State, occupied the Teatre Grec on several occasions, but, in the main, the programme over the following years was based on zarzuela musical comedies, plays from the Spanish Golden Age and productions that were hits in Madrid but failed to attract large audiences in Barcelona. Despite the occasional successes obtained here by various outstanding artists, the theatre finally closed in 1969.
A few years later, Maria Lluïsa Oliveda and Ramir Bascompte managed to get this “Greek Theatre” open once more, organising a programme of performances for three years, from 1973 to 1975. However, the Montjuïc venue truly emerged in all its glory in 1976, a year after the death of Franco, when the Assembly of Actors and Directors, an organisation representing the new independent Catalan theatre scene, staged the first edition of the Grec Festival of Barcelona.
Ever since that year (with the sole exception of 1977, when the festival did not take place), the Teatre Grec de Montjuïc has been filled with music, theatre and dance every summer, and the venue has become an iconic symbol of cultural life in Barcelona.