Of all Barcelona’s summer festivals, Grec is one of the best loved thanks, in no small part, to the fairy tale setting – a stone amphitheatre set amid swirling rose gardens and covered walkways dripping with jasmine and wisteria. The views over the city from the north side are stunning too, even more so at night – when most of the events take place - with stars up above and a glass of cava in hand.
It was built in the style of an ancient Greek temple by the celebrated Catalan architect Ramon Reventós, in 1929 on the site of an abandoned quarry as part of the world expo of the same year. But, when the civil war took hold, it languished, taken over by weeds and all but forgotten in the decades to follow. When Franco died, Barcelona’s creative set blossomed and in 1979, nearly 50 years later, Barcelona City Council regenerated the space as the launch pad for an annual music and performance arts festival that has grown year-on-year ever since.
Festival Grec started out primarily as a way to showcase the work of Catalan artists, but it now attracts global artists as diverse as the late Cuban crooner Olga Guillot to California rockers The Eels. Meanwhile, the programme has spread to various venues across the city with most performances shown in their original language with Catalan sub-titles / translations.
This year’s programme is based on the theme of ‘global passions’ built on a list of itineraries intended to enhance your experience: Melbourne to New York, Passions, In Company (poetry) and Summer Nights. First timers should make a beeline for anything shown at the amphitheatre, or, pack a picnic for the outdoor cinema projected onto the walls of the castle at Montjuïc.
Performance Highlights (Grec Theatre):
26th & 27th June: San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet opens with renditions of pieces from Philip Glass to Gershwin. Digital light show by Alba G Corral. Entrance €15.
6th and 7th July: Canadian dance troop Ballet BC perform their work ‘To This Day’ to the guitar music of Jimi Hendrix. Entrance €15 - €30.
21st July: Matthew Herbert Brexit Big Band, accompanied by a 50-person choir, explores the shared history and culture of Britain and Europe. Entrance €15-€40.
24th July: Brazilian composer Toquinho joins forces with Silvia Pérez Cruz and Javier Colina in a fresh interpretation of Brazilian bossa nova greats. Entrance €15-€30.
29th July: Catalan composer Jordi Savall’s, The Routes of Slavery, is a poignant statement on one of history’s darkest moments. Entrance €20-€35.
Outdoor Film Highlights (Montjuïc Castle):
5th July: Goodfellas with live music from Alice and the Wonders. Entrance €6.50.
19th July: The Adventures of Pricilla Queen of the Desert with live music from Monique Makon and the Souls Titoo’s. Entrance €6.50.
31st July: Into the Wild with live music from Rita I Lucía. Entrance €6.50.