Amsterdam's top orchestra is the famed Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) (tel. 02/305-1010; www.concertgebouworkest.nl), which performs mainly in the Concertgebouw, and gives occasional open-air concerts in the Vondelpark. The Concertgebouw Orchestra, under Latvian lead conductor Mariss Jansons, can produce any of the great classical works at the tap of a baton, yet is also willing to go out on a limb from time to time with modern and experimental pieces.
The city's other full orchestra, the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest (Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra) (tel. 02/521-7500; www.orkest.nl), fondly known as the NedPhO, isn't far behind its illustrious cousin, if behind at all. The NedPhO has found its niche in an adventurous repertoire, which includes opera collaborations. Its main Amsterdam concert venue is also the Concertgebouw, though it is based at the Beurs van Berlage, and it shows up regularly for opera in the Muziektheater.
Holland's other top orchestras, such as The Hague's Residentie Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic, as well as visiting orchestras from abroad, also appear regularly at Amsterdam venues.
When it comes to chamber music, the Nederlands Kamerorkest (Netherlands Chamber Orchestra) (tel. 02/521-7500; www.orkest.nl), the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra (tel. 035/692-6006; www.tonkoopman.nl), and the Orkest van de Achttiende Eeuw (Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century) (tel. 020/626-8236; www.orchestra18c.com) provide plenty of possibilities, often playing with authentic period instruments and ably supported by the Nederlands Kamerkoor (Netherlands Chamber Choir) (tel. 020/578-7978; www.nederlandskamerkoor.nl). You often hear these outfits in the Concertgebouw's Recital Hall, at the Beurs van Berlage, or in one of Amsterdam's historic churches.
Productions by De Nederlandse Opera (Netherlands Opera) (tel. 020/551-8922; www.dno.nl), under Pierre Audi's artistic direction, dominate the Muziektheater's schedule, and attract a devoted following.
The Dutch take pride in the international prestige of their major dance companies. Het Nationale Ballet (National Ballet) (tel. 020/551-8225; www.het-nationale-ballet.nl), based at the Muziektheater, has a repertoire of both classical and modern works, many by choreographers George Balanchine and Hans van Manen. The Nederlands Dans Theater (Netherlands Dance Theater) (tel. 070/880-0100; www.ndt.nl), choreographed by artistic director Jir[av]í Kylián, is based in The Hague but frequently comes to the Muziektheater. Both companies are usually accompanied by the specialized ballet and opera orchestra Holland Symfonia (tel. 088/796-3600; www.hollandsymfonia.com).
Amsterdammers speak English so well that Broadway and London roadshows and English-language touring companies sometimes make Amsterdam a stop on their European itineraries. However, many of Amsterdam's best theatergoing opportunities are more experimental and avant-garde, and most of these are in Dutch.
Major Concert Halls & Theaters
Some tickets for the Muziektheater and the Concertgebouw are eminently affordable. Experiencing the Netherlands Opera, National Ballet, or Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is well worth a bit of financial trimming in other departments.
Vondelpark Open-Air Theater -- From June to August, in the midst of peaceful, green Vondelpark, the open-air stage of the Vondelpark Openluchttheater (tel. 020/428-3360; www.openluchttheater.nl) comes to life for theater, all kinds of music (including concerts by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), dance, operetta, and more. The events are free, but reserving a seat costs 2.50€ per person. Bring a picnic and enjoy an enchanting evening under the stars.
Other Venues -- In addition to the major ones, there are plenty of other venues in Amsterdam. No fewer than 42 of the city's churches are equipped with organs, some of them historic works of art in their own right. Four churches in particular -- the Engelse Kerk, Begijnhof 48 (tel. 020/624-9665; www.ercadam.nl; tram: 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 14, 16, 24, or 25); Nieuwe Kerk, the Dam (tel. 020/626-8168; www.nieuwekerk.nl; tram: 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 14, 16, 17, 24, or 25); Oude Kerk, Oudekerksplein 23 (tel. 020/625-8284; www.oudekerk.nl; Metro: Nieuwmarkt); and Waalse Kerk, Walenpleintje 157 (tel. 020/623-2074; www.waalsekerk-amsterdam.nl; tram: 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, or 25) -- are regularly in use for baroque chamber music and organ recitals.
A place worth checking out for potential new talent is the city's music school, the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Oosterdokskade 151 (tel. 020/527-7550; www.conservatoriumvanamsterdam.nl; Metro: Centraal Station), which moved to a shiny new home on redeveloped Oosterdokseiland, just east of Centraal Station, in 2008.
Theaters, some of which occasionally feature performances in English, include De Balie, Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 10 (tel. 020/553-5100; www.debalie.nl; tram: 1, 2, 5, 7, or 10); Theater Bellevue, Leidsekade 90 (tel. 020/530-5301; www.theaterbellevue.nl; tram: 1, 2, 5, 7, or 10), which also hosts modern dance; Vlaams Cultuurhuis De Brakke Grond, Nes 43 (tel. 020/626-6866; www.brakkegrond.nl; tram: 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, or 25), which has mostly Flemish theater; Felix Meritis, Keizersgracht 324 (tel. 020/626-1311; www.felixmeritis.nl; tram: 1, 2, or 5); Frascati, Nes 63 (tel. 020/626-6866; www.theaterfrascati.nl; tram: 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, or 25), which focuses on modern theater; DeLaMar, Johannes Vermeerstraat 20 (tel. 0900/335-2627; www.delamar.nl; tram: 1, 2, 5, 7, or 10); and the Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek, Haarlemmerweg 8-10 (tel. 020/586-0710; www.westergasfabriek.com; tram: 10), a multipurpose arts complex in an old gas-works building.
There's no language barrier at Het Veem, Van Diemenstraat 410 (tel. 020/626-9291; hetveemtheater.nl; tram: 3), at Houtmankade. This converted warehouse way beyond Westerdok and the Western Islands hosts experimental dance, movement, and mime theater. It's great if you're keen on these, but the uninitiated may feel lost.
What to Wear
If you intend to go to the opera, a classical music concert, or the theater, don't worry about what to wear, since Amsterdam has a very informal dress code -- no code at all, really. Of course, you might want to dress up, and in fact many people do, but you're unlikely to be turned away for being improperly dressed.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.