Madrid has a number of theaters, opera companies, and dance companies. To discover where and when specific cultural events are being performed, pick up a copy of Guía del Ocio at any city newsstand. The sheer volume of cultural offerings can be staggering. Below is a concise summary of the highlights.
Tickets to dramatic and musical events usually range in price from 7€ to 70€, with discounts of up to 50% granted on certain days of the week (usually Wed and matinees on Sun).
Concierges at most major hotels can usually get you tickets, if you are clear about your wishes and needs. They charge a considerable markup, part of which is passed along to whichever agency originally booked the tickets. You'll save money if you go directly to the box office. In the event your choice is sold out, you may be able to get tickets (with a reasonable markup) at Localidades Galicia at Plaza del Carmen 1 (tel. 91-531-27-32; Metro: Sol). This agency also markets tickets to sporting events and bullfights (check out www.bullfightticketsmadrid.com). It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30am to 1:30pm and 4:30 to 7:30pm, Sunday from 9:30am to 1:30pm. Otherwise, try www.entradas.com (tel. 90-248-84-88), a 24-hour ticketing service (AE, MC, V are all accepted).
The earliest record of a theater in Madrid is the Corral de Príncipe, an open-air venue that began staging plays in Plaza Santa Ana in 1583. More than 400 years later, the neighborhood remains a hub of theatrical activity, with five historic theaters in the vicinity. Performances are in Spanish, of course, but musical theater in particular can be enjoyed without a perfect grasp of the language.
Teatro Calderón--Madrid’s largest theater holds more than 1,000 in its plush red seats and ornate boxes. During its 100 years it has staged everything from flamenco to opera, but following a takeover and refurbishment in 2015, it now focuses on blockbuster international shows like STOMP. Calle Atocha, 18. www.teatrocalderon.es; tel. 91-429-40-85. Tickets 30€ –70€.
Teatro Español--This exquisite 19th-century theater on Plaza Santa Ana presents live Spanish theater and music performances from jazz to classical. Medallions on the façade depict the pantheon of Spanish playwrights, from Calderón de la Barca to Federico García Lorca. Calle Principe, 25. www.teatroespanol.es; tel. 91-360-14-84. Most tickets 15€–30€.
Teatro de la Zarzuela--If you’re curious about Spain’s equivalent of Broadway musicals, this theater is the principal venue for the art form known as zarzuela. It mixes sketch theater, opera, popular song, and spoken narrative. Hard to follow in detail, but entertaining nonetheless. Restricted view seats can be had for as little as 5€. Calle Jovellanos, 4. teatrodelazarzuela.mcu.es; tel. 91-050-52-82. Tickets 5€–50€.
Teatro Monumental--This former 1920s cinema is home to the Orquesta Sinfónica de Radio Televisión Española. The RTVE orchestra plays a series of broadcast classical concerts from September through June, and the acoustics, as well as the space, are monumental. Calle Atocha, 65. www.rtve.es/orquesta-coro; tel. 91-429-81-19. Tickets 10€–25€.
Teatro Nuevo Apolo--Formerly the home of the renowned Antología de la Zarzuela company, the Apolo began staging musical variety in the 1930s, but these days focuses on mainstream Spanish and international entertainment shows. Plaza de Tirso de Molina. 1. www.summummusic.com; tel. 91-369-06-37. Tickets 25€–60€.
Major Performing-Arts Companies
Those who speak Spanish should check out the Compañía Nacional de Nuevas Tendencias Escénicas, an avant-garde troupe that performs new and often controversial works by undiscovered writers. On the other hand, the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico, as its name suggests, is devoted to the Spanish classics, including works by the ever-popular Lope de Vega and Tirso de Molina.
Among dance companies, the national ballet of Spain -- devoted exclusively to Spanish dance -- is the Ballet Nacional de España. Their performances are always well attended. The national lyrical ballet company is the Ballet Lírico Nacional.
World-renowned flamenco sensation Antonio Canales and his troupe, Ballet Flamenco Antonio Canales, offer spirited high-energy performances. Productions are centered on Canales's impassioned Torero, his interpretation of a bullfighter and the physical and emotional struggles within the man. For tickets and information, you can call Madrid's most comprehensive ticket agency, the previously recommended Localidades Galicia for tickets to cultural events and virtually any other event in Castile. Other agencies with satellite offices located throughout Madrid include Casa de Catalunya (tel. 91-538-33-00) and Corte Inglés (tel. 91-432-93-00; www.elcorteingles.es/entradas).
Madrid's opera company is the Teatro de la Opera, and its symphony orchestra is the outstanding Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid. The national orchestra of Spain -- widely acclaimed on the continent -- is the Orquesta Nacional de España, which pays particular homage to Spanish composers.
Classical Music Performance Halls
Check the program of Fundación Juan March, Calle Castello 77 (tel. 91-435-42-40; www.march.es. Metro: Núñez de Balboa). Tapping into funds bequeathed by a generous financier (Sr. Juan March), it stages free concerts of Spanish and international classical music in a concert hall at its headquarters at Calle Castello 77. In most cases, these are 90-minute events, presented every Monday and Saturday at noon, and every Wednesday at 7:30pm.
Madrid offers many different theater performances, useful to you only if you are fluent in Spanish. If you aren't, check the Guía del Ocio for performances by English-speaking companies on tour from Britain, or select a concert or subtitled movie instead.
Madrid has at least 30 other theaters, including one devoted almost entirely to children's plays at the Ciudad de los Niños, which was moved from its former location in the Casa de Campo to the Retiro Park in 2009. Amateur groups stage dozens of other plays in such places as churches.
Madrid offers a modest but fascinating choice of imaginative and original "alternative" shows -- ranging from sharp satires to esoteric sketches. Unlike the more accessible mainstream theater, where you can usually get by without a full command of Spanish, knowledge of the language and thought processes is essential if you decide on a visit to one of these venues.
The Madrid Players, with their combined troupe of American, English, and Spanish artists, put on spirited performances throughout the year in a range of venues. A standout is the Christmas Pantomime, for children of all ages, but they also do plays and musical shows, occasionally in alternative theaters such as the Sala Triángulo. Tickets range from 12€ to 16€. For details of performances and venues, call tel. 91-445-36-00 or 91-530-68-91. Also check www.madridplayers.org.
French, German, Italian, and Brazilian cultural centers have regular V.O. (versión original) performances of their countries' movies, and the Casa de América, Paseo de Recoletos 2, often features offbeat Latin American films in Spanish or Portuguese.
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.