Madrid is a lively centre for the Performing Arts, almost all of it will be in Spanish though, yet even people with a limited amount of Spanish will find something worth their trip. Above all, Spanish theatre provides amongst the cheapest seats in all of Europe! And you sample a lot of fashionable performance in Madrid at the moment.

If you’re looking for music there are plenty of concert halls and small venues playing from the usual pop stuff to the more local flavor of Singer-Song Writers and Flamenco sounds. A word of warning here, if you are new to Flamenco, it’s worth knowing that there is a light variety played predominantly for tourists, and a more ‘hard-core’ variety that maybe requires attuning your ear to its very harsh tonalities before you attempt it.

Of course, you might prefer to view the usual assortment of popular musicals that won’t stretch the imagination but can be fun to watch. Even better, how about an opera or even a ‘zarzuela’? Opera is generally staged at El Real , if you’re lucky you might be able to catch a performance by Plácido Domingo, but then you’ll need to be really lucky to get tickets! Tickets, which of course, will be more expensive. Nonetheless, El Real has a very good reputation for high quality productions and any Opera lover will want to visit it. However, you might prefer to see a local Zarzuela, a light operetta-type performance. They are short and sweet, usually lasting about 90 minutes, and they have an emphasis for local happy sounds and colors. They may not be as sophisticated as opera productions but they have a large following in Spain . They are staged at the Teatro de la Zarzuela and they exude very distinctive local sounds (using Spanish instrumentation and tonalities), which some visitors may find interesting.

The dance scene is well represented with a fine variety of examples: the classical version at El Real , and the more folkloric version at La Zarzuela . Meanwhile, contemporary dance can be seen at El Real but also at the smaller El canto de la cabra or La cuarta pared for a more trendy outlook. Perhaps, you may wish to see the Flamenco & Dance fusion that has made choreographer and performer Cortes so popular outside Spain . Check out listings for current shows.

The world of theatre is represented in a variety of forms. Spanish Classics (usually Golden Age 16th or 17th century drama) are performed year round by the Spanish Classical Theatre Company Teatro Clásico , at the Pavón Theatre (at least at the time of writing whilst their usual venue Teatro de la comedia is being refurbished). Modern Classics are staged by the National Theatre Company Centro Dramático Nacional (CDN) at their venues María Guerrero and Sala Princesa and Valle-Inclán.

Meanwhile, far more trendy places like Teatro Abadía combine a full repertoire of classics and contemporary writing. This is a favorite theatre in Madrid because the company always tries to bring a fresher look into theatre making and the results can be outstanding. But, if you’re in the mood for the alternative scene, there are plenty of good little venues, unpretentious and with very limited resources, that may surprise you, amongst them: Cuarta Pared – Pradillo – El canto de la cabra – Triángulo... Here, you may catch the latest experiment with theatrical form by Writer-Director Rodrigo García & La Carnicería Teatro or the collective Animalaria, amongst many other fine performers. Maybe not all the work presented in these smaller places will appeal to a wide audience, and quality is variable, but they’re worth considering.

The best way to find out about current listings , is to buy either a newspaper like El País or even better La guía del ocio , which contains a full weekly program with opening times and prices.

Booking tickets The information printed in the press will give a contact telephone number for a booking agency, usually these are run by two major Banks and a large department store El Corte Inglés (of course there is a small booking fee) . The operators will book tickets with major credit cards (but not all), and annoyingly, one of them will not accept credits cards issued outside Spain. They’ll only book one month in advance maximum. They also operate Internet bookings, ... it’s more convenient and you can easily search for your choice of show.

An easier and more comfortable alternative is to go straight to the theatre’s box office. Opening times are advertised and you can even go 1 hour before the performance and get tickets easily (unless, of course it’s a very successful play or a musical).

Now for the good news, the theatre is not expensive in Madrid . Even better, one day a week there is such a thing as ‘Spectator’s Day’ when all tickets are half price. These days vary according to each venue, but normally it’s either Wednesday or Thursday.

Most major theatres open between Tuesday and Sunday, and almost all of them close on Mondays, smaller venues may only open at weekends. Some will offer an earlier show on Sundays, not quite a matinee but the closest.

Overall the theatrical scene in Madrid is becoming increasingly vibrant, with international contributions enhancing the local product. Of course, it depends when you go whether you get lucky and see a good show or not...but they are very few failed attempts and the larger companies guarantee a high degree of customer satisfaction.