Theatre, opera & ballet

Cultural offers in Spain

The vast majority of theatres in Spain are in Madrid and Barcelona, although there has been a huge theatre building programme throughout the country in the last decade and many smaller towns now have municipal-sponsored theatres ( teatros municipales) housed in cultural centres.

The main theatres in Madrid include the Teatro de Zarzuela, Teatro Español, Teatro de la Comedia, Centro Dramático Nacional, Teatro María Guerrero, Centro de Nueva Tendencias Escénicas, and the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico, a number of which are sponsored by the state or city. Spain has a long tradition of drama and a number of prolific playwrights such as Lope de Vega (who wrote or co-wrote almost 2,000 plays) and Tirso de Molina (who created Don Juan). Classical and contemporary Spanish and foreign plays are performed throughout Spain and experimental theatre is particularly popular in Catalonia.

There are often two performances in the same evening at 7 or 7.30pm and 10 or 10.30pm and ‘matinee’ (afternoon) performances on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, starting around 4.30pm. In summer, outdoor plays are performed in many cities, including free sponsored plays. There are also a number of English-language amateur dramatics’ groups in the major cities and resort towns, performing in local theatres and ‘supper theatre’ in restaurants.

Opera is popular in Spain which has produced some of the world’s leading performers, including Victoria de los Angeles, Teresa Berganza, Montserrat Caballé, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Alfredo Kraus. Regular performances are held in Madrid, Barcelona, Oviedo, Bilbao and other cities, although only Barcelona has a ‘proper’ opera house, the Gran Teatro del Liceu (1847), considered second worldwide only to La Scala in Milan. The season in Barcelona lasts from September to July.

Madrid’s Teatro Real was reopened as the Teatro de la Opera in 1992 and stages opera, orchestral music, ballet and Zarzuela (a form of light opera or comic operetta in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan). The National Ballet of Spain performs at the Teatro de la Zarzuela or the Teatro Monumental in Madrid, and the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid stages opera from January to July and ballet from December to January. Seville also has a concert hall ( Teatro de la Maestranza) with 1,800 seats and caters for classical music and opera.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: