The only good flamenco show is an impromptu flamenco show, say some flamenco aficionados. Unfortunately, most of us don’t normally hang around flamenco musicians and wait for them to break into song—hence the tablaos.
Tablaos are small cabarets that started cropping up around the 60s in Spain and are supposed to imitate the intimate setting of a spontaneous flamenco performance. Many renowned artists even have their roots in these tablaos. In Madrid, these establishments tend to cater to tourists which usually means more flash and less duende, the moment of artistic inspiration during a song often followed by enthusiastic olés. Happy tourists leave the tablao 30 euros lighter, satisfied they’ve checked that off the bucket list, but never knowing what they’ve missed—or just witnessed.
If you want to see a flamenco performance but don’t want to fall into a tourist trap, you’re in luck. Madrid has an amazing concert hall on Calle Príncipe de Vergara in the Prosperidad area.
My discovery of the Auditorio Nacional was serendipitous. I had just sat down in a new seat at my favorite café when I noticed a poster on the wall that was the Auditorio Nacional’s concert program. The “Andalucía Flamenca” concert series caught my eye because I had been wanting to see a flamenco show. I saw there was a concert that same evening, and it started in an hour. I took out my metro map, traced my route, and was out the door. Last minute youth tickets (<26) were still available so I bought one and sat down to watch “Guitarra Solo Dúo Flamenco.” The featured guitarist was Juan Manuel Cañizares, accompanied by Juan Carlos Gómez on second guitar. It was the best guitar concert of my life. After the show finished, I walked out of the hall in a daze, wondering how something like this could exist. I asked myself: “What exactly is this place?”
The Auditorio Nacional de Música is funded in part by Spain’s Ministry of Culture, which, fortunately, is persevering through the economic crisis. The complex has two main theatres, Sala Sinfónica and Sala Cámara. Orchestral concerts and more famous artists perform in the 2,000 seat Sala Sinfónica, while other concerts take place in the smaller Sala Cámara. Both halls are beautiful and have amazing sound.
The Auditorio Nacional has concerts almost daily, many of which are a part of a ciclo (concert series). The ciclos this year include Ciclo Andalucía Flamenca, Ciclo de Jazz, Ciclo Universo Barroco, and Ciclo de Britten Classics, among others.These concerts are very affordable, most with tickets available for well under 20 euros. And for the youth under 26, discounted tickets can be purchased one hour before select shows at the theatre’s box office (some concerts do sell out, so it is advisable to look online for ticket availability before showing up at the venue without a ticket). Each ciclo averages one concert a month. Abonos are available for the ciclos, so if you particularly fancy a concert lineup, you can purchase a ‘season pass’ to any ciclo at a discounted price.
Classical concerts compose a healthy percentage of the Auditorio’s performances, but even they vary greatly in content. The Spanish National Orchestra is a regular performer and these concerts are usually economically priced. Many world famous orchestras also visit Madrid, such as the London Philharmonic. These tickets, as you might expect, are expensive, but probably less so than in any other major European city. The concert programs range from Beethoven and Bach to world debuts of contemporary pieces.
Every concert I have attended at the Auditorio Nacional has been world class. The concerts that I find particularly moving, however, are the flamenco concerts.
The great thing about the Auditorio is, the flamenco artists are not performing for tourists and therefore arguably give more authentic and heartfelt performances than many tablao performances. Also, the concerts at the Auditorio Nacional are cheaper than tablaos and the artists are generally more well-known. What the Auditorio lacks in flamenco decor and ambiance, it makes up for with incredibly talented performers doing their best to make a symphony hall seem like a cave.
If you want to see a great concert, flamenco or otherwise, the Auditorio Nacional is a good bet. You can buy tickets online or in person, and it is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Image Credits: Olga Berrios