Madrid flamenco can be enjoyed in numerous places throughout the city. Even though the history of this traditional music form originated in the Andalusia region of southern Spain (especially around Seville), many of the flamenco shows in Madrid are among the best in the world. It is performed in the fine theaters of the city, in smoky bars, and public parks.
The Spanish people are passionate about this form of music and dance, which has its roots in the Romani or Rom (Gypsy) culture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and you will find that it is a common form of entertainment on the city’s nightlife scene. Some of the best flamenco in Madrid is impromptu. A particularly talented couple of dancers and a good guitar player are apt to break into music in the street during a wedding celebration or at other events. There are flamenco competitions in prisons and schools. Flamenco shows in Madrid are as popular as the legendary samba in Brazil and sultry tango in Argentina. The best flamenco artists are national celebrities and treated like movie stars. Almost every fiesta or festival will include some form of flamenco.
Madrid flamenco follows the same pattern of the art form that is found all over the country. There are three elements, Singing (el cante) is the oldest element, and the songs are haunting expressions of the plight of the Romani people who have been persecuted and marginalized for centuries, beginning in Moldavia and Wallachia in the fourteenth century, during the Nazi Holocaust of World II, and including forced sterilization in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) as recently as the 1970s. Originally, the trademark hand clapping was the only music that accompanied the singing. Dancing (el baile) and guitar playing (el toque) came later, and the best flamenco in Madrid integrated all three musical disciplines that were often performed in cafes cantantes (literally meaning cafes for singing).
Today, these cafes cantantes are referred to as tablaos, and Madrid flamenco is performed in most of them. Tablaos are generally smaller and more intimate than the larger night clubs offering flamenco shows in Madrid primarily for tourists on packaged vacations and tours. Even some of the larger tapas bars will have performances, but whereas tapas bars offer appetizers, tablaos offer a full dining experience.
Some of the best flamenco in Madrid can be found in the world famous Corral de la Moreira, in continuous operation by the same family since 1956. It is located next to the magnificent Palacio Real (Royal Palace). The finest flamenco artists in the world perform here, and you are apt to see jet set billionaires, Hollywood glitterati, and political dignitaries from the King of Spain to the Queen of England. The food is gourmet and traditional, and the show is excellent. Dinner and entertainment in this tablao and some of the similar ones in the heart of city does not come cheap. Cost is about the same as dinner and a Broadway show in New York City. You can find less expensive flamenco shows, and you don’t always sacrifice talent. Some of the smaller tablaos are where the mega stars got their start, and you may be lucky enough to enjoy the performance of a future virtuoso.