How to prepare

Welcome to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Gulbenkian Music Season. If this is the first time you visit us, you may find these answers to some frequently asked questions helpful.


About the Music

The term “classical music” generally refers to music written to be performed by a group of musicians playing orchestral instruments: strings (such as violins and cellos), woodwinds (such as flutes and clarinets), brass (such as trumpets and horns), and percussion (such as timpani or the xylophone).

The two most common forms in orchestral music are the symphony and the concerto. A symphony is a large scale work interpreted by the entire orchestra, composed of two or more parts called “movements”.

A concerto is a work performed by the orchestra and a soloist, who play in dialogue with each other, and usually consists of three movements.

A movement is a section of a large scale work such as a symphony, a sonata or a concerto, and is usually characterised by contrasting variations in tempo, rhythm or character.

In a classical music concert there are small pauses of silence between each movement, during which the public does not applaud. The applause is kept for the end of the work, at the moment when the conductor indicates it has ended. You can find an indication of the number of movements in each work in the concert programme.

An orchestra consists of four sections or families of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. The instruments included in each section are as follows:

Strings: violins, violas, cellos, double basses
Woodwinds: flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, cor anglais
Brass: trumpets, trombones, horns, tubas
Percussion: timpani, harp, xylophone, etc.
Although it may vary according to the works to be performed or the conductor’s preference, the arrangement of the instruments is as follows:

The 60 or so instrumentalists of the Gulbenkian Orchestra are professional musicians who work and rehearse daily in the Grand Auditorium throughout the season (September to June), giving about 60 concerts a year. They also perform in free concerts in the city centre during the summer, and on national and international tours.

The concert program, available for free on the Foundation’s website a few days prior to the concerts, is an excellent guide, containing information on the composers and works that will be performed.
You can also attend the Pre-Concert Talks for free, which consists of a short session held one hour before the concert, with musical excerpts and commentaries on the works.

The Sunday Concerts, commentated in a relaxed atmosphere and designed to be enjoyed by the whole family, are another excellent opportunity to discover works, composers and performers.

The best place to obtain information about the Season is on our dedicated area on the website. You can also subscribe to our fortnightly E-News or consult our brochure, available for free at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. We are also available to answer any questions at our box office, by telephone (+351 217 823 700) or by email at [email protected].


Box Office Information

There are three ways to purchase your tickets or season tickets: online, in person or by post. Consult the information on our box office page.

No. After making a purchase on our website, you will receive an e-mail with your tickets attached, which you can print out or present at the entrance. In the same e-mail you will find a purchase reference number, which alternatively you can present at our box office.

No. In view of the current epidemic situation and the reduced capacity of the Grand Auditorium, in the 20/21 Season, discounts will not be available for the purchase of individual tickets, with the exception of family tickets for Sunday Concerts.

If you are interested in attending several performances, you may consider purchasing a season ticket or pass, which includes tickets for a number of performances of a particular cycle or theme. Otherwise, you can purchase single tickets for one or more concerts.

Subscribers are able to purchase tickets long before the general public, ensuring their preferred seats and benefiting from the associated discount.

Yes. If you cannot attend a performance, you can exchange your ticket for another of equal or higher price at our box office up to one hour before the performance starts. However, we do not make refunds.


Plan your visit

The vast majority of the Gulbenkian Music Season performances takes place in the Grand Auditorium in the Main Building of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Some concerts may take place outside the Foundation: in churches, theatres or in other venues in the city centre.

Yes. As a rule, Grand Auditorium doors open to the public 30 minutes before the start of the performance.

Always take into account the possibility of traffic delays, parking time and other unforseen events.

When the performance starts, entry into the Grand Auditorium is not allowed, unless otherwise indicated by the room assistants.

In order not to disturb the concentration of the musicians and the audience, as a rule, entry to the auditorium must be made between movements (parts or sections of the work) or at the end of a work. You may have to occupy a seat other than that stated on your ticket.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has a paid car park with around 200 parking slots, equipped with the Via Verde payment system. However, in the case of sold-out perfomances, it is common for it to be full. Alternatively you can use Parque Berna (underground) or the car park in Praça de Espanha.

Yes. The Main Building of the Gulbenkian Foundation is equipped to receive concertgoers with limited mobility, and has adapted equipment and facilities.

There is no special dress code. Some people regard a classical music concert as a special event and tend to dress up for the occasion. Others opt for a more casual style.

Yes. At all events at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, there is a free cloakroom service where you can leave bags, coats, umbrellas, musical instruments and large objects.

Yes. For one hour before the start of each concert, and during the interval, you can make use of the foyer bar, which offers a wide range of products and has a pleasant terrace in the garden.
On days of broadcasts from the Met Opera, you can buy a cocktail ticket, which includes a selection of drinks and aperitifs at your discretion.


About the Concerts

A new experience.

It is important to free yourself of preconceived ideas about the formality or atmosphere of a classical music concert, which nowadays is relaxed and informal.

You do not need any previous musical background to attend a concert and it is likely that you will recognise parts of some symphonies, concertos or choral works. Music written by great composers is often used in film soundtracks, television programmes and advertisements.

At the heart of every Gulbenkian Music season are the Gulbenkian Choir and Orchestra, two of the most prestigious ensembles in Portugal and Europe. The Grand Auditorium is a hall with a unique acoustic quality that makes the experience of listening live to some of the greatest names in classical music today an unforgettable experience.

No, the music speaks for itself. It is not necessary to be an expert to be able to appreciate any musical genre.

One of the greatest pleasures of attending a live concert is the possibility of coming into contact with a work for the first time, attending a great performance, or rediscovering a piece.

To enrich the concert experience, some regular concertgoers find some pre-concert preparation useful.
This can be something as simple as reading the concert programme, or something more engaging like listening to a recording of the works that are to be performed or attending the Pre-Concert Talks.

The concert programme can be downloaded for free on our website a few days before the concert on the page of each concert. On the day of the concert you can also obtain a copy at the box office.

No. You can take photos without flash inside the auditorium only until the start of the concert, after which no unauthorised sound or image recording is allowed.

Moments before the concert begins, and after all the members of the orchestra are seated on stage, the audience applauds the entrance of the Concertmaster – the violinist who sits in the first chair in the front row of the orchestra, next to the conductor. After the orchestra has tuned up, the audience applauds the entrance of the conductor, who may be accompanied by the soloist(s). After the concert starts, the audience only applauds at the end of each work. Some longer pieces may have several sections or movements, separated by a brief pause of silence, during which the audience does not applaud. You can find an indication of the number of movements in each work in the concert programme.

Yes. If you need to leave the auditorium during the concert, you may only re-enter when indicated by the room attendants, between movements or at the end of a work. You may have to occupy a seat other than that stated on your ticket.

No. Although the use of mobile phones or tablets inside the auditorium is not explicitly prohibited (provided they are in silent mode), the light emitted by their screens can be extremely disturbing to the concentration of the audience or the musicians.

No. With the exception of water bottles, no food, drinks, coffee cups or glass objects are allowed inside the auditorium.

Yes, our performances are age rated for those over 6 years old, in accordance with the terms of Law 23/2014, Article 27, which covers all music, dance, sports and similar performances.

However, at our Sunday Concerts, which are aimed specifically at families, the minimum age is 3 years old.

The average length of a concert is about 2 hours, including an interval of 20 minutes. However, this can vary according to the nature of the concert and the repertoire to be performed. Some performances might not include an interval. You can find an indication of the length of the concert and of each work in the concert programme.

No. Unfortunately there are no waiting lists for sold out concerts. On the day of the concert you can check with our box office if there have been any cancellations.

Yes. Gulbenkian Music organises educational activities specially for schools and groups with special educational needs, as well as senior academies. 

Yes. Although there are no discounts for groups, music teachers and their students are welcome at all our performances, with students (up to the age of 30) entitled to a 50% discount.

We also offer a range of activities for schools, such as guided visits, workshop-visits and concerts for schools. You may also bring your students to one of our Sunday Concerts. 

Updated on 12 april 2021

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