Music in Bogota



Bogota is Music!


Grand Salon - Teatro Colon    Photo: Mark Firth


Congratulations Bogota on your one-year anniversary as a UNESCO designated Creative City of Music!  In assessing Bogota’s candidature, the world body considered the city’s vast history of fostering all musical genres including opera, salsa, folk, rock, pop and hip-hop; the number of music festivals such as Rock al Parque, Festival Centro, Festival de Vallenato, the International Jazz Festival and Opera al Parque; and the amount of music schools, orchestras and associations throughout Bogota.  With this honor Bogota joins an elite group of cities comprised of Seville, Bologne, Glasgow and Gant that make up part of UNESCO Network of Creative Cities.

Launch of a Festival


To celebrate the milestone, Bogota has created the I Festival Internacional de Música de Bogotá "Bogotá es Beethoven” – the First International Music Festival of Bogota “Bogota is Beethoven.”  The Festival which seeks to create an inclusive space for all citizens around music, will be held on odd number years to alternate with the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota during Holy Week.  The baton will lift on the inaugural event on March 27 when Bogota will become a grand auditorium to showcase the masterful compositions of German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. 


Coordinated by the Teatro Mayor Santo Domingo, the Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Sport and the District Institute of Arts-IDARTES, the exciting programming includes 56 concerts performed by over 420 Colombian and international artists.  Concerts will be held in 12 different venues throughout the city, with the Teatro Mayor Santo Domingo being the coordinating body.  The last concert will bow at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 30.


To ensure access for all music lovers, ticket prices are being kept between $10,000 COP and $20,000 COP, with 14 open air concerts being performed for free.  Complete programming and venue information
can be found at:


Restoring a Jewel


Ceiling Detail - Teatro Colon                         Photo: Mark Firth


Centuries before any of the venues hosting the I Festival Internacional de Música de Bogotá were even conceived, the music of Beethoven may very well have been performed in the Jewel of South America – El Teatro Cristobal Colón, the oldest standing opera house in the hemisphere, pre-dating the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires by 13 years.  Designed by architect Pietro Cantini in true Baroque style, the Colón sits on a site destined to hold majestic theatres, having first been home to the Coliseo Ramirez (erected in 1793), and then the Teatro Maldonado (opened in 1871). 


When the Colón was officially inaugurated in 1895 with a sterling production of Verdi’s Hernani, Bogota’s high society entered an Italian-style masterpiece.  The design is made more significant given the challenge that Cantini was faced with: scaling down a typical proscenium theatre to fit the space.  His achievement was astounding and the Colón stands today as not only an invaluable part of Colombian patrimony, but as an international architectural treasure as well. 


With the passing centuries, the Colón has come to be known primarily for staging zarzuelas and opera, with occasional plays gracing the house.  The grand theatre has been closed for five years for a massive restoration.  Chosen to oversee this monumental by the Minister of Culture, Mariana Garcés, is Director Sylvia Ospina, who was formally the Director of the Metropolitan Theatre in Medellin and the Teatro Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in Bogotá.  The passion and enthusiasm that Ospina brings to the project is evident in her eyes and smile as she assesses the impressive work that has already been completed.  The furniture in the boxes has been given new upholstery, the ornate ornamentation throughout the theatre and in the sitting room has been cleaned and re-sculpted and the intricate molding has been given new life.  But, perhaps most impressive of all, is the meticulous restoration of the ceiling mural.  Even though it is obscured by a protective screen, the small details that can be seen are vibrant and thrilling.  Work is currently being done on a tapestry, an allegorical depiction of some of opera’s greatest characters that hangs above the stage, before the grand curtain. 


Ospina explained that not only is the theatre being renovated, additional properties have also been acquired with plans on creating a performing arts complex.  “We will maintain a high level of professional
programming,” explains Ospina. Directors will be required to submit proposals for consideration, and once approved, all of the production work such as costume design and set conception, will be done within the Colón.  When it is re-inaugurated with a gala celebration, projected for some time in 2014, the Colón will once again come alive with performances of opera, orchestras, plays and dance.  And Bogota’s musical legacy will play on well into the future.



See our article on the famous Colombian rock duo Aterciopelados


Without a doubt, the astonishing music scene in Bogota has blossomed to a point that few abroad could ever imagine.  Given the cultural vitality of Bogota, our readers should not be surprised to learn that Bogota now has one of the most vibrant and thriving music scenes in the world. 




In 2012, Bogota won the designated a World City of Creative Music by UNESCO, a distinction that only four other cities enjoy.


Classical Music: 


Bogota’s long history of music dates back to the 16th Century, a time which witnessed the vitality of Gregorian chants give way to world renowned classical music composers, of musica sacra as well as the more progressive styles.





Today, Bogota boasts several symphony orchestras, including:



Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá 


La Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional


Orquestra Sinfónica del Conservatorio de la Universidad Nacional de Bogota 


Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Batuta Bogotá  (all in all, over 40 orchestras have been set-up under this institution alone throughout Colombia)


Bogota’s opera house; el Teatro Cristobal Colon (which replaced the Teatro Maldonado), is most often referred to as “el Teatro Colon.”  It is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture and interior art inspired by Milan’s Teatro l’Scala and Paris’ Opera Garnier, complete with a grand Murano Crystal (Venetian) chandelier.


Though already functioning in 1892, the opera hall was officially inaugurated in 1895 with Giuseppe Verdi’s Hernani.  In the new world, the Teatro Colon opened its doors only nine years after New York’s Metropolitan Opera (Association), yet it is older than the Teatro Colon of Buenos Aires by 13 years, and older than the San Francisco Opera by nearly 30 years.


Dating back to 1874, Colombian composer Ernesto Ponce de León composed the nation’s first opera, Ester.  An highly successful opera during its Bogota premiere, it has been recently reintroduced in Paris and to the Colombian public.


It is important to note, that on a world in which classical music stations are fast disappearing, where now only very few cities in the world have at most one classical radio stations, Bogota has manatianded its high quality three radio stations dedicated to classical music, two of which are also transmitted throughout the world via live webcasts (and this does not include other classical radio stations in Colombia).  Only Paris ties Bogota with its three classical stations!


The radio stations are:


HJCK  89.9 FM

95.5  FM & 570 AM - Radiodifusora Nacional de Colombia

HJUT 106.9 - The University of Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano


Bogotanos and their international guests can also enjoy a season of Opera en el Parque or Opera in the Park every year completely free, along with an annual festival of Chamber music, the Festival de Música de Cámara.




Opera in Bogota has a tradition dating back to the mid 1700s, when theatre and opera presentations would be performed at the Coliseum, a central structure that was replaced by the Teatro Maldonado in 1871.  The Maldonado venue was one of the first true opera houses in the new world, and it was at this location where Bogota’s famed opera house, the Teatro de Cristobal Colon was eventually built in 1892, to commemorate the 400 years of Columbus’ discovery of America.


Today, Bogota offers several other notable venues for Opera performances, most notably one of the most modern, sate of the art opera houses in the world; the Jose Mario Santo Domingo theatre, and the Teatro Jorge Eliecer Gaitan.


While Bogota Brilliance will soon be revealing an in depth study of the current Opera scene in Bogota, we are happy to tell our readers that the city enjoys the talents of three Opera institutions (not including other performances that are often presented by other national and foreign Opera companies) :


1.   Opera de Colombia



2.    Mundo Lirico



3.   Opera Studio


Great Colombian Opera Singers such as Valeriano Lanchas have been performing on stages throughout the world for decades, and Bogota Brilliance will soon demonstrate why.





Coro de La Universidad de los Andes

Juventud Unida



Other Important choirs from Medellin –Both under the Direction of world renowned Cecilia Espinosa, often performing in Bogota: 

Arcadia –winner of best Chamber Choir in the World Choir

Competition  (Mundial Coral Loto – Québec, Canada)

Tonos Humanos. 




Ballet and Modern Dance



Ballet en el Parque, or Ballet in the Park is also offered annually throughout the city’s myriad of the city’s well tended parks.



Folkloric Music   –Coming soon. 



Folkloric Dance   –Coming soon. 





After Buenos Aires, the birthplace of Tango, Medellin (Colombia) and Bogota have the most Tango and Milonga venues in the world, along with the most dancers, some of whom have even captured top world competition honors.





Bogota has at least two major Jazz festivals per year;  Festival International de Jazz –which includes Jazz al Parque and Festival de Jazz de domingo.





Colombia is one of the first nations in the world to have also pioneered Rock and Roll.   Colombia’s first and widely acclaimed rock band, The Speakers, recorded their first album (in Colombia) as far back as 1964.


One of the crowning glories of Bogota’s cultural scene is the fact that Bogota hosts the largest free Rock Concert in the world every year called Rock en el Parque.


Aside from famous Colombian artists such as:  Shakira, Juanes, Cabas, Arteciopelados, Bomba Estereo, Pestilencia and Carlos Vives…


Here is a small Sampling of International Acts That Have Performed In Bogota:


Guns N Roses


Marilyn Manson

Placido Domingo

Depeche Mode


Il Divo

The Killers


Sarah Brightman

Calle 13

Juan Gabriel

Concha Buika


Franz Ferdinand 

Miguel Bose

Electro-acoustic Japanese composer Rioji Ikeda




Ozzy Osbourne


Given the location and fast-growing size of the Colombian capital, it should come as no surprise that the city has became a musical crossroads where Cumbia, Chamber Music, Salsa, Reggaeton, Opera, Hip-Hop, Vallenato, Classical, Bambuco and many other styles of music live and thrive.


While Bogota Brilliance is still preparing a more thorough presentation of this city’s incredible past, present and future music scene, we would like for our readers to know that Bogota has become one of the most important cities in the world for progressive music, where you will find hundreds of live music venues and a heavy metal scene like nowhere else.  Moreover, one of the most important Opera voice restorers and teachers in the world; maestro Gustavo Marquez, who is well familiar with the global condition of Opera and who is currently residing in New York City, also believes that the present and future excellence in the arts belongs to Bogota over any other city in the world, and he will soon be relocating to Bogota where he will found his conservatory, specializing in Bel-Canto.


Soon you will learn why the New York Times described Bogota’s nightlife as being “…red hot.”


For now, we invite you to see our listing of live music venues