Rio has a celebrated music scene, with enchanting settings to catch live performances, from cutting-edge concert halls to small and intimate neighborhood venues. Dance, theater, classical concerts and opera also have their small but loyal local following, while cinema is an even bigger deal – Rio is one of the leading film centers in Latin America.

Live Music

In addition to samba, Rio is a showcase for jazz, bossa nova, Música Popular Brasileira (MPB), rock, hip-hop and fusions of these styles. Brazil's many regional styles – forró (traditional Brazilian music from the Northeast), chorinho (romantic, intimate samba) and pagode (relaxed and rhythmic samba) – are also a part of the music scene.

Venues range from modern concert halls seating thousands to intimate samba clubs in edgy neighborhoods. Antiquated colonial mansions, outdoor parks overlooking the city, old-school bars, crumbling buildings on the edge of town and hypermodern lounges facing the ocean are all part of the mix. Rio has a few large concert halls that attract Brazilian stars such as Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento, as well as well-known international bands visiting Rio on world tours.

Major music festivals include the Rio Music Conference (www.riomusicconference.com.br), held in the Marina da Glória. In addition to established venues, during the summer months concerts sometimes take place on the beaches of Copacabana, Botafogo, Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca.

Dance

Rio has produced a number of successful dance troupes, including the contemporary Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker, which spends much of its time touring abroad. One homegrown talent you might catch in town is the Cia de Dança Dani Lima, an avant-garde troupe that weaves provocative pieces together through dance and aerial gymnastics. Also keep an eye out for the Lapa-based Intrépida Trupe, whose talented acrobat-dancers bring surreal works to the stage.

There is no space dedicated solely to dance; performances can take place at many venues around the city.

Rio's biggest dance festival, Festival Panorama de Dança (www.panoramafestival.com), is held in November. For classical dance, try to see a production by the Ballet do Theatro Municipal, which puts on highly professional performances at Rio's most venerable theater.

Best Dance Venues

  • Ginga Tropical See an amazing range of folkloric dances from across Brazil.
  • Espaço SESC Wide-ranging cultural fare, with global dance groups and plenty of experimentation.

Theater

Brazil has a long history of theater. Literary greats from the 19th century, including the highly imaginative carioca (resident of Rio) Joaquim Machado de Assis, gave vision to the stage. Talents from the 20th century, such as the great Nelson Rodrigues and more recently Gerald Thomas, have kept the flame alive, and you may be able to catch some of their work on Rio's stages. There are more than two dozen theaters in town. Unfortunately, if you don't speak Portuguese, you won't get a lot out of an evening at the theater.

Classical Music

In the classical-music scene, Rio has several symphony orchestras, and irregular appearances are made by chamber groups and soloists. The best new venue is Barra da Tijuca's excellent Cidade das Artes, where the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra plays. Other first-rate places to catch a performance include the Sala Cecília Meireles, which has excellent acoustics, and the magnificent Theatro Municipal. You might also attend a performance at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil or the Fundação Eva Klabin, both of which host orchestral works periodically.

The biggest classical-music festival is Música no Museu, held in museums, churches and cultural centers around town.

Cinema

There's plenty of variety at Rio's many cinemas. The market here is remarkably open to foreign and independent films, documentaries and avant-garde cinema. This isn't to say that mainstream Hollywood films are in short supply. The latest American blockbusters get ample airtime at movie megaplexes, while cultural centers, museums and old one-screen theaters offer a more diverse repertoire. Films are shown in the original language with Portuguese subtitles. On weekends, popular shows often sell out, so buy your ticket early. Prices range from R$20 to R$34 per ticket, with cheaper matinee prices from Monday to Thursday and the highest prices (and longest lines) from Friday to Sunday.

The Rio film fest is one of the biggest in Latin America; more than 400 films representing 60 countries show at theaters all across Rio, and there are occasional screenings at the Marina da Glória and other open-air spots around town. In past years the two-week festival has attracted more than 300,000 attendees. It runs from the last week of September to the first week of October. Although there’s a wide variety of international fare screened here, the festival often sets the stage for the success of Brazilian films aimed at wide release. For more info, visit www.festivaldorio.com.br.

Music in the Museum

Classical-music lovers should try to attend a concert held during the ongoing Música No Museu. Held annually over a number of months this event features dozens of concerts (all free) each month, held at museums and cultural spaces around the city, including inside the Museu de Arte Moderna, Museu da República, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and Parque das Ruínas. Most concerts are held during the daytime (typically starting some time between noon and 3pm), making it an alternative to the beach if you need a break. Visit the website or pick up a brochure from any tourist office for the current schedule.

Need to Know

Tickets & Reservations

  • Tickets for Fun Sells tickets to big shows at Citibank Hall and Arena HSBC, both in Barra da Tijuca. Also sells through various stores in Rio including Lojas Saraiva, in Shopping Rio Sul.
  • Ingresso.com Sells tickets to various venues, including Theatro Municipal, Sala Cecília and Espaço Tom Jobim. Purchasing online or over the phone requires Portuguese, or you can buy from a distributor such as Lojas Americanas.

Listings

  • Rio Guia Oficial (www.rioguiaoficial.com.br) The city's tourism authority maintains up-to-date listings of major events.
  • Time Out (www.timeout.com.br/rio-de-janeiro) Maintains a weekly calendar of key concerts and events in Portuguese.
  • Rio Show (http://rioshow.oglobo.globo.com) Published inside the Friday edition of O Globo newspaper; has extensive listings in Portuguese.
  • Veja (http://veja.abril.com.br)The Rio insert included with this magazine, which comes out on Sundays, is a good (but Portuguese only) source of info.