Apply for 2024/2025 Season Tickets in Lisbon for the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Choir Series – Applications Only Accepted during the Last Week of May!

Written By Becky Gillespie

Last year, a friend of mine invited me to the Grand Auditorium of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon for the first time. I had been to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and knew the incredible story of Calouste Gulbenkian, the British-Armenian businessman who was once the richest man in the world and fled his home in Paris during World War II to spend the rest of his life in Lisbon. When Gulbenkian died in 1955, his will set up an international foundation in his name that would act so as to “benefit the whole of humanity.”  

It is through the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation that the Gulbenkian Orchestra was formed in 1962 and the Gulbenkian Choir was organized in 1964. The Gulbenkian Orchestra currently has 66 instrumentalists and plays with some of the most prestigious musicians in the world, while the Gulbenkian Choir presently has around 100 singers. When you attend concerts in the Grand Auditorium, you will have the privilege to see the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Choir perform along with the visiting national and international musicians.

I loved the experience of putting on a fancy dress, walking into the glorious Grand Auditorium of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and listening to some of most beautiful orchestral music ever composed. I loved staring out at the beautiful garden behind the stage and having a glass of wine during intermission. I loved gliding out into the evening with the harmonies still floating in my mind. And I couldn’t wait to go again. Today, I want to explain how you can have this experience too. 

Photo by Becky Gillespie

How can you apply for season tickets at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Grand Auditorium?

Season tickets for the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Choir series typically go on sale for the final six days of May each year. In 2023, these dates were May 26-31, 2023. The final deadline for the application last year was May 31, 2023 at 11:59 pm. At the time of this writing, the website to apply for season tickets has not yet been updated for 2024, but we believe that applications for 2024 will occur at a similar time this year.

To make a request for a “subscription” for the entire season, you must submit an online form. In order to do this, you will need to create a MyGulbenkian account. To do so, you simply need to include your email address and activate your account by clicking on the link in the first email that you receive. Once you create a MyGulbenkian account, you will receive updates about when season tickets will become available. Be sure to also keep checking the Gulbenkian website for updates in the first three weeks of May.

Finally, it is important to know that not all first-year applications for season tickets are accepted due to limited availability. Because of this, we advise you to try and apply as early as possible within the six-day window that the Gulbenkian is accepting applications for season tickets. If your season ticket application is not accepted, you can always buy individual tickets, which go on sale about three weeks after the season ticket deadline has passed.

If you do get accepted to purchase season tickets, congratulations! Multibanco/ATM reference numbers will be issued by email and text message, and you will need to pay within a 48-hour window in order to secure them. After the payment, tickets will be sent by registered mail to the the address given. You will be given the same seats for the entire season.

How much are season tickets to the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Choir?

Prices have not yet been announced for 2024/2025, but prices for the 2023/2024 season were 475€ for Zone 2, 420€ for Zones 1, 3, and 5, 385€ for Balcony, and 350€ for Zones 4 and 6. This includes 22 concerts for 1 person, and you can choose between the Afternoon Subscription with events at 7:00 pm and the Night Subscription with events at 8:00 pm.

Concerts for these subscriptions are usually held on Thursday evenings. These events start on time and you are not allowed to enter the Grand Auditorium once the doors are closed, unless otherwise indicated by the room attendants. If you are late, please be advised that you may have to sit in a different seat and will only be let in at an appropriate time in order not to disturb the concentration of the musicians.

Photo by Becky Gillespie

Are there any other packages available besides the season tickets?

There is also a Sunday subscription option that includes five concerts. You can choose between the Morning Subscription with events at 12:00 pm and the Afternoon Subscription with events at 4:00 pm. The Great Interpreters subscription includes six concerts on specific, pre-determined dates. Prices for the 2023/2024 season were 310€ for Zone 2, 265€ for Zones 1, 3, and 5, 215€ for Balcony, and 165€ for Zones 4 and 6. Other available subscriptions include the Piano Series (7 recitals), Met Opera Live in HD (includes 9 transmissions), Schubertiade (includes 4 concerts), World Music (includes 5 concerts), String Quartets Festival Pass (includes 6 recitals), and the Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas Pass (includes 2 recitals).  

What happens if I am not home when my tickets are sent by registered mail?

If you miss the delivery of your season tickets to your home address in Portugal, a non-delivery slip will be placed in your mailbox, and you will need to pick up your season tickets at your nearest post office. Alternatively, you can opt to have your tickets delivered by email, which is the option that we recommend.  

Once I secure season tickets, can I renew them for the next season?

Yes. Once you are approved and pay for your first series of season tickets, you will be approved automatically for the next season if you choose to renew. Only first-time applicants will only be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. So, make you sure you don’t delay if you are sure that you would like season tickets.

Where does the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Choir perform?

The Gulbenkian Orchestra and Choir perform all concerts in the Grand Auditorium of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation located on Avenida de Berna right next to the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.

What types of concerts are included in the concert series?

The 22-concert season ticket series include a wide range of classical music across different centuries and continents. You can hear Beethoven paired with Mendelssohn one week followed by Ravel, Benjamin, and Janáček the next. Many performances include renowned musicians from around the world including pianists, violinists, and sopranos. The Gulbenkian Choir often accompanies the orchestra with a varying number of members depending on the performance.

Photo by Becky Gillespie

How long does each performance last?

Concerts usually vary last between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours. Most, but not all, concerts have an intermission of around 10-15 minutes.

What facilities are available at the Grand Auditorium?

There is cloakroom that is free of charge in addition to a Foyer Bar that opens one hour before the performance and during the concert intermissions. Concertgoers can also enjoy a lovely terrace just off of the Foyer Bar. Do your best to get to the Foyer Bar as soon as intermission starts so you have time to order and finish your drink before the second part of the concert.

Having a wine during intermission at the Grand Auditorium, Photo by Becky Gillespie

What is the smoking policy of the Calouste Gulbenkian Grand Auditorium and Museum?

There is a strict no-smoking area inside the Grand Auditorium, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, and the Main Building? You will need to go onto the terrace to smoke.

How accessible is the Grand Auditorium for people with limited mobility?

The Grand Auditorium at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is well equipped for people with limited mobility. Not only does it have indoor and outdoor access ramps, but it also has public toilets adapted for wheelchairs and parking spots near the venue for people with mobility issues. Stairlifts and wheelchair lifts are also available.   

Final Thoughts

Much of Lisbon’s cultural scene is hidden behind closed doors unless you know where to look. When I first moved to Lisbon, I didn’t know where to see classical music or theater, let alone where I could find tickets.

It was easy to find new museums but harder to access the schedules for ballet and opera. While it is one of the most striking venues in the city for musical performance, and home to one of the world’s most important private art collections, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Museum, including its Orchestra and Choir, in Lisbon are still relatively unfamiliar to most tourists compared to Praça do Comércio, Belém, and Sintra.  Hopefully, this article will introduce you to an entire musical world amidst the stunning garden of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in the heart of Lisbon. Buy a pair of season tickets and treat your friends to an experience they won’t forget for 22 weeks a year.   

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