Visiting ‘Tablao Flamenco 1911’ in 2023 - Villa Rosa in Madrid
Such a joy it was to revisit the vibrant city of Madrid early this month. During my stay, Madrid happened to be hosting ‘Suma Flamenca’, a big annual flamenco festival involving internationally acclaimed artists including Eva Yerbabuena, Andrés Marín, etc, but unfortunately the event did not quite suit my schedule and location. Instead, I had a chance to experience a traditional ‘tablao flamenco’. My choice was Tablao Flamenco 1911, aka Villa Rosa, standing out as the oldest tablao not only in Madrid but also in the world.
The oldest tablao
Now described as ‘Cathedral of Flamenco’, Villa Rosa used to be an Andalusian tapas bar. The premises established a strong connection to flamenco when Don Antonio Chacón, a legendary cantaor from Jerez, was given a contract. Villa Rosa’s early days were celebrated with famous figures such as guitarist Ramón Montoya, singers La Niña de los Peines, Manuel Torre, Pepe Marchena, to name but a few.
After the decline of its form in the 1960s and 1970s, Villa Rosa reopened in the 1980s but as a nightclub. Flamenco returned to the house in 2002 but only for three days a week. Its rebirth as a fully dedicated flamenco tablao was in 2011 in the capable hands of a businessman Jesús Rodríguez Cerezal, who was also a huge flamenco aficionado. After the pandemic, Villa Rosa reopened again, sponsored by the famed bailaor Antonio Canales. It has been given a new name 'Tablao Flamenco 1911' to commemorate its founding year, honouring its status as the oldest tablao in the world.
Villa Rosa as of now
You can find the tablao as it is now in a corner of Plaza de Santa Ana, which is only 7-8 minutes walk from the famous flamenco school Amor de Dios. They now have four shows a day, and the ticket price starts from €39 for adults (I guess a drink is included because we were welcomed at the reception with free drinks). You can also add a plate of tapas from €16, which has a decent volume to serve as a light meal.
While waiting for the show of my purchase to start, I was fascinated by the beautiful interior decor and the atmosphere, which surely has the Arabic Andalusian style. In the waiting area, we could hear the live music and zapateado of the previous show from the performance hall.
The waiting area quickly filled up with the next customers including myself. As the previous show ended, we were ushered into the performance hall. The seating was designed to surround the raised stage and my seat was unfortunately side view, so I could not see the musicians’ faces.
The show was good but I could not find any credits of the artists of the night inside the venue. After the show, before the next group came in, I asked one of the staff directly about whom I had actually seen. Later, I found out that they put the artists of the night in their Instagram story…
Anyway, according to the staff I asked, one of the dancers who enchanted me most was Illeana Gómez. As soon as she stepped on the stage, you could feel her refined artistry and elegance by just watching how she walked and how she stretched her arms. While some dancers these days tend to carry out loud and fast footwork throughout a palo, which could be good enough to entertain tourists, her footwork was musical with controlled volume and accents. Her interpretation of Tarantos was sensual and profound. I would love to see her dancing again, if I have a chance.
The musicians were amazing too. Later I learned that they were David Jiménez and Ricardo Vázquez on guitar, El Cancu and Jacob Quirós for singing, Felipe Maya on percussion and Jesús Montoya on flute and saxophone. We were also fortunate to have the guest singer Laura Abadía giving out from her soul.
Tablao Flamenco 1911 is indeed one of the must-see flamenco venues in Madrid. Their unique history continues with the excellence of artists. I hope to be able to revisit this inspiring city again next year so that I can explore further the rich culture of flamenco in Madrid.
Tablao Flamenco 1911 (Villa Rosa)