The National Arts Centre in Ottawa lit up at night.

National Arts Centre | Ottawa Tourism

Opera, ballet and symphony in Ottawa

The National Arts Centre in Ottawa lit up at night.

National Arts Centre | Ottawa Tourism

In addition, you’ll discover vivid live theatre, diverse crowd-pleasing festivals and unforgettable live performances of all genres. As you plan your visit, consider attending an opera, symphony or ballet in Ottawa, the elegant theatres and stunning stage presentation add to the magical experience.

When to see operas, ballets and orchestras in Ottawa

The opera, ballet and symphony seasons typically run from early fall to the spring, though you should check each individual venue regularly to see when they announce their next lineup of performances.

Ottawa’s performing arts centre

National Arts Centre

The National Art Centre (NAC) in Ottawa is North America’s only multidisciplinary, bilingual performing arts centre. It was first unveiled to the world in 1969 in recognition of Canada’s Centennial.

The NAC provides Canada’s young and emerging artists with coaching and development to advance to the next step of their career and sets the stage to showcase their enormous talent.

Watch spectacular executions of classical shows such as Cinderella or The Marriage of Figaro opera. You can also catch fun, modern shows like The Best of Broadway, where you’ll hear the top songs from some of the best Broadway musicals.

NAC is also the prime Ottawa venue where many well-known touring companies perform. NAC has been the main stage of local talents like the Ottawa Choral Society and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO).

Ticket information: Visit their website to read information about National Arts Centre Ottawa events, future performances and programming. You can buy tickets for performances online through the NAC website, over the phone or at the in-person box office.

Location: 1 Elgin Street, Ottawa

Ballet, opera, orchestra and performing companies

Discover mesmerizing and spell bounding live performances in Ottawa from artistic talent.

National Arts Centre Orchestra

When the National Art Centre (NAC) was created in 1969, the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NAC Orchestra or NACO) was established as NAC’s resident orchestra.

NAC Orchestra has a variety of curated concert series that will appeal to a wide range of tastes and interests. KinderNACO showcases music to children from ages three to eight in an interactive and entertaining way. All-star lineups feature guest conductors and soloists, musicians, special Sunday afternoon performances and more.

Like the NAC, NACO showcases classical performances such as Schumann’s Cello Concerto and the Don Giovanni Mozart opera. Kids will love the Spooky Symphony, a family-friendly night of Halloween-themed orchestral tunes.

Ticket information: You can get tickets through the NACO website, over the phone or at the box office.

Location: 1 Elgin Street, Ottawa

University of Ottawa Opera Company

University of Ottawa’s acclaimed music program has generated brilliant talent and houses a lovely venue to showcase up-and-coming musical artists.

A diverse range of classical operas have been performed here, including Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Le Nozze de Figaro. With affordable ticket prices, this is a great opportunity to dive into the operatic experience at one of the best places for opera in Ottawa.

Ticket information: Buy tickets through Eventbrite by finding the opera you want to attend on the University of Ottawa’s website and clicking the ticket link beside the event. Some operas do not require tickets and you’ll instead need to pay a small admission fee at the door when you arrive.

Location: Various buildings on the University of Ottawa campus

Ottawa Symphony Orchestra

If you enjoy 19th and 20th-century classic symphonies on a large scale, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (OSO) will not disappoint.

The monumental sounds are delivered to you from a large ensemble. OSO is a community-based professional orchestra in Ottawa that consists of skilled and emerging musicians, including students from university music programs. They are accompanied by a talented local soloist.

OSO has a strong commitment to the Ottawa community and features works of Canadian composers in its performances. The OSO performances are at Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, the historical church that was acquired by Carleton University and converted into an intimate performing arts space with excellent acoustics.

Ticket information: Find performance tickets on the online event page, by phone or at the door between 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on the day of the show. You’ll enjoy special discounted tickets if you’re a student, under 12 years old or an accompanying caregiver to someone who needs support. Check the website for the discount codes.

Location: 4 Florence Street, Suite 202, Ottawa

Ottawa Pops Orchestra

Newcomers to the symphony can ease into discovering the classics through the entertaining programming of Ottawa Pops Orchestra.

Founded by young musicians with an appreciation of light-hearted entertainment, Ottawa Pops Symphony is a community-based orchestra that combines classical music with pop culture favourites. Past performances have included Harry Potter, Star Wars, Disney classics and video game-themed programs. Don’t be surprised to see attendees dressed as Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter, since the audience is encouraged to dress up in costumes.

There are also some entertaining kid-friendly activities before the show starts, so it’s worth attending early if you’re bringing your little ones.

Ticket information: You can buy tickets for these entertaining symphonies online through the associated event page.

Location: Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre at 355 Cooper Street, Ottawa (and other venues in the region)

Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy

Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy (OYOA) provides musical education and performance opportunities to children as young as preschoolers.

OYOA has two orchestras: The Ottawa Youth Concert Orchestra and The Ottawa Youth Symphony Orchestra. The Ottawa Youth Concert Orchestra features 70 musicians that range from ages 11 to 16 with advanced orchestral skills. The Ottawa Youth Symphony Orchestra is composed of the academy’s most experienced talent.

Both orchestras are given the opportunity to perform a unique selection of songs in front of an audience. They showcase their hard work in at least three public concerts every year.

Ticket information: Tickets are available for purchase online or at the door.

Location: 2450 Lancaster Road #38, Ottawa

Les Petits Ballets

Ballet enthusiasts will enjoy watching performances by the Les Petits Ballets academy, one of the top places for ballet in Ottawa.

Founded in 1976, the school has been training dancers of all ages and abilities in the elegant Russian Vaganova method.

Performances are vital to the education of students, so the school regularly holds recitals by their Les Petits Ballets performing company. These talented dancers have performed a wide array of classical ballet shows over the years, such as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Coppélia. They’ve also performed contemporary ballet like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.

Ticket information: Get tickets for Les Petits Ballets’ shows through its website or by calling the box office.

Location: 35 Stafford Road, Nepean

Tips and etiquette

If you are attending the opera, ballet or symphony for the first time, here are some tips:

  • Attend popular shows: Start your cultural journey attending well-known performances, such as a ballet performance of the Nutcracker or the operatic masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro. Get familiarized with classical music composers and attend the performance of that feature their work.
  • Research: Read the plot summaries or critical reviews on the Internet.  Learn about best practices when you attend a show to give you an idea what to expect. This should be fun. It does not need to feel like homework.
  • Arrive early: It’s a stress-free way to get acquainted with the setting of the venue of the performance. It’s also an opportunity to attend pre-show chats that explain the show that are sometimes offered.
  • Don’t worry about the dress code: For many, attending an opera, ballet or symphony is their favourite chance to dress up in their fanciest clothes for a lovely night out.  But you don’t need to stress over what to wear to the opera—many opera houses are fine with you wearing more casual attire, if that’s what you prefer.

The National Arts Centre has even more great tips for first timers to symphony orchestras.

Last updated: April 9, 2024

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