Dresden’s greatness as a city of the arts was very much the creation of two electors in the 18th century: Frederick Augustus I (‘the Strong’, 1694-1733) and his son Frederick Augustus II. (1733-1763). Though founded at the beginning of the thirteenth century, for its first five hundred years it was a minor city of little distinction. This despite having been selected as residence in 1485 by the branch of the dukes of Saxony that gained the electorate in 1547.
Augustus the Strong’s pillaging of the state treasury to feed his reckless extravagance was both symbol and to some extent the cause of his dismal record in most areas of statecraft, but his achievements as builder, patron and collector rank him among the most munificent of European rulers. Great architecture, a picture collection of legendary richness, magnificent accumulations of precious metalwork and ceramics (porcelain was manufactured here for the first time in Europe) and a glorious musical life transformed Dresden into one of the most admired and visited cities in Europe and a major destination on the Grand Tour.
If to a somewhat lesser degree, subsequent rulers of Saxony continued the tradition of cultural embellishment (and political ineptitude: they had a tiresome habit of joining the losing side). In the nineteenth century, ‘the Florence on the Elbe’ acquired buildings by Schinkel and Semper, and Weber and Wagner were directors of the opera house. In the twentieth century, Richard Strauss added to its illustrious musical history.
From early in the seventeenth century Dresden has been one of the most important operatic centres north of the Alps. Performing in the magnificent 19th-century theatre designed by Gottfried Semper, the modern company has built upon the long-standing tradition of high standards of musicianship and visually exciting (if not avant-garde) productions to ensure a consistently high standard of performance.
Fly at c. 10.15am from London Heathrow Airport (British Airways) to Berlin. Dinner in the hotel upon arrival.
Dresden. Visit the Albertinum, reopened in 2010 after extensive renovations and home to the New Masters Gallery. Afternoon visit to the great domed Frauenkirche, whose restoration is now complete. Some free time before an evening lecture, followed by dinner.
Meissen, Dresden. Drive downstream to Meissen, ancient capital of Dukes of Saxony and location of the discovery of hard-paste porcelain. The largely 15th-century hilltop castle overlooking the Elbe, the Albrechtsburg, is one of the first to be more residential than defensive, and within the complex is a fine Gothic cathedral. Evening performance at the Semperoper: La Bohème (Puccini): Daniele Callegari (conductor), Angela Gheorghiu (Mimì), Elena Gorshunova (Musetta), Stephen Costello (Rodolfo), Sebastian Wartig (Marcello), Jiří Rajniš (Schaunard), Tilmann Rönnebeck (Colline), Hans-Joachim Ketelsen (Benoît), Bernd Zettisch (Alcindoro).
Leipzig. A morning lecture is followed by an all-day excursion to Leipzig. A large market place lies at the heart of this ancient trading city, with the Renaissance arcaded Old Town Hall along one side. Around is a network of alleys, courtyards and arcades, and the former stock exchange. Visit the Grassi Museum of Musical Instruments, one of the most important of its kind in the world, before a walking tour of the most significant of Leipzig’s monuments. there is also an opportunity to visit the Bach Museum. Early evening concert at the Nikolaikirche: J.S. Bach, Christmas Oratorio, (parts 1, & 4–6) with Leipzig Festival Orchestra, Nikolaikirche Bach Choir, Jürgen Wolf (conductor), Taryn Knerr (soprano), Alexandra Röseler (alto), Tobias Hunger (tenor), Gun-Wok Lee (bass). Dinner in Leipzig before returning to Dresden.
Day 5 (Christmas Eve)
Dresden. Morning visit of the Residenzschloss to see the wonderful Green Vault and its contents, one of the world’s finest princely treasuries, once again displayed in their original venue. Free afternoon.
Day 6 (Christmas Day)
Dresden. In the morning visit the Zwinger, a unique Baroque confection, a pleasure palace, arena for festivities and museum for cherished collections. See the porcelain collection and the Old Masters Gallery, one of the finest collections in Europe, particularly strong on Italian and Netherlandish painting. Free afternoon before an evening concert at the Frauenkirche with the Frauenkirche Dresden Ensemble, Samuel Kummer (organ): J.S. Bach, “Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt” (BWV 151), Pastorella in F (BWV 590), Toccata and Fugue in E (BWV 566).
Dresden. A guided walk through the Neustadt district of Dresden, including the Dreikönigskirche (Church of the Three Kings) as well as the opportunity to visit the Kügelgenhaus, the Museum of Dresden Romanticism. Evening opera at the Semperoper: Hansel and Gretel (Engelbert Humperdinck), Asher Fisch (conductor), Christina Bock (Hänsel), Iulia Maria Dan (Gretel), Markus Marquardt (Peter), Christa Mayer (Gertrud), Evelyn Herlitzius (witch).
Fly from Berlin to London Heathrow airport, arriving c. 5.30pm.
Specialist in architectural history from the Baroque to the 20th century with a wide knowledge of the performing arts. He graduated in Psychology and Art History from Carleton College, Minnesota and studied at the Louvre School of Art History in Paris. Since 1987 he has lived in Berlin and has organised and led many academic tours in Germany. Tom has a particular interest in the German and American architectural and artistic modern including the Bauhaus and Expressionism.
Professor John Holloway
Leader of the Kent Opera Orchestra in the 1970s, and of Roger Norrington’s London Classical Players and Andrew Parrot’s Taverner Players from 1977 until 1992. As a soloist and chamber musician he has a sizeable discography, winning a Gramophone Award, two Danish Grammys, a Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, and a MIDEM Award. He was Professor for Violin and Chamber Music at the University of Music in Dresden from 1999 to 2014. John has given innumerable lecture-recitals, including for the European String Teachers Association, in English and German. In 2004 he was Regents’ Lecturer at UC Berkeley, USA.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £3,170 or £3,040 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,510 or £3,380 without flights.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus 320); travel by private coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 6 dinners with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Tickets (top category) for 4 performances are included costing c. £250.
Taschenbergpalais, Dresden. a 5-star hotel in the heart of the Old Town, 2 minutes’ walk from the Semperoper and the Zwinger. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
Vehicular access is restricted in the city centre. Participants are expected to walk to the concert venues and there is a substantial amount of walking and standing around in art galleries and museums. Average distance by coach per day: 45 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Combine this tour with
Music in Berlin at New Year (27 December 2018–2 January 2019).