Very few theatres survive unchanged from the eighteenth century. Only the Drottningholm Court Theatre survives without having needed modern restoration or refurbishment, with the original stage machinery and scenery intact, and as home of a living operatic tradition of international renown.
Built in 1766 for Queen Louisa Ulrika of Sweden as part of a marvellous ensemble of palace, park and lake outside Stockholm, the theatre enjoyed its heyday during the reign of her son Gustav III. But after his death in 1792, it ceased to be used and was virtually forgotten for over a century. Performances recommenced in 1922, and subsequently an annual festival developed which specialises, appropriately enough, in Baroque and Classical repertoire. The performance for 2019 is Handel’s Ariodante.
Drottningholm is not the only eighteenth-century theatre in Stockholm’s watery environs. Confidencen, the theatre built in 1752 at Ulriksdal, is also part of a palace complex in a beautiful lakeside setting and, again like Drottningholm, a long period of neglect preceded its revival. But the festival here is of much more recent origin and as yet is little known outside Sweden. Artistically, it has to be said, it sets its sights lower, but productions have become increasingly accomplished. Handel’s Acis and Galatea is on in 2019, performed by candlelight with Baroque instruments, costumes and machinery.
The tour is based in Stockholm, a city with many architectural and artistic riches spread across the archipelago where the waters of Lake Mäleren meet the Baltic. There is quite a lot of free time to explore the city independently.
Stockholm. Fly at c. 9.30am from London Gatwick to Stockholm (Norwegian Air). Drive to the Ulriksdal Palace, built in the 17th century on the banks of the Edsviken in Solna as a country retreat. There is time to settle into the hotel before an introductory talk and dinner.
Drottningholm. After a morning lecture, travel by boat from the centre of Stockholm to Drottningholm Palace, summer residence of the Swedish royal family since the 17th century; splendid interiors, wonderful gardens, landscaped park, exquisite Chinoiserie pavilion and theatre museum. Late afternoon performance at Drottningholm Slottsteater: Ariodante (Handel). Ian Page (conductor), Johannes Weisser (Rè di Scozia), Roberta Mameli (Ginevra), Francesca Aspromonte (Dalinda), Ann Hallenberg (Ariodante) Martin Vanberg (Lurcanio), Christophe Dumaux (Polinesso).
Stockholm. A morning lecture, followed by a guided tour of the old town centre. Free afternoon; recommended is the spectacular display of prehistoric gold artefacts at the Museum of Antiquities and the Museum of Modern Art. Late afternoon opera at Confidencen Theatre: Acis and Galatea (Handel). Olof Boman (conductor), Ylva Stenberg (Galatea), Hyojong Kim (Acis), Staffan Liljas (Polyphemus), Jihan Shin (Damon).
Stockholm. Free morning or an optional visit to the museum of the Wasa, the royal flagship which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Fly to London Gatwick, arriving at c. 7.00pm.
Dr David Vickers
Author, journalist, broadcaster and lecturer, he works as a consultant for many international Baroque music organisations and teaches at the Royal Northern College of Music. He is co-editor of The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia, is preparing new editions of several of Handel’s music dramas and is a critic for Gramophone and BBC Radio 3. He also writes essays for record labels including BIS, Chandos, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI and Harmonia Mundi.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,130 or £1,980 without flights. Single occupancy: 2,410 or £2,260 without flights.
Tickets for two operas; air travel (economy class) with Norwegian Air (aircraft: Boeing 738); coach or boat for excursions as specified in the itinerary; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts and three dinners with wine, water and coffee; admission to museums visited with the group; all gratuities for restaurant staff and drivers; all state and airport taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Hilton Stockholm Slussen: 4-star hotel situated on the waterfront of the Södermalm district of Stockholm, a short walk to the old town of Gamla Stan. Rooms have a view over the lake and the old town.
This is a short tour with a fair amount of free time. Nevertheless participants need to be fit enough to navigate the city centre and parks on foot and to cope easily with stair climbing. Average distance by coach per day: 12 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.fco.gov.uk.
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