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Hamburg: Opera & 'Elphi' - Music, art & architecture in Germany’s oft-overlooked second city

The Hamburg Philharmonic play Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at the newly opened, much awaited Elbphilharmonie.

La Traviata (Verdi) and The Magic Flute (Mozart) at the Staatsoper Hamburg.

Based at an historic hotel, beautifully situated on the Aussenalster lake.

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Hamburg is a city of industry, of exchange, a Hanseatic powerhouse. Yet its position as a gateway between Germany and the rest of the world, alongside its financial success and prestige throughout much of German history, has made it a creative city, home to a rich musical and artistic heritage.

The first public opera house in Germany, the Oper am Gänsemarkt, was established in Hamburg in 1678. While the current theatre of the Staatsoper Hamburg reopened in 1955 after its destruction in 1943, the sense of continuing a long-standing tradition still remains.

Enter, then, the Elbphilharmonie – or ‘Elphi’ – an architectural, cultural and civic masterpiece by Herzog & de Meuron that dominates, and lifts, the city’s harbour and its image. Yes, it ran over budget and over schedule, but the fact remains that Hamburg believed in it and built it. Tickets are hard to come by.

Juxtaposition of the old and the new is a recurring theme here, and as the Hamburg Philharmonic plays Beethoven in a twenty-first-century hall designed with an acoustic almost ‘digital’ in its clarity, this coexistence and cooperation becomes undeniable.

Our tour includes a daily session of talks and discussions about the evening’s performance. There are guided walks and visits to a selection of Hamburg’s architecture and sites of musical heritage, but also plenty of free time for rest and preparation for the next event.

Day 1

Fly at c. 11.30am from London Heathrow to Hamburg (British Airways). Arrive at the hotel in time to settle in before dinner.


Day 2

A morning walk through the Speicherstadt, the old warehouse district and centre of Hamburg’s industrial past. Continue to HafenCity, the commercial and cultural development surrounding the harbour by the river Elbe. Free time before an afternoon talk, and dinner. Performance at the Elbphilharmonie with Kent Nagano (conductor), Genia Kühmeier (soprano), Tanja Ariane Baumgartner (alto), Christian Elsner (tenor), Tareq Nazmi (bass), the Berlin Radio Choir and the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra: Beethoven, Missa Solemnis in D, Op.123.


Day 3

Visit the Komponistenquartier, a charming row of small museums commemorating composers including Brahms, Mendelssohn, and Mahler. There is some free time before a late-afternoon talk and early dinner. Performance at the Staatsoper: La Traviata (Verdi): Giampaolo Bisanti (conductor), Christina Poulitsi (Violetta Valery), Ida Aldrian (Flora Bervoix), Katja Pieweck (Annina), Liparit Avetisyan (Alfredo Germont), Markus Brück (Giorgio Germont), Peter Galliard (Gastone), Nicholas Mogg (Il Barone Douphol), Ang Du (Il Dottore Grenvil), Hiroshi Amako (Giuseppe).


Day 4

Visit the Kunsthalle, Hamburg’s largest art museum, established in 1869 with an excellent collection of Old Masters and 19th- century paintings. The afternoon is free for independent exploration; a visit to the Museum of Applied Arts is recommended. Afternoon talk and early dinner. Performance at the Staatsoper: The Magic Flute (Mozart): Volker Krafft (conductor), Liang Li (Sarastro), Oleksiy Palchykov (Tamino), Katharina Konradi (Pamina), Antonina Vesenina (Queen of the Night), Zak Kariithi (Papageno), Na’ama Shulman (Papagena), Peter Galliard (Monostatos), Levente Páll (Speaker), Hiroshi Amako (Priest).


Day 5

The final morning is free before the journey to the airport. The flight to Heathrow arrives at c. 4.00pm.

Price, per person

Two sharing: £2,460 or £2,350 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,730 or £2,620 without flights.



Air travel (economy class) on scheduled British Airways flights (Airbus A320); travel by private coach throughout; breakfasts and 4 dinners with wine; all admissions to museums and sites visited with the group; all gratuities for restaurant staff, drivers, guides; all airport and state taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.



Tickets (first category at the Elbphilharmonie and for The Magic Flute; second category for La Traviata) for 3 performances are included, costing c. £250. 



Hotel Atlantic Kempinski: 5-star hotel in a beautiful location on the Aussenalster lake. Traditionally furnished and decorated, with a long nautical history. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.


How strenuous?

There is quite a lot of walking on this tour, and a reasonable amount of standing around in museums. Average distance by coach per day: 5 miles.

Are you fit enough to join the tour?


Group size

Between 10 and 22 participants.


Travel advice

Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.

'John Allison is entertaining, well prepared and of course hugely knowledgeable. I really enjoyed his sessions.'