During each of the last five centuries, music, opera and ballet, and the buildings that house them, have been subjects of intense public debate in Paris, perhaps more than in any other city. This tour offers the chance to witness some of the world’s most brilliant interpreters – including singers, a choreographer, a director and a conductor-scholar – bring to life four beautiful but controversial masterpieces, in buildings that have themselves helped to shape the city’s history.
The opening of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater was praised by no less a critic than Jean-Jacques Rousseau as ‘the most perfect and touching duet to come from the pen of any composer’. In this performance the intertwined voices will be those of Franco Fagioli, the hugely admired young counter-tenor, and the fast-rising Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva. The performance will take place in the art deco Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, which saw the notorious premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Visits to Paris’s two iconic but very different opera houses follow. In the sumptuous Palais Garnier Pina Bausch’s reinterpretation of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice will bring out both the physicality and the delicate ambivalence of the music. Meanwhile at the Bastille, one of the grandest projects of the Mitterand era, we see a production by Terry Gilliam that revels in the exuberance and eccentricity of Benvenuto Cellini, one of the revolutionary works with which the young Berlioz confounded the interpreters of his day.
Few musicians are better equipped to tackle the daunting challenge of animating the libretto of Bach’s lost St Mark Passion than Jordi Savall, who brings to the task a composer’s insight as well as a lifetime’s experience as a leading proponent of period performance. This concert takes place in the newest addition to Paris’s impressive array of musical spaces, the Philharmonie, opened in 2015.
Travel by Eurostar at c. 10.30am from London St Pancras to Paris. An early evening lecture and dinner preceeds an evening concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées: Stabat Mater (Pergolesi), Cappella Gabetta, Andres Gabetta (director), Julia Lezhneva (soprano) and Franco Fagioli (counter-tenor). Concerto grosso No. 10 after Corelli (Platti), Nisi Dominus (Vivaldi), Salve Regina (Porpora).
Morning lecture before a guided tour of the sumptuous Palais Garnier opera house. Some free time before dinner and returning to the Palais Garnier for: Orphée et Eurydice (danced version), performed by the Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris. Choreography by Pina Bausch to music by Gluck, with Manlio Benzi (director), The Balthasar Neumann Choir, Maria Riccarda Wesseling (Orphée), Yun Jung Choi (Eurydice) and Chiara Skerath (Amour).
The morning is free for independent exploration. In the afternoon a lecture followed by a drive to Porte de la Villette to visit the Cité de la Musique concert hall, designed by Christian de Pontzamparc, and the music museum. Dinner preceeds an evening opera at the Opera Bastille: Benvenuto Cellini (Berlioz), Philippe Jordan (conductor), the Orchestre et Choeurs de l’Opéra de Paris, José Luis Basso (chorus master), John Osborn (Benvenuto Cellini), Maurizio Muraro (Giacomo Balducci), Audun Iversen (Fieramosca), Marco Spotti (Pope Clement VII), Vincent Delhoume (Francesco), Luc Bertin-Hugault (Bernardino), Rodolphe Briand (Pompeo), Se-Jin Hwang (Cabaretier), Pretty Yende (Teresa), Michèle Losier (Ascanio).
Morning lecture followed by a visit with the lecturer to the Jacquemart André museum. This lavish residence, built in 1875 for the banker Edouard André, houses the collection he made with his wife, Nélie Jacquemart, a painter. It contains a fine collection of 18th-cent. paintings, Dutch, Flemish and Italian masters. Some free time before dinner in the panoramic restaurant at the Philharmonie de Paris and the evening concert: St Mark Passion (Bach), La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Le Concert des Nations, Jordi Savall (director), Emöke Barath (soprano), Reinoud Van Mechelen (tenor) and Konstantin Wolff (bass).
The morning is free before the Eurostar to St Pancras, arriving at c. 2.45pm.
Dr Michael Downes
Director of Music at the University of St Andrews, musical director of St Andrews Chorus, Scotland’s largest choral society, and founding artistic director of Byre Opera, which mounts fully staged productions each summer around Scotland and Northern England. He writes programme notes for Wigmore Hall and Aldeburgh Music and reviews music books for the Times Literary Supplement, and his publications include a highly praised study of contemporary British composer Jonathan Harvey.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,570 or £2,450 without Eurostar. Single occupancy: £2,910 or £2,790 without Eurostar
Return rail travel (first class, Standard Premier) by Eurostar from London to Paris; private coach for transfers; hotel accommodation; breakfasts and 4 dinners with water, wine, coffee; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager. Music & ballet: tickets to 4 performances are included, costing c. £440. At the time of going to print not all tickets were confirmed.
Hotel Édouard 7, Paris: comfortable 4-star hotel, five minutes on foot from the Opéra Garnier. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
One of the performances is reached on foot. Visits require a fair amount of walking and standing around. There are some late nights but starts are leisurely. You need to be able to lift your luggage on and off the train.
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.