Berlin possesses some of the finest art galleries and museums in the world and offers the highest standards of music and opera performance. It is endowed with a range of historic architecture and is the site of Europe’s greatest concentration of first-rate contemporary architecture. Once again a national capital, it is also one of the most exciting cities on the Continent, recent and rapid changes pushing through a transformation without peacetime parallel.
One of the grandest capitals in Europe for the first forty years of the last century, it then suffered appallingly from aerial bombardment and Soviet artillery. For the next forty years it was cruelly divided into two parts and became the focus of Cold War antagonism, a bizarre confrontation between an enclave of western libertarianism and hard-line Communism.
Since the Wall was breached in 1989 the city has been transformed beyond recognition. From being a largely charmless urban expanse still bearing the scars of war, it has become a vibrant, liveable city, the very model of a modern major metropolis. The two halves have been knitted together and cleaning and repair have revealed the patrimony of historic architecture to be among the finest in Central Europe.
The art collections, formerly split, dispersed and often housed in temporary premises, are now coming together in magnificently restored or newly-built galleries. Berlin possesses international art and antiquities of the highest importance, as well as incomparable collections of German art. The number and variety of museums and the quality of their holdings make Berlin among the world’s most desired destinations for art lovers.
With three major opera houses and several orchestras, Berlin is a city where truly outstanding performances can be virtually guaranteed.
Fly at c. 12.45pm from London Heathrow to Berlin Brandenburg (British Airways). Take an orientation tour by coach: the New Embassy quarter, Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Pariser Platz and Unter den Linden. Dinner and first of four nights.
Walk through the oldest part of the city to ‘Museums Island’, a group of major museum buildings. Visit the Neues Museum, the stunning new home to the Egyptian Museum (among others), restored by British architect David Chipperfield., Some free time. Evening performance at the Berliner Philharmonie with the Vienna Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim (conductor and piano): Mozart, Symphony No 33 in B, K 319; Symphony No 38 in D, K 504; Piano Concerto in C minor, K 491.
Schloss Charlottenburg, the earliest major building in Berlin, is an outstanding Baroque and Rococo palace with splendid interiors. The Berggruen Collection of Picasso and classic modern art is also here. Evening at the Staatsoper: Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart) with Daniel Barenboim (conductor) Vincent Huguet (director), Gyula Orendt (Count Almaviva), Elsa Dreisig (Countess Almaviva), Nadine Sierra (Susanna), Riccardo Fassi (Figaro), Marianne Crebassa (Cherubino), Waltraud Meier (Marcellina), Stephan Rügamer (Basilio), Siegfried Jerusalem (Don Curzio), Maurizio Muraro (Bartolo), Liubov Medvedeva (Barbarina).
Europe’s greatest building project in the 1990s, Potsdamer Platz showcases an international array of architects (Piano, Isozaki, Rogers, Moneo). Scattered around the nearby ‘Kulturforum’ are museums, the State Library and the Philharmonie concert hall (Hans Scharoun 1956–63). The Gemäldegalerie houses one of Europe’s major collections of Old Masters. Early evening performance at the Staatsoper: Parsifal (Wagner) with Daniel Barenboim (conductor), Dmitri Tcherniakov (director), René Pape (Gurnemanz), Andreas Schager (Parsifal), Falk Struckmann (Klingsor), Marina Prudenskaya (Kundry), John Tomlinson (Titurel), Siyabonga Maqungo, Grigory Shkarupa (Gralsritter).
Fly to London Heathrow from Berlin Brandenburg, arriving at c. 1.30pm.
Dr John Allison
Editor of Opera magazine and music critic. He was born in South Africa and completed his PhD degree while playing the piano and working as assistant organist at Cape Town cathedral. Since moving to London in 1989 he has written for publications around the world, authored two books and served on the juries of many international competitions. He co-founded the International Opera Awards in 2013. He reviews for the Daily Telegraph and has previously held positions as music critic on The Sunday Telegraph and The Times.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,490 or £2,330 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,780 or £2,620 without flights.
Flights with British Airways (Airbus A320); travel by private coach throughout; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 3 dinners with wine; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the tour leaders.
Tickets to 3 performances (first category)are included. Tickets are confirmed summer 2020.
The Regent Berlin: elegant 5-star hotel decorated in Regency style, close to Unter den Linden. Rooms are of a good size and excellent standard. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
There is a reasonable amount of walking and standing around in art galleries. Average distance by coach per day: 9 miles.
Between 10 and 20 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.
'A wonderful mixture of music and museums, but also with some free time.'
'This tour was a joy from start to finish. The balance between art and opera was excellent. Dr John Allison... [was] a joy to be with and listen to, also good fun.'
'I absolutely loved it! It was a great mix of history, art, music and culture.'