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Music in New York at Christmas - Performances and art in an outstanding cityscape

Five performances including Le Nozze di Figaro, Hänsel und Gretel (conducted by Donald Runnicles) and The Merry Widow.

Performers include Cristiane Karg, Serena Malfi, Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Gerhard Siegel, Susan Graham and Thomas Allen.

Concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the New York String Orchestra.

Talks on the music by Professor Jan Smaczny and a programme of walks, led by a local expert.

  • Broadway, from ‘New York is like this’ 1929.
    Broadway, from ‘New York is like this’ 1929.
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New York’s unrivalled capacity to attract stars across all areas of the performing arts is what makes this programme of seasonal operatic and orchestral favourites so enticing. Among the many fine singers is the acclaimed German tenor Gerhard Siegel taking the part of the Witch in Hänsel und Gretel, and the rising American star Rachel Willis-Sørensen as the Countess in Richard Eyre’s stimulating and attractive production of Le Nozze di Figaro. In addition to the operatic riches the veteran conductor and viola soloist, Jaime Laredo, leads the New York String Orchestra in a programme that includes Mozart’s evergreen Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola in Carnegie Hall. A second concert at the Lincoln Center, another of New York’s superb concert venues, has Ravel’s colourful orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as a rousing finale to five memorable evenings of music.

But music is unlikely to be the only star of the week with one of the most extraordinary, unique cities in the world as ‘backdrop’.Nothing can prepare the first-timer for the awesome impact of its towers, so varied and beautiful, its breathtaking cityscape contrasting with the village-like atmosphere of many of its districts. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of New York – although it would be more precise to say Manhattan – is its undying vitality, allied to its ability for regeneration. New York has never been other than a global leader of fashion and style, a crucible for the contemporary and home to some of the most outstanding museums and art collections in the world. The danger in writing about it is an excessive use of superlatives.

As with all of our music tours, there will be a gentle programme of optional walks and excursions, with care being taken not to tax participants’ energies at the expense of the music. The lecturer will give talks on the operas and concerts, and will be happy to accompany participants to the places and museums visited.

Day 1

Fly at c. 1.00pm from London Heathrow to New York, arriving c. 4.15pm. There is some time to settle into the hotel before dinner.

Day 2

Walk through Central Park to the Frick Collection, in a salubrious Fifth Avenue mansion with a small but brilliant collection of paintings. Evening opera at the Met: Hänsel und Gretel (Humperdinck), Donald Runnicles (conductor), Lisette Oropesa (Gretel), Tara Erraught (Hansel), Dolora Zajick (Gertrude), Gerhard Siegel (The Witch), Quinn Kelsey (Peter).

Day 3

Morning lecture followed by a private tour of the Met opera house before the afternoon opera at The Met: Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Harry Bicket (conductor), Rachel Willis-Sørensen (Countess Almaviva), Christiane Karg (Susanna), Serena Malfi (Cherubino), Luca Pisaroni (Count Almaviva), Adam Plachetka (Figaro).

Day 4

An architectural walk with a local expert looking at the Art Deco monuments of midtown Manhattan. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) houses some of the greatest paintings of the 20th century. Evening concert at Carnegie Hall with the New York String Orchestra: Jaime Laredo (conductor & viola), Pamela Frank (violin), Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in A Minor, RV.522; Mozart, Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K.364; Haydn, Symphony No.102 in B flat, Hob.I:102.

Day 5, Christmas Day

The morning is free to attend a church service or visit the Jewish Museum. An afternoon walking tour through historic lower Manhattan.

Day 6

Spend the morning in the Metropolitan Museum, undoubtedly the number one art museum in America embracing the whole gamut of artistic production from around the world. The afternoon is free, or attend an optional ballet: The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky) with the New York City Ballet.

Day 7

Drive to The Cloisters, a branch of the Met set in a tranquil part of North Manhattan overlooking the Hudson river. Devoted to art of the Middle Ages and incorporating arcades from five cloisters and other salvaged architecture, it is a marvellous home for sculputre, metalwork, tapestries, stained glass, manuscripts and panel paintings. Evening opera at the Met: The Merry Widow (Lehár), Ward Stare (conductor), Susan Graham (Hannah Glawari), Andriana Chuchman (Valencienne), Paul Groves (Danilo), Taylor Stayton (Camille de Rosillon), Thomas Allen (Baron Mirko Zeta).

Day 8

Visit the Guggenheim Collection in the famous spiral building by Frank Lloyd Wright, with primarily modern paintings. Evening concert at the Lincoln Center: Bramwell Tovey (conductor), Yefim Bronfman (piano), Smetana, Overture to The Bartered Bride; Bartók, Piano Concerto No.2; Mussorgsky / Orch. Ravel, Pictures at an Exhibition.

Day 9

Murray Hill is the Pierpont Morgan Library, former office of the financier and home to his immense collection of books, manuscripts and artworks. Completed in 1906 the building was overhauled a century later by Renzo Piano. Drive to JFK airport for the flight to London, departing at c. 8.15 pm.

Day 10

Arrive at London Heathrow at c. 8.15am.

Price, per person

Two sharing: £5940 or £5110 without flights. Single occupancy: £6750 or £5920 without flights.


Air travel (economy class) on scheduled British Airways flights (aircraft: Boeing 747); private coach throughout; hotel accommodation as described below; all breakfasts, 1 lunch and 5 dinners with wine, water and coffee (plus meals on flights); all admission charges; all tips; all taxes (federal, state, city and airport); the services of the lecturer, tour manager and local guides where used.


Tickets (top category) to 5 performances are included, costing c. £525. Due to be confirmed in the summer. Details of the optional Nutcracker performance will be sent to participants c. 3 months before the tour.


The Empire Hotel, New York: elegant 4-star ‘boutique-style’ hotel in Upper West Side, located beside the Lincoln Center. Bedrooms are on the small side but comfortable and furnished in modern décor with earthy colours. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.


British citizens can enter the USA without a visa by applying for a visa waiver online. We will advise on this. If you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria since March 2011 you are not eligible for the waiver and will need to apply for a visa.

How strenuous?

For the daytime excursions you should be prepared to walk for journeys of 20 minutes or more, though taxis can be used, and there will be some walking and standing around in museums. There will be some late nights after the operas. Average distance by coach per day: 8 miles.

Are you fit enough to join the tour?

Group size

Between 12 and 22 participants.

Travel advice

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


Map for Connoisseur

'Some splendid music and meals in enjoyable company.'

'Very good and plenty of free time to do things on our own – important in a city like New York.'

'An excellent balance of outstanding music.'