Munich is perhaps the most attractive of Germany’s cities, and has always been a major centre for opera. The Nationaltheater is at the moment enjoying a reputation as one of the finest houses in Europe: ‘La Scala may be grander…, Vienna more stately, the Metropolitan more prestigious… but for all-round excellence in pretty well every department, Munich’s Nationaltheater has the edge, both in matters of creature comforts and sheer dedication to the art’.
Opera apart, Munich is widely considered to be the most agreeable city in Germany in which to live, and rivals Berlin for wealth of art and historic architecture.
The thrilling eccentricity of the Bregenz Opera Festival is that the main stage, the Seebühne, sits on an island a few yards from the shore of one of Europe’s largest lakes. From a seat in Austria, the mise-en-scène is framed by the vast expanse of Lake Constance from which rise hills in Germany and Switzerland as well as Austria.
Even though night gradually shrouds this backdrop, it requires performances of exceptional potency to compete with nature’s spectacle. In recent years this requirement has been amply fulfilled, for Bregenz has developed a tradition of immensely exciting productions unconstrained by the conventional limitations of walls and roof. Musical quality is not sacrificed to visual effects, however. Indeed Bregenz has been the summer venue of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra since 1946.
The investment necessitates that each production runs for two successive seasons. The offering for 2019 will be the first year of Rigoletto.
London to Munich. Fly at c. 12.45pm from London Heathrow to Munich. Tour the city by coach to see much of the best of Munich’s historic architecture: Neo-Classical Königsplatz, historicist Ludwigstrasse, Jugendstil houses and the modern Gasteig Arts Centre. The first of four nights in Munich.
Munich. In the morning there is a walk to see more of the city’s treasures, including the vast Gothic cathedral and the Asamkirche, a Baroque gem. Free time in the afternoon. Evening opera at the Nationaltheater: La Fanciulla del West (Puccini) with James Gaffigan (conductor), Andreas Dresen (director), Anja Kampe (Minnie), John Lundgren (Jack Rance), Brandon Jovanovich (Dick Johnson), Kevin Conners (Nick), Alexander Milev (Ashby), Tim Kuypers (Sonora), Manuel Günther (Trin), Bálint Szabó (Sid), Milan Siljanov (Bello), Galeano Salas (Harry), Freddie De Tommaso (Joe), Christian Rieger (Happy), Andrea Borghini (Larkens), Oleg Davydov (Billy Jackrabbit), Noa Beinart (Wowkle), Sean Michael Plumb (Jake Wallace), Oğulcan Yılmaz (José Castro).
Munich. Drive out to Nymphenburg, summer retreat of the ruling Wittelsbachs. Set in an extensive park there is a Baroque palace and several delightful garden pavilions, the apogee of Rococo. In the afternoon there is an opportunity to visit more of Munich’s many outstanding art collections. Evening opera at the Prinzregententheater: Agrippina (Handel), with Ivor Bolton (conductor), Barrie Kosky (director), Gianluca Buratto (Claudio), Alice Coote (Agrippina), Franco Fagioli (Nerone), Elsa Benoit (Poppea), Iestyn Davies (Ottone), Andrea Mastroni (Pallante), Eric Jurenas (Narciso), Katarina Bradić (Giunone).
Munich. In the morning a second walking tour which culminates in a visit to the Alte Pinakothek, one of the world’s greatest Old Master galleries. The afternoon is again free, though a visit to the Residenz with its exquisite Rococo Theatre by Cuvillies is recommended. Early evening opera at the Nationaltheater: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner), with Kirill Petrenko (conductor), David Bösch (director), Sara Jakubiak (Eva), Okka von der Damerau (Magdalena), Jonas Kaufmann (Walther von Stolzing), Allan Clayton (David), Wolfgang Koch (Hans Sachs), Christof Fischesser (Veit Pogner), Martin Gantner (Sixtus Beckmesser), Kevin Conners (Kunz Vogelgesang), Christian Rieger (Konrad Nachtigall), Michael Kupfer-Radecky (Fritz Kothner), Ulrich Reß (Balthasar Zorn), Dean Power (Ulrich Eißlinger), Thorsten Scharnke (Augustin Moser), Levente Páll (Hermann Ortel), Peter Lobert (Hans Schwarz), Kristof Klorek (Hans Foltz). Final night in Munich.
Ottobeuren, Bregenz. Journey by coach through the lovely landscape of Upper Bavaria, skirting the Alpine foothills before entering the Vorarlberg region of Austria. Break the journey at the little town of Ottobeuren to see the magnificent monastery, one of the greatest achievements of German Baroque. Arrive in Bregenz where two nights are spent.
Bregenz. Strung out along the edge of Lake Constance, Bregenz is the attractive little capital of the Vorarlberg, the western-most province of Austria. A guided walking tour in the morning begins in the historic Upper Town and then descends to the lake and the museum. The afternoon is free before an evening opera on the lake stage: Rigoletto (Verdi), cast to be confirmed.
Zurich to London. Drive to Zurich Airport and fly to London Heathrow, arriving at c. 2.00pm.
Historian, writer and broadcaster. He studied at UCL and the Courtauld and was senior lecturer at Christies Education for many years. He has worked for the Art Fund, Royal Opera House, National Gallery, V&A. He has published on 19th- and early 20th-century painting and on historical vocal recordings. His latest book is Music Wars: 1937–1945.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £3,860 or £3,710 without flights. Single occupancy: £4,370 or £4,220 without flights.
Air travel (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus A319); accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 5 dinners with wine; private coach for the excursions and transfers; admissions; tips for waiters, drivers and guides; all state and airport taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Tickets (top category) for 4 operas are included, costing c. £860. The tickets will be confirmed in autumn 2018. In the event of bad weather in Bregenz, the performance will take place indoors in a nearby theatre.
Platzl Hotel, Munich: a four-star hotel located in the heart of the old city, a 5-minute walk from the opera house. See Hotel am Kaiserstrand, Lochau: spacious 4-star hotel on the shores of Lake Constance, 4 km from the centre of Bregenz, and a short boat journey to the Festival stage. Single rooms are doubles for sole use throughout.
The tour involves a lot of walking in the town centres where vehicular access is restricted, and should not be attempted by anyone who has difficulty with everyday walking and stair–climbing. Average distance by coach per day: 37 miles, primarily on 3 days of the tour.
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.
'A great trip! The lecturer's knowledge as a musicologist is exceptional. We have to go on another trip with him again!'
'You certainly surpassed my expectations.'
'First class. The lectures were wide ranging and informative. The choice of musical excerpts to play were wonderful.'