Many cities have been nicknamed the ‘Venice of the North,’ but alongside St Petersburg it is Stockholm that has the greatest claim to such a title. Spectacularly situated on the water and architecturally rich, Sweden’s capital has over the centuries boasted several opera houses, of which the oldest to have survived are the celebrated court theatres at Drottningholm and Confidencen. But the ornately gilded Operan (as it is called in Swedish) is the main opera house today and home to the Royal Swedish Opera. Its location at the heart of the city justifies that Venetian parallel — sitting on the bank of the Norrström river, it is connected via a bridge to the Royal Palace. Opened at the end of the nineteenth century, it remains a magnificent venue, grand yet intimate enough for an authentic opera experience. It witnessed the débuts of many important Swedish singers in the twentieth century, including Jussi Björling, Set Svanholm, Birgit Nilsson, Nicolai Gedda and Elisabeth Söderström.
Sweden’s capital probably saw its first operas in 1652, with the arrival of an Italian opera company, and foreign troupes dominated its operatic life for the next hundred-plus years. Cultural life really took off under the reign of King Gustav III. Verdi would have been well aware of Stockholm’s Italianate opera tradition when he composed Un ballo in maschera, based on Gustav III’s assassination — in the very opera house the king had commissioned. Another masterpiece of Verdi’s maturity, Aida, is included on our itinerary, in a new production due to open shortly before our visit. Conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi and directed by Michael Cavanagh, it stars Christina Nilsson in the title role, whose rival Amneris is sung by the renowned Katarina Dalayman. We also see the Royal Swedish Opera’s production of Puccini’s Tosca, in a period setting based on the actual venues in Rome, with the house’s dramatic soprano Emma Vetter as the titular tragedienne.
Fly at 10.45am from London Heathrow to Stockholm Arlanda (British Airways). Visit the Nationalmuseum, the city’s National Museum of Fine Arts, due to reopen in 2018 after extensive renovations. There is time to settle into the hotel before dinner.
Morning lecture on this evening’s performance, followed by a guided tour of the old town centre. Free afternoon; recommended is the spectacular display of prehistoric gold artefacts at the Museum of Antiquities and the Museum of Modern Art. Dinner before the performance at the Royal Swedish Opera: Tosca (Puccini), Daniele Callegari (conductor), Knut Hendriksen (director), The Royal Swedish Orchestra and Choir, Emma Vetter (Floria Tosca), Jesper Taube (Mario Cavaradossi), John Lundgren (Baron Scarpia), Kristian Flor (Cesare Angelotti), Jens Persson (A Sacristan), Niklas Björling Rygert (Spoletta), John Erik Eleby (A Jailer).
Lecture on the evening’s opera. Walk to the 19th-century Operan (Royal Swedish Opera) for a private guided tour. The afternoon is free before an evening at the Royal Swedish Opera: Aida (Verdi), Pier Giorgio Morandi (conductor), Michael Cavanagh (director), The Royal Swedish Orchestra and Choir, Christina Nilsson (Aida), Lennart Forsén (The King of Egypt), Katarina Dalayman (Amneris), Johan Edholm (Amonasro), Karin Andersson (A Priestess).
In the morning visit the museum of the Vasa, the royal flagship which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Continue by coach to the Stockholm Public Library, designed by architect Gunnar Asplund, and a wonderful example of the Swedish Grace style. Fly to London Heathrow, arriving at c. 5.00pm.
Dr John Allison
Editor of Opera magazine and music critic for The Daily Telegraph. 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, contributed chapters to several other volumes and served on the juries of many international competitions. He has also held positions as music critic on The Sunday Telegraph and the Times.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,010 or £1,880 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,320 or £2,190 without flights.
Tickets for 2 operas, costing c. £165; flights (economy class) 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.
Grand Hôtel Stockholm: a historic 5-star hotel a few minutes' walk from the opera. Single rooms are double for sole use.
We reach the opera house on foot. Participants need to be fit enough to manage this, the city walks and to cope easily with stair-climbing. Average distance by coach per day: 13 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Linking with Opera in Copenhagen
9th March. At the end of Opera in Stockholm, there is the option to fly from Stockholm Arlanda to Copenhagen (SAS) to join Opera in Copenhagen.
Price for combining the two tours: you pay the price of Opera in Stockholm with flights (£2,010) and the price of Opera in Copenhagen without flights (£1,860), unless of course you are arranging your own flights. There is a supplement of £50 to contribute to the cost of travelling between Stockholm to Copenhagen. Please let us know if you would like to take up this option.
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.fco.gov.uk.