The city of Dresden is steeped in Wagner history. It was here that the composer went to school and to the Court Theatre that he returned in 1843 to serve as Kapellmeister, and where the first performances of Rienzi, The Flying Dutchman and Tannhäuser were given. In the majestic Frauenkirche (now meticulously restored to its former glory) he mounted his choral extravaganza The Love Feast of the Apostles with 1200 singers and an orchestra of 100. Six years later, as a prominent insurrectionist, he climbed to the tower of the Kreuzkirche (as you can still do today) to report on the movement of the Prussian troops at the height of the 1848–9 revolution.
The Staatskapelle Dresden that Wagner himself conducted has maintained its prestigious reputation and is led today by one of the great Wagnerians of our time, Christian Thielemann, performing in the miraculously reconstructed Semperoper. Thielemann’s spacious, authoritative handling of the Ring was acclaimed in an earlier manifestation of this production and he returns with a stellar cast led by Michael Volle as Wotan, with Petra Lang as Brünnhilde and the tireless Stephen Gould as both Siegmund and Siegfried.
Decker’s minimalist production, with designs by Wolfgang Gussmann, for all its iconoclastic imagery focuses on theatrical essentials and has been praised for the potency of its dramatic interaction between characters.
Fly at c. 10.00am from London Heathrow Airport (British Airways) to Berlin. Introductory lecture before dinner in the hotel.
Morning visit of the Residenzschloss to see the wonderful Green Vault and its content, one of the world’s finest princely treasuries, once again displayed in their original venue. Semperoper, 6.00pm: Das Rheingold. Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (conductor), Willy Decker (director), Michael Volle (Wotan), Tansel Akzeybek (Froh), Stephan Rügamer (Loge), Falk Struckmann (Alberich), Jürgen Sacher (Mim), Georg Zeppenfeld (Fasolt), Karl-Heinz Lehner (Fafner), Christa Mayer (Fricka), Jennifer Holloway (Freia), Michal Doron (Erda), Sabrina Kögel (Wellgunde), Simone Schröder (Flosshilde).
In the morning visit the Zwinger, a unique Baroque confection, a pleasure palace, arena for festivities and museum for cherished collections. See the porcelain collection and the Old Masters Gallery, one of the finest collections in Europe, particularly strong on Italian and Netherlandish painting. Semperoper, 4.00pm: Die Walküre. Christian Thielemann (conductor), Willy Decker (director), Stephen Gould (Siegmund), Michael Volle (Wotan), Georg Zeppenfeld (Hunding), Jennifer Holloway (Sieglinde), Petra Lang (Brünnhilde), Christa Mayer (Fricka), Dorothea Herbert (Gerhilde), Mariya Taniguchi (Ortlinde), Stepanka Pucalkova (Waltraute), Julia Rutigliano (Siegrune), Simone Schröder (Roßweiße), Sabrina Kögel (Grimgerde), Katharina Magiera (Schwertleite).
Pillnitz, Graupa. Drive to Pillnitz, a summer palace in Chinese Rococo style, with collections of decorative art and a riverside park. Lunch here before an afternoon visit to Graupa and the so-called ‘Lohengrin House’ where, in the summer of 1846, Wagner composed much of the opera. The house now forms part of a museum complex dedicated to the composer.
Visit the New Masters Gallery in the Albertinum, reopened in 2010 after extensive renovations following flood damage and home to the New Masters Gallery. Semperoper, 4.00pm: Siegfried. Christian Thielemann (conductor), Willy Decker (director), Stephen Gould (Siegfried), Michael Volle (The Wanderer), Georg Zeppenfeld (Fafner), Petra Lang (Brünnhilde), Christa Mayer (Erda), Jürgen Sacher (Mime), Falk Struckmann (Alberich).
Meissen. Drive downstream to Meissen, ancient capital of Dukes of Saxony and location of the discovery of hard-paste porcelain. The largely 15th-century hilltop castle overlooking the Elbe, the Albrechtsburg, is one of the first to be more residential than defensive, and within the complex is a fine Gothic cathedral. Return to Dresden for some free time.
A morning walk includes the Hofkirche and Kreuzkirche, finishing with a visit to the great domed Frauenkirche. Lunch is followed by some free time. Semperoper, 4.00pm: Götterdämmerung. Christian Thielemann (conductor), Willy Decker (director), Stephen Gould (Siegfried), Petra Lang (Brünnhilde), Falk Struckmann (Hagen), Markus Eiche (Gunther), Albert Dohmen (Alberich), Jennifer Holloway (Gutrune), Christa Mayer (Waltraute).
A leisurely start before driving to Berlin Tegel for the flight to London Heathrow arriving at c. 5.30pm.
Writer, lecturer and broadcaster specialising in Wagner. He is founder/editor of The Wagner Journal and author of eight books on Wagner including The Wagner Compendium and Richard Wagner: The Sorcerer of Bayreuth. He is Chief Critic for the Evening Standard. He has also acted as dramaturgical adviser at opera houses internationally.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £4,210 or £3,990 without flights. Single occupancy: £4,770 or £4,550 without flights.
By train: London – Brussels – Frankfurt – Leipzig – Dresden: c.11 hours. Contact us for more information.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus 320); travel by private coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 2 lunches and 2 dinners with wine, water, coffee; interval canapés and refreshments at 3 performances; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Tickets (top category) for 4 performances are included.
Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski (kempinski.com/en/dresden/hotel-taschenbergpalais): a 5-star hotel in the heart of the Old Town, 2 minutes’ walk from the Semperoper and the Zwinger. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
The tour involves some walking in the historic centre, where coach access is restricted, and standing in museums and churches. A good level of fitness is essential. You will be on your feet for lengthy stretches of time. Average distance by coach per day: 45 miles (predominantly on the first and last days of the tour).
Between 10 and 22 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.