Widely regarded as the greatest living Wagner conductor, Daniel Barenboim returns to the helm of the Berlin Staatsoper for a revival of the company’s celebrated production of the Ring: a co-production with La Scala, Milan. It is the first performance of the production at the opera house on Unter den Linden since its reopening in late 2017.
Barenboim has assembled a truly stellar cast including Michael Volle as Wotan, Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde and Simon O’Neill as Siegmund. The hero Siegfried will be sung by Andreas Schager, whose meteoric rise from substitute in 2013 to most-sought-after Heldentenor of today has been noted by the international media. The production, by the Belgian director Guy Cassiers, has been acclaimed for its inventive multimedia approach. Video projections and expressive choreography combine to complement the exhilarating potency of the music with theatrical magic, thus fulfilling Wagner’s own wishes by means of modern technology.
There are daily talks and discussions with the accompanying musicologist and walks or excursions on most days with a Berlin-based cultural historian. However, plenty of time is allowed to rest and to prepare for experiencing the greatest achievement of music drama.
Fly at c. 12.45pm from London Heathrow to Berlin Tegel (British Airways). Digress to see some of the main sights of Berlin before settling into the hotel.
A morning lecture on the music before an introductory morning walk, finishing at the ‘Museums Island’, a group of major museum buildings. A brief visit to the portico of the neoclassical style Altes Museum before exploring the Alte Nationalgalerie, which superbly displays European painting of the 19th century and German Romantics. Opera at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden: Das Rheingold: Daniel Barenboim (conductor), Michael Volle (Wotan), Roman Trekel (Donner), Simon O’Neill (Froh), Reinhard Hagen (Fasolt), Falk Struckmann (Fafner), Stephan Rügamer (Loge), Jochen Schmeckenbecher (Alberich), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Mime), Ekaterina Gubanova (Fricka), Anna Samuil (Freia), Anna Larsson (Erda), Evelin Novak (Woglinde), Natalia Skrycka (Wellgunde), Anna Lapkovskaja (Flosshilde).
A morning walk takes in Unter den Linden, Friedrichstraße and the Brandenburg Gate ending with the Reichstag dome before lunch at the roofgarden restaurant. Opera at the Staatsoper: Die Walküre: Michael Volle (Wotan), Falk Struckmann (Hunding), Simon O’Neill (Siegmund), Ekaterina Gubanova (Fricka), Iréne Theorin (Brünnhilde).
Visit Schloss Charlottenburg, the earliest major building in Berlin, an outstanding Baroque and Rococo summer palace with fine interiors, paintings (Watteau especially) and extensive gardens. Optional visit to the recently extended Berggruen Collection of Picasso and classic modern art. Free evening.
The morning is spent in the Neues Museum, home to the Egyptian Museum and restored by British Architect David Chipperfield. The rest of the day is free.
Morning lecture. The rest of the day is left free for independent exploration or relaxation. Opera at the Staatsoper: Siegfried: Andreas Schager (Siegfried), Stephan Rügamer (Mime), Michael Volle (the Wanderer), Falk Stuckmann (Fafner), Anna Larsson (Erda), Iréne Theorin (Brünnhilde).
Potsdam. The enclosed park of Sanssouci was created as a retreat from the affairs of state by Frederick the Great. It consists of gardens, parkland, palaces, pavilions and auxiliary buildings. Visit his relatively modest single-storey palace atop terraces of fruit trees and the exquisite Chinese teahouse. Lunch in Potsdam followed by a drive through the town centre with its Dutch quarter and cathedral by Schinkel. Free evening.
Morning walk focusing on 20th century Berlin, followed by a visit to Libeskind’s extraordinary Jewish Museum. Free evening.
Potsdam. A second visit to Potsdam includes the Neuer Garten, laid out from 1786 by Friedrich Wilhelm II, embraces the artfully informal, English landscaped style, while the lakeside Marble Palace at its centre is modest and playful and interestingly furnished. The Elizabethan-style Schloss Cecilienhof (1913–17) was site of the Potsdam Conference 1945. Return to Berlin in the early afternoon for some free time.
Start the morning in Potsdamer Platz, Europe’s greatest building project in the 1990s with several buildings by star architects. Continue to the nearby ‘Kulturforum’. Pass the Philharmonie (Hans Scharoun) and visit the Gemäldegalerie, one of Europe’s major collections of Old Masters and the Museum of Musical Instruments. Final opera at the Staatsoper: Götterdämmerung: Andreas Schager (Siegfried), Roman Trekel (Gunther), Jochen Schmeckenbecher (Alberich), Falk Stuckmann (Hagen), Iréne Theorin (Brünnhilde), Anna Samuil (Gutrune, 3rd Norn), Anna Lapkovskaja (Flosshilde, 1st Norn), Waltraud Meier (Waltraute, 2nd Norn), Evelin Novak (Woglinde), Natalia Skrycka (Wellgunde).
Homeward journey. Fly back to Heathrow from Berlin Tegel, arriving at c. 1.30pm.
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: £5,190 or £5,050 without flights. Single occupancy: £5,990 or £5,850 without flights.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus A319 ); travel by private coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 dinners, with wine, as well as interval fingerfood and drinks at 3 of the performances; all admissions; tips for restaurant staff, drivers and guides; state and airport taxes; the services of the lecturer and art historian.
Tickets (first category, stalls) for 4 performances are included, costing c. £750.
The Regent Berlin: an elegant hotel decorated in Regency style. Rooms are of a good size and excellent standard. Located within walking distance of the major museums and a 5-minute walk from the opera house.
There is quite a lot of walking and standing around in art galleries and museums. Average distance by coach per day: 11 miles.
The tour will operate with 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.
'This was my first time with Martin Randall and I am most impressed. The organisation throughout was superb and I couldn't have enjoyed it more.'
'I love Wagner and the orchestra and singing were superb. So glad I went.'
'The choice of itinerary was good – plenty to do but not too packed in so there was enough time to relax.'