Malta is a highly apposite setting for the performance of Baroque music. During this period the island was ruled by the Knights of Malta or Knights Hospitaller, Valletta was completely rebuilt and the knights themselves were vigorous patrons of the arts, including music and architecture.
One of Europe’s oldest working theatres is the Teatru Manoel, built in 1731 at the behest of the Grand Master of the order, Fra António Manoel de Vilhena. With only 600 seats, the theatre is a masterpiece of carpentry, with three tiers of wooden boxes, gilded and painted, and a trompe-l’oeil ceiling. Opera companies visited Malta regularly, performing works by Hasse, Piccinni and Galuppi. Other buildings which often host concerts during the festival include the President’s (formerly Grandmaster’s) Palace; St John’s Co-Cathedral, begun in 1573 and gradually embellished to become a great ensemble of Baroque art; and the Church of St Catherine d’Italie (1713).
Valletta’s beautiful position on one of the world’s greatest natural harbours, and the fine buildings that still dominate the city, make it a splendid location in which to hear the music of Bach, Handel and their contemporaries.
The concert venues for the festival are not confirmed until after our brochure has been published.
Valletta. Fly at c. 11.30am (Air Malta) from London Heathrow to Malta. Drive to Valletta, a peninsula flanked by fine natural harbours and once the most strongly fortified city in Christendom.
Valletta. Survey the massive fortifications protecting the landward approach and view the Grand Harbour from the ramparts. Visit the National Museum of Archaeology, home of the unique ‘Fat Ladies of Malta’ and other carvings from the Neolithic Temples. A guided tour of the Manoel Theatre, followed by some free time and dinner. Concert at the Church of St Catherine with the Abchordis Ensemble: Pergolesi, ‘Stabat Mater’; Aniello Santangelo, Symphony in F; Gennaro Manna, ‘Dies Irae’.
Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, Marsaxlokk, Valletta. Drive through attractive countryside to the prehistoric temples overlooking the sea, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra. Return to Valletta after lunch in the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk. Concert at Teatru Manoel: Ensemble Barocco di Napoli with Tommaso Rossi (flute) and Maria Grazia Schiavo (soprano): vocal and instrumental works by Vivaldi and Handel.
Mdina, Rabat. Mdina, Malta’s ancient capital and centre of the indigenous aristocracy, is an unspoilt citadel of great beauty, with medieval walls, grand palazzi and Baroque cathedral. Visit Palazzo Falson, a 13th-century private residence and the second oldest building in Mdina. Spreading below is the town of Rabat, with Early Christian catacombs. Concert at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Bormla with Ghislieri Choir & Consort, Giulio Prandi (director): Baldassarre Galuppi, ‘Dixit Dominus’; Vivaldi, ‘Stabat Mater’ and Sonata in E flat for two violins, viola and continuo; Emanuele Rincón d’Astorga, ‘Stabat Mater’.
Paola, Tarxien. In Paola, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only prehistoric underground temple in the world. The Tarxien Temples site is the most complex in Malta and would have been the most decorative. It was rediscovered by accident in 1902 and is the source of outstanding carved reliefs and statues. Optional lunchtime concert in San Anton Palace with Nicholas Mulroy (tenor) and Elizabeth Kenny (lute and theorbo): songs from 17th-century Europe. Free afternoon, followed by a concert at the Church of St George with Valletta International Baroque Ensemble, Kor Malta, Stefano Molardi and Riccard Bianchi (directors): Biber, ‘Requiem’ in F minor; Sonata No.1 from ‘Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum’; Sonata No.10 from ‘Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes’.
Gozo. At the start of the day, an informal meeting with Elizabeth Kenny, who is performing in the previous day’s two concerts. A 30-minute ferry crossing to the island of Gozo which is more rural and less populated than Malta. See the temple of Ggantija, among the oldest of Malta’s prehistoric monuments. The chief town is Victoria, which has a citadel and cathedral. Stop for lunch in the citadel to try homemade Gozitan food.
Valletta. Guided tours of the Grand Master’s Palace & Armoury and the Co-Cathedral of St John, which has lavish carved wall decoration, ceiling paintings, magnificent tombs and two paintings by Caravaggio. A private tour of the Casa Rocca Piccola, a 16th-century palazzo owned by the Marquis de Piro. Concert at the Jesuit Church with Florilegium, Ashley Solomon (director): ‘Music from the Missions’ – music composed as a result of the 80-year presence of Jesuit missionaries among the indigenous peoples of eastern Bolivia (late-1600s–1767). Post-concert drinks reception with the opportunity to meet the musicians.
Vittoriosa. Visit Fort St Elmo and the National War Museum before crossing the Grand Harbour by boat (weather permitting) to see churches and forts in Vittoriosa. Fly to London Heathrow, arriving c. 7.30pm.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £3,170 or £3,010 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,510 or £3,350 without flights.
Flights (economy class) with Air Malta (aircraft: Airbus 320–200); private coach; accommodation as below; breakfasts, 4 dinners and 3 lunches with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips and taxes; the services of the lecturer, tour manager and local guide.
First category concert tickets to all 5 evening concerts, costing c.£300. There is the possibility of attending a lunchtime concert on Day 5. Full details of the performance will be sent to participants when confirmed by festival organisers, usually six months before the festival. Please contact us to request tickets.
Hotel Phoenicia, Valletta: a 5-star hotel in Valletta, recently refurbished and furnished with style and character, the best in Valletta and just outside the city gates. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
This is a busy and quite strenuous tour with a lot of walking, some of it over the rough ground of sites. Valletta is relatively hilly so you will need to be comfortable with everyday walking and stair climbing. Average distance by coach per day: 12 miles.
Between 10 and 20 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.
'Our lecturer was a star. She was a mine of local knowledge, an excellent guide.'
'The lecturer and tour manager made the tour with their enthusiasm, knowledge and thoughtfulness. I can’t praise them enough.'
'A fascinating glimpse of Malta’s history, from Neolithic to modern times. A varied and always interesting week.'
'Local guide, Dane Munro, was a treasure house of knowledge and provided a great perspective.'