For lovers of music, theatre and art, January is a great time to visit London. Yes, it’s cold, but there is much fine music on offer and theatre companies have launched new. Best of all, the city is not at all crowded. Our 12-day program includes 11 performances of opera, orchestral music and stage drama, including all three of London’s major orchestras. Thanks to our association with Decca we have been able to arrange special music-oriented events that would not be available to most visitors. This includes meetings with performing artists and behind-the-scenes glimpses of London’s musical life. To broaden out the program, we’ve included a full-day excursion to Oxford, a visit to newly-restored Kenwood House, and a selection of London’s galleries.
Press play below to listen to tour leader Tom Ford’s introduction to the tour. (Music supplied by Universal Music Australia.)
11 performances of the highest quality opera, stage drama and orchestral music, including three major London orchestras
Specially-arranged meetings with performing artists and musicologists
Renowned performance venues, including Covent Garden, the Royal Festival Hall and Wigmore Hall
Background talks on all performances and post-performance discussions
Accommodation in a heritage building in Bloomsbury
Eleven performances of opera, orchestral and choral music, chamber music and drama are included:
The Royal Opera’s production of Monteverdi’s ground-breaking 1648 opera The Return of Ulysses
Richard Strauss’s equally ground-breaking 1905 opera Salome, at the Royal Opera House
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Vladimir Jurowski in a concert performance of Wagner’s Das Rheingold
A French orchestral music marathon with same-day performances by the Philharmonia Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra in music by Debussy, Lalo and Massenet
The Orchestra of La Scala, Milan with conductor Riccardo Chailly
Piano Recital by renown musician Paul Lewis
A lunchtime recital at Wigmore Hall, a favourite London recital venue
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar
The Globe Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s comedy All’s Well That End’s Well
Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus at the National Theatre
Watch a preview of Richard Strauss’s opera Salome at the Royal Opera House:
Day 1: Arrive in London.
Days 2–4: Monteverdi and Shakespeare begin the performance program. We also visit the National Portrait Gallery and the Handel House Museum. Two concerts of French orchestral music with the Philharmonia and the London Symphony explore the late Romantic, ‘Impressionist’ and early modern repertoire.
Days 5–8: We meet Welsh singer Alan Jones and learn about the London career of Nellie Melba in specially arranged events. We also visit 18th-century Kenwood House. Performances include a piano recital, the Orchestra of La Scala and the play Amadeus.
Days 9–11: Visit the Victoria & Albert Museum’s special exhibition on opera and learn about the musical heritage of St Paul’s Cathedral. Enjoy performances at the Royal Opera House and a gala performance by the London Philharmonic. On our day in Oxford, attend the evensong ceremony at Christ Church.
Day 12: Attend a lunchtime recital at Wigmore Hall before heading to Heathrow for homeward flights.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Emirates and Etihad fly to London daily from several Australian capitals. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Day 1 | Thursday January 18: Arrival
Most flights arrive in London in the morning or early afternoon. If you have booked your air travel through Academy Travel we will organise a transfer from Heathrow to our hotel. Please note that hotel rooms may not be available until early afternoon. In the early evening, we gather in the Seamus Heaney Library at the hotel for welcome drinks and canapés. (C)
Day 2 | Friday January 19: Portrait Gallery and Monteverdi – Performance I
After a morning talk on Monteverdi, we visit the National Portrait Gallery which contains an astonishing survey of British portraiture from the Tudor period to the present. Afterwards we enjoy a welcome lunch at the gallery’s fine restaurant. This evening we head to the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden for the Royal Opera’s chamber-scale performance of Monteverdi’s Venetian opera, The Return of Ulysses, an English-language production telling the tale of the ever-faithful Penelope and her eventual reunion with her husband Ulysses. 2017 marked the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth. (B, L)
Venue: Roundhouse Theatre
Program: Monteverdi, The Return of Ulysses
Performers: Christine Rice (Penelope), Roderick Williams (Ulysses), Christian Curnyn (conductor)
Day 3 | Saturday January 20: Handel House and Shakespeare – Performance II
This morning we walk to Mayfair to visit the delightful Handel House Museum, London’s only museum dedicated to a composer. Handel lived here from 1723 until his death in 1759. This evening we visit the Barbican Centre for The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Shakespeare’s, Julius Caesar, a political thriller that somehow never seems to lose its relevance.
Venue: Barbican Centre
Program: Shakespeare Julius Caesar
Performers: Andrew Woodall (Julius Caesar), Alex Waldmann (Brutus), Martin Hutson (Cassius), Angus Jackson (Director)
Day 4 | Sunday January 21: French Music Marathon – Performances III & IV
Today’s program allows us to compare two of London’s orchestras in some of the major works of the French repertoire, featuring French soloists. This morning Tom Ford provides an analysis of French music from Massenet to Ravel. In the afternoon we attend a concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Afterwards we plan to meet Mr Aimard (subject to confirmation). In the evening hear the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in a largely French program (B)
Performance III details
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, 3.00pm
Program: Debussy, Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un faune; Ravel, Piano Concerto in G, Mother Goose suite; Debussy, La mer
Performers: Philharmonia Orchestra, Pierre-Lauent Aimard (piano), Pablo Heras-Casado (conductor)
Performance IV details
Venue: Concert Hall, Barbican Centre, 7.00pm
Program: Wagner, Overture to Tannhäuser; Lalo, Cello Concerto; Debussy Première Suite (UK premiere); Massenet Le Cid – Suite
Performers: London Symphony Orchestra, Edgar Moreau (cello), François Xavier-Roth (conductor)
Day 5 | Monday January 22: Aled Jones and Amadeus – Performance V
This morning Welsh singer Aled Jones visits us in the hotel for morning tea. Jones is best remembered as a star boy soprano, recording 16 albums in the 1980s. He went on to study at the Royal College of Music and now sings baritone roles. This evening we visit National Theatre for British playwright Peter Shaffer’s Olivier and Tony award-winning play Amadeus. A powerful play about the life of the young musical prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Tour leader Tom Ford’s Ph.D is on Mozart, so no doubt he will be able to provide much insight into Schaffer’s interpretation. (B, morning tea)
Venue: National Theatre
Program: Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus
Performers: Adam Gillen (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), Lucian Msamati (Salieri)
Day 6 | Tuesday January 23: Kenwood House – Performance VI
This morning we visit Kenwood House on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Kenwood was brilliantly remodelled and extended by Robert Adam from 1764 to 1779. The Adam interiors include some of his finest surviving schemes, particularly the magnificent ‘Great Room’ or library. The house contains an outstanding collection of paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Gainsborough among others. The afternoon is free before we head to Royal Festival Hall for the piano recital by Paul Lewis, one of today’s most celebrated interpreters of Classical repertoire. (B)
Venue: Royal Festival Hall
Program: Haydn: Piano Sonata in C; Beethoven: 6 Bagatelles, Op.126 interval; Brahms: 6 Pieces for piano, Op.118
Haydn: Piano Sonata in G
Performer: Paul Lewis (piano)
Day 7 | Wednesday January 24: Melba in London & Orchestra of La Scala – Performance VII
This morning London-based musicologist Roger Neill talks to us about the Australian singer Nellie Melba’s career in London. Roger has recently been responsible for producing a recorded survey of Australian singers from Melba to Sutherland, and is an expert on the subject. We then take a tour of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, where Roger further describes her career. This evening we return to the Barbican Centre for a performance by the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan, with new music director Riccardo Chailly and pianist Benjamin Grosvenor. Like many European orchestras, the fine La Scala ensemble has a regular program of orchestral concerts on top of its operatic schedule. After the performance plan to meet pianist Benjamin Grosvenor (subject to confirmation). (B)
Venue: Barbican Centre
Program: Rossini Overture from La Gazza Ladra; Liszt Piano Concerto No 2; Tchaikovsky Symphony No 4
Performers: Orchestra of La Scala, Riccardo Chailly (conductor), Benjamin Grosvenor (piano)
Day 8 | Thursday January 25: Shakespeare’s Globe – Performance VIII
This morning we head to South London to visit Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. A reconstruction of the original open-air theatre, it has an excellent permanent exhibition of London theatre history, focussing on Shakespeare’s time. We then attend an afternoon performance of the Bard’s semi-comedy All’s Well That Ends Well, in the intimate (and indoor) Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Expectations are high thanks to director Caroline Byrne’s highly-regarded production to The Taming Of The Shrew in 2016. (B)
Venue: Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Globe Theatre, 2.00pm
Program: Shakespeare, All’s Well That End’s Well
Performers: to be announced
Day 9 | Friday January 26: V&A and the Royal Opera – Performance IX
After a talk on this evening’s opera, we travel to Kensington to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum. This important institution holds major exhibitions of fine and decorative arts, and our visit includes an introduction by a museum curator and the exhibition itself. Today we see the exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, a collaboration with the Royal Opera House, presenting key moments in the story of opera from its origins in late-Renaissance Italy to the present day. We return to our hotel mid-afternoon with plenty of time to relax before our second evening at Covent Garden. This evening we hear Richard Strauss’s highly dramatic Salome, based on Oscar Wilde’s version of the biblical story. Rather than indulging in sweet romantic melodies, Strauss’s music attempts to recreate the full-blooded drama of ancient Greek tragedy. An excellent international cast in a David McVicar production. (B)
Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Program: Richard Strauss, Salome
Performers: Maylin Byström (Salome), Michael Volle (John the Baptist), Henrik Nànàsi (conductor)
Day 10 | Saturday January 27: Music at St Paul’s and the London Philharmonic Orchestra – Performance X
England’s fine cathedrals have always played an important role in music-making. This morning we meet Barry Holden and Paul Moseley, who were responsible to assemble a very large choir in St Paul’s cathedral in London to record some of the more spectacular works of the choral repertoire. We then head to St Paul’s with Barry and Paul to learn more about the cathedral’s music-making qualities. In the late afternoon there is a pre-performance talk, before we hear the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a gala performance of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, the first of the four music dramas that constitute ‘The Ring of the Nibelung’. The performance celebrates Vladimir Jurowski’s 10th year as Principal Conductor of the LPO, and features a starry line-up of singers. (B)
Venue: Royal Festival Hall
Program: Wagner’s Das Rheingold
Performers: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski (conductor), Matthias Goerne (Wotan), Robert Hayward (Alberich), Michelle DeYoung (Fricka)
Day 11 | Sunday January 28: Oxford museums and evensong
This morning we travel out of London to Oxford, a historic university town with a fine musical history. Our visit, with an architectural guide, includes the Ashmolean Museum and Christopher Wren’s superb Sheldonian Theatre. After a farewell lunch at a local restaurant, we attend choral evensong at Christ Church College before returning to London. (B, L)
Day 12 | Monday January 29: Wigmore Hall and Departure – Performance Xi
In the late morning, we check out of the hotel and attend a lunchtime recital at Wigmore Hall, a fine Edwardian recital hall which attracts the world’s best musicians. The tour ends after the recital. In the afternoon there is a transfer to Heathrow Airport for those departing on evening flights. (B)
Venue: Wigmore Hall
Program: to be announced October 2017
Performers: To be announced October 2017
Dr Tom Ford
Holds a PhD in history and has written extensively on classical music. Tom is currently PR and media manager (classics / jazz) for Universal Music Australia.
He has written extensively on classical music, specifically Mozart. He has been a broadcaster on 5MBS Adelaide and 3MBS Fine Music in Melbourne, where he now works.
This elegant four-star hotel is housed in a heritage building designed by the famous English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. It has tastefully appointed public areas and comfortable well-sized rooms. But its best feature is the location on a quiet part of Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury. The British Museum is only 100 metres from the front door, and the theatres of the West End, Covent Garden Opera House and the galleries of Trafalgar Square are all within easy walking distance.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
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A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
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A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
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