Continuing our tradition of performances of opera and orchestral music of the highest calibre, Academy Travel is proud to present this 18-day program built around 10 performances at opera houses and concert halls in Switzerland and Germany. This year there is a particular focus on opera, with nine performances including familiar repertoire by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Wagner is complemented by the opportunity to see several rarely performed operas, including works by Prokofiev, Janáček and Arrigo Boito, who was one of Verdi’s librettists. In addition, there is a concert by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, led by one of the leading conductors of our day, Semyon Bychkov.
A richly varied sightseeing program has been created around these performances, including excursions to picturesque towns and villages in France’s Alsace region bordering the Rhine, a river cruise past the famous Lorelei Rock, and visits to the lesser-known historical centres of Würzburg and Regensburg. There is also a strong musical component with a visit to Baden-Baden, a day in Wagner’s Bayreuth and a visit to Ludwig II’s magnificent castle of Neuschwanstein which is decorated with scenes from Wagner’s music dramas.
Ten performances at some of Europe’s premiere venues
A particular focus on opera, with nine performances spanning the early 19th to the mid-20th centuries
The stunning landscapes and heritage of the Rhine River
Picturesque and historic towns of Bavaria and visits to castles, fine food and alpine scenery
Background talks on all performances and post-performance discussion
Nine operas and one orchestral concert are included, in some of Europe’s most celebrated music venues.
Prokofiev’s rarely-performed The Gambler at Theater Basel
Rossini’s La Cenerentola at Theatre Basel
Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, with star soprano Diana Damrau at the Zurich Opera House
Wagner’s Das Rheingold at Oper Frankfurt
Bellini’s La sonnambula at Oper Frankfurt
Janáček’s rarely-performed From the house of the dead at Oper Frankfurt
Zimmermann’s rarely-performed Die Soldaten (The Soldiers) at Staatstheatre Nuremberg
The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov
Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at the Bavarian State Opera
Arrigo Boito’s rarely-performed Mefistofele at the Bavarian State Opera
Days 1–5: The tour begins in Basel with performances at the opera and exploration of the surrounding area including trips on the ‘wine road’ to Colmar, the Beyeler Foundation and the Rhine Falls.
Days 6-10: Travel to Frankfurt via the spa town Baden-Baden. See the major sites of Frankfurt and visit Goethe House. Opera performances include works by Wagner, Bellini and Janáček.
Days 11-13: In Nuremberg we see opera, travel to Wagner’s town of Bayreuth and visit Würzburg.
Days 14-18: In Munich, attend performances including Semyon Bychkov conducting the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. Enjoy walking tours and an excursion to Neuschwanstein Castle and Oberammergau.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates flies into Zurich and out of Munich at times that coincide with the tour. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letter B, L, D or C for canapes.
Friday April 13: Arrive Zurich
The tour begins at Zurich airport in the morning. After meeting your tour leader Robert Gay, we make the short journey to our hotel in central Basel (note that rooms will not be available until mid-afternoon). The remainder of the day is free to explore Basel independently. This evening we gather for drinks and canapes in our hotel. Overnight Basel (C)
Saturday April 14: Exploring Basel – The Gambler
After a talk on tonight’s opera, a local guide shows us the historic core of Old Basel and Kleine Basel, across the Rhine River. This is followed by lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Rhine. This evening we walk to the nearby Theatre Basel for our first performance, Prokofiev’s The Gambler. This tragic tale of love and money is based on a short story by Dostoyevsky. Prokofiev completed the score in 1917, on the eve of the Russian Revolution, but the work had to wait until 1929 for its premiere in Brussels. Overnight Basel (B, L)
Venue: Theatre Basel
Program: Prokofiev’s The Gambler
Performers: Dmitry Golovnin (Alexei), Asmi Grigorian (Polina), Martin Snell (The General), Modestas Pitrénas (conductor)
Sunday April 15: Colmar
Our excursion today takes us along the ‘Wine Road’ on the French side of the Rhine, where the famous Alsatian wine varieties are grown. First we visit the beautiful town of Colmar where we admire the celebrated Isenheim Altar, a masterpiece of German Renaissance art painted by Matthias Grünewald, before enjoying a typically Alsatian lunch. After lunch we visit some of the charming wine villages for a wine tasting before returning to Basel in the late afternoon. Overnight Basel (B, L)
Monday April 16: The Beyeler Foundation – La Cenerentola
After a morning talk on the evening’s performance, we visit the famous Beyeler Foundation. Basel is a celebrated art city, with a heritage stretching from the Middle Ages to the prestigious annual contemporary art fair. The Beyeler Foundation is general regarded as one the city’s finest collections, its permanent collection comprising a who’s who of modern artists from Cezanne onwards. It also regularly hosts major international exhibitions. This evening we return to Theatre Basel for Rossini’s sparkling re-telling of the Cinderella fairy tale performed by a vibrant young cast. Overnight Basel (B)
Tuesday April 17: Zurich and the Rhine Falls – Maria Stuarda
After a pre-performance talk, the rest of the morning is free. In the afternoon we travel to Zurich via the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen. Painted by Turner and visited by the likes of Goethe, Rousseau, Byron and Mary Shelley, the Falls hold a special place in Germany’s cultural heritage. We continue on to Zurich for an early dinner before we attend Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, starring the soprano Diana Damrau. Part of his ‘Tudor trilogy’ – along with Anna Bolena and Roberto Devereux – the opera tells the story of Elizabeth I’s hapless rival. We return to Basel after the performance. Overnight Basel (B, D)
After a leisurely breakfast, we depart Basel in the late morning for the journey to Frankfurt. After travelling through sections of the Black Forest, we make an extended stop in Baden-Baden. This elegant 19th-century spa town was frequented by Berlioz, Brahms and other important musical figures. We arrive in Frankfurt in the early evening and dinner will be served in the hotel. Overnight Frankfurt (B, D)
Thursday April 19: Goethe in Frankfurt – Das Rheingold
After a pre-performance talk, a local guide takes us on a walking tour through the historic centre of Frankfurt where we visit Goethe’s birth house. Frankfurt has enjoyed a significant cultural renaissance in the last 10-15 years which we will observe on our walk. Having journeyed along the Rhine on several days of our tour, this evening’s performance of the first part of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle will have a special resonance. Sebastian Weigle leads an impressive cast. Overnight Frankfurt (B)
Venue: Oper Frankfurt
Program: Wagner’s Das Rheingold
Performers: James Rutherford (Wotan), Claudia Mahnke (Fricka), Kurt Streit (Loge), Jochen Schmeckenbecher (Alberich), Sebastian Weigle (conductor), Vera Nemirova (director)
Friday April 20: Frankfurt – La Sonnambula
After an extended morning talk covering the next two performances in our schedule, the remainder of the day is free to relax, or perhaps to explore Frankfurt’s excellent Städel art museum. Tonight we return to Oper Frankfurt for another gem from the bel canto repertoire, Bellini’s La sonnambula. This charming opera semiseria, set in Switzerland, involves a sleepwalking heroine, Amina, whose nocturnal wanderings lead to complications and strife between her village sweetheart, Elvino, and the local count, Rodolfo. After a tense penultimate scene, the opera ends happily! Overnight Frankfurt (B)
Venue: Oper Frankfurt
Program: Bellini’s La sonnambula
Performers: Brenda Rae (Amina), Ioan Hotea (Elvino), Kiwan Sim (Rodolfo), Eun Sun Kim (conductor)
Saturday April 21: Jugendstil in Darmstadt – From the house of the dead
Today we take a short excursion to Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt. Thanks to industrial-age prosperity and an annual architectural competition, the city became an important site for Art Nouveau architecture, called Jugendstil in German. Fortunately, this section of the town was spared in World War II and is one of the best-preserved original historical districts in Germany. We return to Frankfurt with time to relax before tonight’s performance of Janáček’s From the house of the dead. The title refers to a bleak prison where the action takes place, but in spite of its grim setting the work contains notable ensemble scenes and wonderful orchestration. Like The Gambler, it is based on a novel by Dostoyevsky and was the composer’s last work. Overnight Frankfurt (B)
Venue: Oper Frankfurt
Program: Janáček’s From the house of the dead
Performers: Gordon Bintner (Goryantchikov), Karen Vuong (Alyeya), Tito Ceccherini (conductor)
Sunday April 22: A day on the Rhine
A relaxing day today as we head out of Frankfurt to the wine village of Rüdesheim where we embark on a cruise along one of the most scenic sections of the Rhine, the so-called ‘Romantic Rhine’. In fact, not surprisingly, it was this part of the river that Wagner had in mind for his opera. During our lunch on board we will pass the famous Lorelei Rock, the mythical home of the Rhine siren who was said to lure sailors to their death. Poems based on the legend were set to music by several of the leading Romantic composers including Mendelssohn, Schumann and Liszt. Overnight Frankfurt (B, L)
Monday April 23: Nuremberg via Würzburg – Die Soldaten
After a pre-performance talk on this evening’s opera, we depart Frankfurt and head to the provincial city of Würzburg, where we visit the prince-archbishop’s Residenz. The huge frescoed ceiling of the great ceremonial staircase is considered to be the masterpiece of Giambattista Tiepolo, the 18th-century Venetian master of the fashionable rococo style who spent 10 years in Würzburg completing the fresco. Tonights performance Die Soldaten (The soldiers), by Bernd-Alois Zimmermann, was composed in 1960 and in recent years was revived with success at the Salzburg Festival. It is a confronting tale, with overtones of Berg’s Wozzeck, but is notable for its use of jazz, film, speech, electronic music and ballet. It might be best described as ‘total theatre’. The promised surtitles in English will be welcome! Overnight Nuremburg (B)
Venue: Staatstheater Nuremburg
Program: Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten
Performers: Soloists, chorus and orchestra of the Staatstheater, Marcus Bosch (conductor), Peter Konwitschny (director)
Tuesday April 24: Nuremberg
This morning a local guide shows us Nuremberg, the setting for Wagner’s great comic drama Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The afternoon is free for you to continue to explore this fascinating city. You might like to visit the fine Albrecht Durer House museum. Tonight we dine in a Nuremburg restaurant. Overnight Nuremburg (B, D)
Wednesday April 25: Wagner’s Bayreuth
Today we travel to Bayreuth, an elegant provincial city where Wagner built his Festspielhaus, a theatre specifically designed for his music dramas and today the site of the annual Wagner festival. We will also visit Wahnfried, the villa built for Wagner by King Ludwig, and the newly-restored Margravine’s Opera House, another jewel of rococo architecture. Overnight Nuremburg (B)
Thursday April 26: Munich via Regensburg – Munich Philharmonic
Our exploration of Bavaria continues today as we make a stop in Regensburg on our way to Munich. The city, situated on the mighty Danube River, is a UNESCO World-Heritage city boasting a magnificent cathedral which is home to a superb boys’ choir called the ‘Cathedral Sparrows’! After a short guided tour of the city centre we continue on to Munich, where tonight we see one of the world’s leading conductors, Semyon Bychkov, leading the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance that includes Schubert’s monumental last symphony, called (not by Schubert) ‘The Great’. Supper will be served in our hotel after the performance. Overnight Munich (B, D)
Program: Max Bruch’s Concerto for two pianos and orchestra; Schubert’s Symphony in C major, ‘The Great’
After a morning talk, we head to Munich’s Alte Pinakothek Art Gallery. You may also be interested in visiting the nearby modern art gallery, home to many works by Kandinsky and other members of Munich’s ‘Blue Rider’ movement. This evening, our penultimate performance is Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia. The Christof Loy production features the great soprano Edita Gruberova as the Italian Renaissance villainess, and the fine Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez sings Gennaro. Overnight Munich (B)
Venue: Bavarian State Opera
Program: Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia
Performers: Edita Gruberova (Lucrezia), Juan Diego Florez (Gennaro), Friedrich Haider (conductor)
Saturday April 28: Neuschwanstein and the Alps
A full day’s excursion today takes us first to Ludwig II’s palace of Neuschwanstein, in which the king’s adoration of Wagner is powerfully revealed by rooms in his private suite which are decorated with scenes from the music dramas he loved so passionately. After visiting the town of Oberammergau, the site of the famous passion play, we head towards the pre-Alps for views of the Zugspitze. Overnight Munich (B)
Sunday April 29: Farewell Lunch – Mefistofele
After a pre-performance talk, we enjoy a farewell lunch at Käfer-Shänke, one of the city’s best restaurants. The afternoon is free before our final performance, Boito’s Mefistofele. Arrigo Boito is probably best known as the inspired librettist of Verdi’s last two operas, as well as being the great friend of Verdi’s last years. However, during his lifetime he was also a well-respected composer, and the revised version of Mefistofele, which we shall see, brought him considerable acclaim. The opera boasts a fine role for the eponymous villain, and contains a famous aria for the heroine Margherita, L’altra notte, which has been recorded by every major dramatic soprano, including Maria Callas! Overnight Munich (B, L)
Venue: Bavarian State Opera
Program: Boito’s Mefistofele
Performers: Carmen Giannattasio (Margherita), Joseph Calleja (Faust), Erwin Schrott (Mefistofele), Omer Welber (conductor)
Monday April 30: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast. Departing group members transfer to Munich airport for outgoing flights. (B)
Is one of Australia’s leading music tour leaders and music educators. He has designed and led more than 80 performance based tours to Europe and the US.
Since 1987, Robert Gay has managed to combine his passion for music and his love of teaching with his enthusiasm for travel. He has visited the great opera houses and concert halls of Europe and America and heard most of the great singers and instrumentalists of the last half-century. Robert was President of the Sydney Schubert Society for eighteen years, and for several years was a guest lecturer for ADFAS.
After gaining a BA, Dip. Ed. from the University of Sydney, Robert trained as a lyric baritone in London and Munich before turning to the field of music education with a position at 2MBS-FM. He has taught music history courses at Sydney University’s Centre for Continuing Education since 1985. Robert’s musical expertise ranges wide, from baroque to modern. He particular enjoys placing works in their larger contexts – musical, biographical, social and historical.
In the early days, Robert always designed his tours to include a visit behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ – whether it was Berlin, Dresden, Prague or Budapest – thereby providing fascinating insights into a world which has now largely disappeared. His tours, which total nearly 90, have regularly featured the great musical cities of Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Russia, as well as Scandinavia and the United States of America.
“It has been an enormous privilege to have travelled the world for the last 30 years taking groups of music lovers to the great musical and cultural cities of Europe and America,” Robert says. “There is something magical about music – an art form which only truly lives as it is performed – which seems to bind people together so effortlessly and harmoniously.”
“I have always been a great believer in ‘the spirit of place’,” says Robert. “You can read and research and google all you like, but it cannot for a moment match the thrill of standing in the beautiful villa on the shores of Lake Lucerne where Wagner and his beloved Cosima first lived together; or of hearing a service in Bach’s unassuming St Thomas’s church in Leipzig; or seeing a performance in the old Paris Opéra, the auditorium ‘crowned’ by its superb Chagall ceiling celebrating both opera and ballet. Such experiences are treasurable and unforgettable!”
Hotels have been selected principally for their central location, many within walking distance to the performance venues. All of the hotels are excellent four-star properties that are within renovated historic buildings.
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
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
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.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
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.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.