Oct 2 - 18, 2019
17 days
$12,990per person, twin share (land content only). $3,240 supplement for sole use of a hotel room.

Tour Leader

Robert Gay
Oct 2 - 18, 2019

Tour Leader

Robert Gay
  • Tour Info
  • Itinerary
  • Tour Leader
  • Hotels
  • Inclusions


Academy Travel is proud to present this new 17-day program, offering performances of the highest calibre in four of Europe’s great cultural centres: Venice, Milan, Madrid and Barcelona. The itinerary is built around nine performances at venues including the La Fenice and La Scala opera houses in Italy, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Aside from the performances, this tour offers the opportunity to explore the unique art and architecture of Venice, enjoy the vibrant modern city of Milan, see Spanish Masters at the Prado, and the modernista architecture of Barcelona.



  • Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at Teatro La Fenice
  • Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Teatro La Fenice
  • A recital of songs by Barbara Strozzi and Handel by the specialist ensemble La Venexiana


  • Donizetti’s delightful comic opera L’elisir d’amore at Teatro alla Scala, with stars Rosa Feola and Vittorio Grigolo
  • Adam’s Giselle, performed by the renowned La Scala Ballet


  • London’s celebrated Philharmonia Orchestra, on tour with the outstanding Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, performing Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony
  • An authentic performance of flamenco at Casa Patas


  • The Orquestra Nacional de Catalunya, performing Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky
  • Spanish classical music at the Palau de la Musica Catalana
  • Puccini’s Turandot at the Gran Teatro del Liceo, with an excellent international cast

Itinerary Overview

Days 1–4: In Venice, attend operas at La Fenice, explore the city’s remarkable architecture and art collections. Visit the best exhibitions at the Biennale.

Days 5–7: Travel to Milan via Verdi’s birthplace of Busseto. Attend the opera and ballet at La Scala, visit the Brera gallery and take a day trip to Donizetti’s Bergamo.

Days 8–10: Fly to Madrid, attend performances at the Teatro Real. Admire art at the Prado, and take a day trip Segovia.

Days 11–17: Take the fast train to Barcelona, attend an opera, and visit the National Museum of Catalonian Art and the Fundacio Joan Miro. Take a day trip Tarragona.

Detailed Itinerary

Start & Finish

Tour begins at the Venice hotel and ends at the Barcelona hotel. For this tour we recommend Emirates or Qatar who offers flights into Venice and out of Barcelona from most Australian cities.

Detailed Itinerary

Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.

Wednesday October 2: Arrive Venice

If you have booked your air travel through Academy Travel we will organise a water taxi transfer from Venice Airport to our hotel. Please note that hotel rooms may not be available until early afternoon. At 7.00pm, meet Robert Gay in the hotel lobby and walk to a nearby restaurant for a light dinner. Overnight Venice (D)

Thursday October 3: Torcello – Madama Butterfly

This morning Robert Gay gives an overview of our three performances in Venice. A local guide then takes us on a walking tour of some of the hidden treasures of Venice, close to our hotel. We visit hidden courtyards, quiet laneways and atmospheric corners of the oldest parts of the city. Private water taxis then take us to the island of Torcello on the northern reaches of the lagoon. Here we enjoy a welcome lunch at Locanda Cipriani, one of Venice’s most storied restaurants. Adjacent to the restaurant is the ancient mosaiced basilica of Torcello, which we inspect before returning to the hotel by taxi. The later afternoon is at leisure before we attend our opening performance at Venice’s historic La Fenice opera house. This theatre, which was rebuilt after a malicious fire in 1996, has been at the heart of Italian musical life since it originally opened in 1792, and has seen many notable premieres and legendary performances in its time. La Fenice’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly features sets and costumes by Japanese artist Mariko Mori. The operawire website described at as is ‘a thrilling production and the perfect antidote for opera goers who chafe at the sentimentality often to be found in Puccini’s works. Overnight Venice (B, L)

Performance details
Venue: Teatro La Fenice
Program: Puccini’s Madama Butterfly
Performers: Vittoria Yeo (Cio-Cio-San), Manuela Custer (Suzuki), Stefano La Colla (Pinkerton), Luca Grassi (Sharpless), Daniele Callegari (conductor)

Friday October 4: The Venice Biennale– The Barber of Seville

Venice’s renowned international art fair, the Biennale, is taking place during our visit. You will have a two-day pass to visit the official Biennale campus, but there are also excellent shows at venues around the city. This evening we return to La Fenice for Rossini’s timeless comedy. Overnight Venice (B)

Performance details
Venue: Teatro La Fenice
Program: Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia
Performers: Julian Kim (Figaro), Laura Polverelli (Rosina), Maxim Mironov (Count Almaviva), Francesco Ivan Ciampa (conductor)

Saturday October 5: Wagner in Venice, two artisitic masterpieces – La Venexiana

This morning we visit the Palazzo Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, today the winter Casino of Venice. Richard Wagner rented the entire piano nobile of the palace in 1882 and died there in February 1883. We visit the small Wagner Museum in the palace. We then visit two of the city’s artistic gems with a local guide, each epitomising the High Renaissance period in Venice. The first is the church of the Frari, containing two masterpieces by Titian and the tomb of the great Venetian composer, Claudio Monteverdi. Adjacent is the confraternity of San Rocco, containing magnificent paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto. The afternoon is free. This evening we return to La Fenice for a special concert. The early music specialist group La Venexiana performs songs by Barbara Strozzi and Handel in the delightful Apollonian Rooms of La Fenice, the only part of the theatre to survive the devastating fire in 1996. Overnight Venice (B)

Performance details
Venue: Teatro La Fenice
Program: Songs for soprano voice by Barbara Strozzi and GF Handel
Performers: La Venexiana – Emanuela Galli and Monica Piccinini, sopranos; Davide Pozzi, harpsichord; Gabriele Palomba, theorbo and leader

Sunday October 6: Verdi Sites

Today we depart for Milan, visiting the town of Busseto, near Parma, where Verdi was born and spent much of his life. In the late morning, we visit the composer’s farmhouse-villa at Sant’Agata, which he purchased after achieving world-wide fame. The house contains important artefacts. Then in the afternoon we visit the fine house-museum of Verdi’s patron and father-in-law, Antonio Barezzi as well as the town of Busseto itself. We arrive in Milan in the early evening, and there is dinner in our hotel. Overnight Milan (B, D)

Monday October 7: Teatro alla Scala – The Elixir of love

Milan has been a major cultural centre since the Renaissance, but it was in the 19th century that its opera house became the most famous in the world, with many important premieres taking place there. After our morning talk on this evening’s performance, we visit the Casa di Riposo for retired musicians which Verdi considered his most important work. Verdi and his wife Giuseppina are buried there in a fine crypt below the chapel. We follow that with a visit to the splendid La Scala museum, adjacent to the opera house, to admire the fascinating collection of paintings of famous singers, posters, costumes, and design sketches. This evening we attend our first of two performances at La Scala, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. Written in 1832, the elegant score typifies the bel canto tradition. Its most famous aria, Una furtiva lagrima, will be sung by star tenor Vittorio Grigolo, who leads the fine cast. Overnight Milan (B)

Performance details
Venue: Teatro alla Scala
Program: Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore
Performers: Rosa Feola (Adina), Vittorio Grigolo (Nemorino), Ambrogio Maestri (Dulcamara), Michele Gamba (conductor)

Tuesday October 8: Brera Gallery – Giselle

This morning we visit the Brera gallery, a world-class collection of Renaissance art with a distinctly northern Italian flavour, featuring works by Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, Raphael, Titian and Tintoretto, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Lunch is at the Bistrot Cracco in the glass-ceilinged Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. For more than 100 years this restaurant has been the haunt of composers, singers and conductors, especially on opening nights. In the afternoon you might like to call in at the Museo del 1900, Milan’s excellent museum of 20th century art. This evening we return to La Scala for Adam’s much-loved ballet Giselle. La Scala’s corps de ballet is one of the world’s finest. The Australian Book Review described the production as “dazzling, heartbreaking, and authentic in every measure” when La Scala Ballet took Giselle to Brisbane in 2018. Overnight Milan (B, L)

Performance details
Venue: Teatro alla Scala
Program: Adam’s Giselle
Performers: La Scala Ballet, Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot (choreographers) and David Coleman (conductor)

Wednesday October 9: To Madrid– Philharmonia Orchestra

Today we fly from Milan to Madrid, capital of Spain. (Please note that, unless additional luggage is purchased in advance, there will be a 23kg luggage limit on this flight). On arrival, we transfer to our hotel and take a short orientation walk before and early dinner in a local restaurant. This evening we attend a performance by the Philharmonia Orchestra, on tour from their home in London. Esa-Pekka Salonen, regarded by many as the greatest conductor of the current generation, leads the orchestra in a concert that includes Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Overnight Madrid (B, D)

Performance details
Venue: Sala Sinfónica, Auditorio Nacional de la Musica, Madrid
Program: Beethoven, King Stephen suite, Berg, Lulu suite, Beethoven, Symphony No. 7 in A major
Performers: Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen (conductor)

Thursday October 10: The Prado – Flamenco

This morning, we visit Spain’s premier art museum, the Prado. This gallery houses the collection assembled by the Spanish monarchs since the Renaissance and is filled with countless masterpieces. Particularly noteworthy are the sensuously colourful works of Titian, Rubens, Velázquez and Goya. The afternoon is free, and you might like to visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, also one of Europe’s most important art museums. Spain has made a distinctive contribution to the western musical tradition, something we celebrate at tonight’s performance and one in Barcelona. This evening we head to the small bar/restaurant Casa Patas to enjoy a meal followed by an authentic performance of flamenco by Eliezer Truco Pinillos, known as ‘La Truco’. Overnight Madrid (B, D)

Performance details
Venue: Casa Patas, Madrid
Program: Flamenco dance and music
Performers: Eliezer Truco Pinillos and company

Friday October 11: Segovia

Today we head out of Madrid, travelling to Segovia, a city whose history spans the Roman period, the Moorish occupation and the Catholic monarchy. We visit the Roman aqueduct, stroll through the historic centre of the city and tour the Alcazar, the medieval fortress which dominates the town. There is lunch at a fine local restaurant before returning to Madrid. Overnight Madrid. (B, L)

Saturday October 12: Travel to Barcelona – Orquestra Nacional de Catalunya

This morning we depart Madrid for Barcelona, taking the AVE train which enables us to travel the 600 kilometres journey in around three hours. After checking in to our hotel and some free time, there is a pre-performance talk accompanied by tapas. This evening we attend a performance by Barcelona’s leading orchestra, the Orquestra Nacional de Catalunya. Tonight’s concert features noted Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski playing the ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky’s often overlooked Manfred Symphony. Overnight Barcelona. (B, tapas)

Performance details
Venue: L’auditori, Barcelona
Program: Roukens: Morphic Waves Rachmaninov: Concerto for piano and orchestra No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, Op. 58
Performers: Orquestra Nacional de Catalunya, Gabriel Bebeselea, conductor, Simon Trpceski, piano

Sunday October 13: Barcelona’s Medieval Heart

This morning, a local guide shows us Barcelona’s Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter with its labyrinth of winding medieval streets, very close to our hotel. For much of the middle ages Barcelona, as the major seaport of the Crown of Aragon, was one of Europe’s most important cities. The tour ends at the Picasso Museum, which you have the option of visiting. Picasso spent his formative early years in Barcelona and the museum contains nearly 4,000 of the artist’s works. The remainder of the day is free.  Overnight Barcelona. (B)

Monday October 14: Modernista Barcelona – Palau de la Musica Catalana

This morning we enjoy a special before hours visit to the Casa Mila, the last private residence designed by Antoni Gaudí, the most famous of Barcelona’s modernista architects. This Catalonian version of art nouveau developed in the first decades of the 20th century and there are colourful apartment blocks, churches, hospitals, parks and other structures dotted around the inner districts of the city.  In the mid-afternoon a guide shows us two other important structures, the Hospital de la Santa Creu and Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia church, is still incomplete after more than a century. Our modernista theme continues this evening with a performance in the Palau de la Musica Catalana, designed in 190 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The concert is a tribute to the Spanish guitar composer Paco de Lucía and features works by two of Spain’s best-known composers, Albéniz and de Falla. Overnight Barcelona (B)

Performance details
Venue: Palau de la Music Catalana
Program:  Works of Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla and Paco de Lucía.
Performers: Manuel González, Xavier Coll and Luis Robisco (guitar) Jose M. Álvarez and Carolina Morgado (dancers) Paquito Escudero (percussion)

Tuesday October 15: Tarragona

Today we have a full-day excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Tarragona, situated on the Mediterranean coast about 100 kilometres SW of Barcelona. Probably beginning as a Phoenician colony, the city is one of Spain’s oldest inhabited sites, but it is the impressive Roman remains, including walls, amphitheatre and aqueduct, which form the focus of our visit. We enjoy lunch in a local restaurant as well as free time to explore the city centre before returning to Barcelona in the late afternoon. Overnight Barcelona (B, L)

Wednesday October 16: Art in Barcelona – Turandot

After a talk on this evening’s performance, we visit two fine museums on Montjuic, a hill overlooking the old city. Beginning at the Fundación Jean Miró, dedicated to the well-known 20th century artist, we continue to the National Museum of Catalonian Art (MNAC) where we have lunch in the museum’s restaurant before exploring the gallery’s remarkable collection of Catalan art from the Romanesque to Art Nouveau. This evening we attend a performance of Puccini’s last opera Turandot at the Gran Teatre del Liceu on the Rambla. The Gran Teatre is the leading classical music venue of the prosperous Catalonia region, and tonight’s performance features an excellent international cast. The production, by the Barcelona-based Fura dels Baus theatre group is sure to be visually arresting. Overnight Barcelona (B, L)

Performance details
Venue: Gran Teatre del Liceu
Program: Puccini’s Turandot
Performers: Lise Lindstom (Turandot), Gregory Kunde (Calaf), Anita Hartig (Liù), Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Liceu Opera, Josep Pons (conductor)

Thursday October 17: Montserrat

The famous monastery high on a rocky outcrop some 40km from Barcelona was established in the Middle Ages to house an image of the Virgin Mary believed to have been carved by St Luke. Today we visit the fine Renaissance church, home to a famous boys’ choir, and admire the fine views from the mountains to the Mediterranean. Our farewell dinner is at 7 Portes, one of the city’s better restaurants. (B, D)

Friday October 18: Departure

The tour ends after breakfast. If you have booked flights with Academy Travel, we will organise a transfer to Barcelona airport at a suitable time.

Robert Gay

One of Australia’s leading music tour leaders and music educators, he has designed and led more than 90 tours.

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!”

View Bio & Upcoming Tours


Hotels have been selected principally for their central location. All hotels are excellent four-star properties that are renovated palazzi.

Tour Inclusions

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

Airport Transfers

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

Booking conditions

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.

Cancellation Fees

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.

Travel Insurance

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.

Final Payment

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.

Tour Details

Fitness Requirement

Grade Two

A Grade 2 tour is appropriate for travellers in good health with good mobility, who can comfortably participate in up to 3 hours of physical activity per day on most days.
More Details


A limited number of places remain on this tour and as such, internet bookings are not taken. Please contact our travel consultant listed below if you wish to make a booking.

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Speak to a consultant

For further information or to secure a place on this tour please contact:
Kathy Wardrop 02 9235 0023 or 1800 639 699
(outside Sydney)

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