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.


Full details of all nine performances will be available in April 2019.


  • 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


  • A performance at the Teatro Real, now regarded as one of Europe’s finest opera houses both for its high musical standards and innovative productions. Performance details available April 2019.
  • A concert by the Orquesta Nacional de España, Spain’s leading orchestra


  • Puccini’s Turandot at the Gran Teatro del Liceo
  • A performance at the Palau de la Musica Catalana, one of Barcelona’s finest modernista-style buildings

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 5–8: 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 8–12: Fly to Madrid, attend performances at the Teatro Real. Admire art at the Prado, and take a day trip Segovia.

Days 13–17: 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: Wagner in Venice – Madama Butterfly

This morning Robert Gay gives an overview of our three performances in Venice. We then 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 before having our welcome lunch at an excellent local restaurant. 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. As well as viewing the extraordinary range of world-class contemporary art on display, many historic buildings that are normally closed to the public are open as exhibition spaces. With your two-day pass, you will be able to visit both the main pavilions at the biennale sites and the dozens of other special exhibitions located 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: The Accademia – La Venexiana

This morning we walk to the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice’s principal museum of art, with works spanning the 14th to 18th centuries. The gallery documents the remarkable contribution that Venice has made to European painting over the centuries, with masterpieces by Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Canaletto and dozens of other masters. There will also be a special exhibition coinciding with the Biennale. This afternoon there are the options of further exploration of the Biennale or visiting the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio’s monumental Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, containing superb paintings by Tintoretto. Taking the elevator to the bell tower of San Giorgio, one has fine views over the city and the lagoon. This evening we return to La Fenice for a special event. The early music specialist group La Venexiana performs songs by Barbara Strozzi and Handel in the delightful Apollonian Rooms of La Fenice, decorated in the 18th century. 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 fine house-museum of Verdi’s patron and father-in-law, Antonio Barezzi. Then in the afternoon, we visit the composer’s farmhouse-villa at Sant’Agata, which he purchased after achieving world-wide fame. The house contains important artefacts and fine gardens. We arrive in Milan in the late afternoon, 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 historic Biffi restaurant 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: Donizetti’s Bergamo

Today we travel to the hills an hour north of Milan to visit the beautiful city of Bergamo, birthplace of Gaetano Donizetti. It is a delightful place, which boasts an historic fortified Upper Town full of medieval and Renaissance buildings and squares. We visit the Donizetti Museum, as well as the church where he is buried, and the small but magnificent Colleoni Chapel. Return to Milan in the afternoon. If available, there may be an optional orchestral concert this evening. Overnight Milan (B)

Thursday October 10: To Madrid

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 dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Madrid (B, D)

Friday October 11: The Prado – Orquesta Nacional

After a morning talk on this evening’s performance, 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. This evening we attend a performance by Madrid’s leading orchestra, the Orquesta Nacional de España. Each season the orchestra works with leading European conductors and soloists. Overnight Madrid (B)

Performance details
Venue: Sala Sinfónica Madrid
Program: to be announced April 2019
Performers: Orquesta Nacional de España

Saturday October 12: 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)

Sunday October 13: A Private Collection – Teatro Real

After a morning talk to introduce this evening’s performance, we visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, one of Europe’s most important art museums. In public hands since 1993, the core of the collection has works spanning the 13th to 20th centuries including Dürer, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Hopper and Rothko. This evening we attend a performance at the Teatro Real. Regarded as one of the most important cultural institutions in Spain, the Teatro Real reopened on 11 October 1997 and has become an internationally acclaimed opera house which showcases leading voices and state-of-the art productions. Overnight Madrid (B)

Performance details
Venue: Teatro Real
Program: to be announced April 2019
Performers: Teatro Real

Monday October 14: To Barcelona

We depart Madrid for Barcelona this morning, taking the AVE train which enables us to travel the 600 kilometres journey in around three hours. We take an early evening stroll down to the waterfront where we have dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Barcelona. (B, D)

Tuesday October 15: Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia – Turandot

After a talk on this evening’s performance, we have a guided visit to Gaudi’s magnificent, and soon-to-be-finished, Sagrada Familia church with its breathtaking newly-installed stained glass. Afterwards, we visit Barcelona’s famous Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter with its labyrinth of winding medieval streets. 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 hosts world-class opera and ballet productions and symphony concerts. Overnight Barcelona (B)

Performance details
Venue: Gran Teatre del Liceu
Program: Puccini’s Turandot
Performers: to be announced

Wednesday October 16: 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)

Thursday October 17: Art in Barcelona – Palau de la Musica Catalana

Barcelona is a major art city, home of internationally renowned artists such as Picasso and Miró, but also the cradle of Catalunyan art of the middle ages. Today we visit two fine museums on Montjuic, a hill overlooking the old city. Beginning at the Fundación Jean Miró, we continue on to the National Museum of Catalonian Art (MNAC) where we have a farewell 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 at the Palau de la Musica Catalana. This jewel of modernista architecture was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner who, along with Gaudí, was a key figure in Spain’s artistic scene in the early 20th-century. The Palau’s programs feature visiting orchestras and soloists, as well as local artists. Overnight Barcelona (B, L)

Performance details
Venue: Palau de la Musica Catalana
Program: to be announced
Performers: to be announced

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.

Hold a Place Download Booking Form

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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