For many music lovers Giuseppe Verdi epitomises Italian Opera, which is hardly surprising considering that for half a century he completely dominated the Italian opera scene with his stirring dramas and thrilling music.
Discover more about this fascinating and deeply private man, while gaining insights into his complex and ever-evolving musical imagination, during this 4-day musical retreat in the Hunter Valley, led by one of Australia’s most experienced music educators.
Exclusive use of a luxurious boutique hotel, The Convent (above), has been arranged for the tour, which also includes a visit to the fine Maitland Regional Art Gallery and gourmet dining at two of Pokolbin’s most stylish and highly regarded restaurants.
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Vaccination requirements Academy Travel requires all participants on its tours to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. We reserve the right to inspect your digital vaccination certificate.
A masterclass in Music History
Popular music educator Robert Gay shares his wealth of knowledge, in person, with this seven-part course on Verdi’s life and music. Works discussed will include all the best-loved Verdi operas, plus Luisa Miller, Attila, Sicilian Vespers, Don Carlos, Falstaff, and the great Requiem.
Our group will have exclusive use of the luxurious boutique hotel called The Convent, which is situated on an extensive estate in the Pokolbin wine district. This 19-suite hotel offers lovely views of the estate and ‘farm to fork’ dining from its many organic gardens.
Enjoy two outstanding meals at two highly regarded Hunter Valley establishments: a lunch at Restaurant Cuvée overlooking the vineyards, and a superb dinner at award-winning Muse.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery
This fine regional gallery hosts over 20 exhibitions and showcases thousands of artworks annually. The award-winning building is as much a part of the experience as the artworks themselves.
Day 1: Depart Central Station with a private coach transfer to the Hunter Valley. Lunch at Wollombi, part 1 of the course.
Day 2: Part 2 morning session of the course, lunch at a local winery in the afternoon and two evening sessions parts 3 & 4.
Day 3:A morning session, part 5, followed by a visit to the Maitland Regional Art Gallery and stop in Morpeth. This afternoon, partake in part 6 of the course. This evening enjoy a farewell dinner.
Day 4: Check out, enjoy part 7, the final session of the course, followed by a private transfer to Central Station with a lunch stop en-route.
Part 1 Fathers & Daughters
Part 2 Hero of the Risorgimento
Part 3 Verdi and the Orchestra
Part 4 Letters & Slides
Part 5 The influence of French Grand Opera
Part 6 Verdi & Shakespeare
Part 7Comic Verdi
Note that all the talks will be illustrated by musical excerpts on CD
Meet your fellow tour participants on Monday 4 April at Sydney’s Central Station at 10.15 am for a transfer to the Hunter Valley.
Depart the Hunter Valley by coach on Thursday 7 April, returning to Sydney Central at approximately 4.00 pm.
Monday 4 April – Setting off
This morning, we meet at Sydney’s Central Station at 10.15am for our coach departure soon afterwards to the Hunter Valley. After a short stop for lunch at Wollombi, we arrive at our hotel and check in. At 4.00pm, join your fellow participants for a welcoming afternoon tea, followed by Robert’s first talk. This evening, dinner is served in the hotel. (L, D)
Tuesday 5 April – Pokolbin
After breakfast, we meet for Part 2 of the course, followed by lunch at the nearby gourmet Restaurant Cuvée. Part 3 continues back at the hotel, where, after a light dinner, you will be entertained with images of the Terra Verdiana in the Parma region of the Po Valley, the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti in Milan, and the people central to Verdi’s life, most importantly his second wife Giuseppina Strepponi. (B, L, D)
Wednesday 6 April – Maitland & Morpeth
This morning we meet for Part 5 of the course. In the early afternoon, we drive to Maitland where we will be guided through one of the current special exhibitions in the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. After strolling along the picturesque main street of nearby Morpeth, we return to the hotel for Part 6 of the course. This evening, we drive to Muse for a memorable farewell dinner. (B, D)
Thursday 7 April – Heading home
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and leave your bags at Reception. Following this, the course will conclude with Robert’s final talk. We depart at 12.30pm, stopping for lunch at Wollombi. We should be back at Central by about 4.00pm. (B, L)
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!”
Our group will have exclusive use of the luxury boutique hotel, The Convent. Situated on an expansive estate in the Polkobin wine region, the 19-suite hotel offers gorgeous views and “farm to fork” dining from its many organic gardens.
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
All accommodation at properties mentioned in the itinerary
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Taxis may also be used for short trips on some tours. Some city stay tours may involve local transport
Lunches and dinners indicated with the letters L and D in the itinerary
Beer, wine and soft drinks at sit-down lunches and dinners. Picnic and light lunches may not include alcoholic drinks
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
All tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
On international tours only
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required, and when stated as included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Some trips may be made by public transport such as high-speed train and subway
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Air or land travel from your home city to the tour start/end points
Local taxes and airport levies that we are not able to prepay on your behalf. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Lunches and dinners not specifically indicated with the letters L or D in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as passports, laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
Airport Transfers on international tours
Tours may begin at either the arrival airport or the first hotel. 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
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, 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.
We require all tour participants to have adequate insurance coverage.
For domestic tours, Medicare and your private medical insurance should be used to cover any medical expenses.
Domestic travel insurance is available and strongly recommended to cover non-medical expenses such as cancellation.
For international tours, we require you to have comprehensive travel insurance. Prices vary according to your age, your pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the length of your journey abroad.