Wagner’s tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the Western music tradition. It combines intense, heroic drama with orchestral and vocal writing that is both vast in scale and deeply moving. A special journey to see The Ring is a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. Once again Academy Travel has secured top-grade seats, this time the Chicago Lyric Opera’s production. Housed in a fine Art Deco auditorium, the Lyric Opera is one of America’s finest houses, regularly hosting the world’s leading singers. The 2020 Ring promises to be no exception.
All four operas in the Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung
A private backstage tour of the Lyric Opera, before joining conductor Sir Andrew Davis and members of the cast for a discussion of the Ring and specific aspects of the Chicago production
A full day exploring Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture in Oak Park, including Robie House, Unity Temple and his Home and Studio
A private reception at the sumptuous Richard H. Driehaus Museum, showcasing the art and design of Louis Comfort Tiffany and Chicago’s Gilded Age
Walking and river tours exploring Chicago’s incredible architectural legacy and its ever-changing skyline
Day 1: Arrive in Chicago and settle in. Meet fellow participants over drinks and canapes.
Days 2: In-depth morning talk, Das Rheingold and welcome dinner.
Day 3: Architectural walking tour of Chicago’s downtown, Millennium Park and afternoon river cruise.
Day 4: Morning talk and Die Walküre.
Day 5: Private backstage tour of the Lyric Opera and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Day 6: Morning talk and Siegfried.
Day 7: An exploration of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Private reception at the Driehaus Museum.
Day 8: Morning talk and Götterdämmerung, followed by farewell dinner.
The tour begins and ends at our hotel in Chicago. Qantas offers the most direct regular flights to and from Chicago, with stopovers in either Los Angeles or Dallas Fort Worth. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letter B, D or C (canapés)
Sunday April 26: Arrival and Welcome
Flights from Australia arrive in the late afternoon. Taxi transfers will be included for those who have purchased their flights through Academy Travel. In the evening we meet in the Robie Room at the Kimpton Gray Hotel for drinks and canapés. (C)
Monday April 27: Das Rheingold
This morning Robert Gay begins with an overview of the Cycle, before examining the first part of the tetralogy, which introduces us to the gods and giants of Norse-Germanic mythology and their struggle to possess the Rhine’s golden hoard, an idea which drives much of the narrative. After free time for lunch, we head to the Lyric Opera precinct for our performance, Das Rheingold, at 2.00pm. After the performance, there is a welcome dinner nearby. (B, D)
Tuesday April 28: Chicago Architecture
Chicago is one of the world’s great architectural cities, and the birthplace of the skyscraper, with new and innovative buildings constantly changing the city’s skyline. This morning we get our bearings with a downtown architectural walk, taking in some of the most famous ‘Chicago School’ buildings as well as more modern offerings. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Millennium Park, the centrepiece of Chicago’s ongoing urban renewal, before taking an architectural cruise down the Chicago River, giving us an incredible vantage point from which to enjoy the cityscape. In the evening, we dine at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building, where Robert Gay will give a talk on the background to the composition of the Ring, and its broader social and historical context. (B, D)
Wednesday April 29: Die Walküre
This morning’s talk explores Die Walküre, perhaps the best known of the four works in the Ring, in which the heroine of the drama, Wotan’s daughter Brünnhilde, is introduced. This second music drama is primarily concerned with an emotionally complex and troubling struggle between the forces of power and love. In the early afternoon we head to the Lyric Opera for the second opera in the cycle, commencing at 2.00pm. After the show, we enjoy a post-performance supper close to the venue. (B, D)
Thursday April 30: Sir Andrew Davis – Art Institute
This morning we return to the Lyric Opera for a private backstage tour of this fine Art Deco theatre. We then join conductor Sir Andrew Davis and members of the cast for a discussion of the Ring and specific aspects of the Chicago production. After a break for lunch, we head to the incredible Art Institute of Chicago. The Institute is best known for its fine collection of French Impressionist paintings, but there is much more to enjoy, including outstanding galleries of American Art and 20th-century international Modernism. The Institute remains open until 8.00pm this evening, so there is plenty of time to explore its offerings at your leisure. (B)
Friday May 1: Siegfried
This morning’s talk explores the least well-known music drama in the Ring, which charts the progress of Siegfried from a boisterous youth to a young man, capable of heroism and love. We then head to the Lyric Opera for a unique chance to explore the set of Siegfried before our performance at 2.00pm. Following the performance, ending at 7.00pm, we enjoy a relaxed supper in a nearby restaurant. (B, D)
Saturday May 2: Frank Lloyd Wright
One of the world’s greatest architects, Frank Lloyd Wright made his early career in Chicago, and this morning we take a trip out to the suburb of Oak Park, known among architecture and design lovers for its concentration of Wright buildings. We’ll visit Wright’s home and studio, and the nearby Unity Temple, a striking piece of religious architecture, recently restored. After lunch, we visit Robie House, one of Wright’s most iconic works, also recently reopened to the public. Our day of architecture concludes with an evening tour and private reception at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum. The museum explores the art, architecture and design of the late 19th-century, with a focus on the Gilded Age. The interiors are replete with marble, onyx and stained-glass tiles, with some fabulous art nouveau furnishings by Tiffany. (B, C)
Sunday May 3: Götterdämmerung
The final music drama of the Ring is a thrilling but demanding work, which brings us, via Siegfried’s murder, to Brünnhilde’s final ecstatic act of self-sacrifice. Robert’s concluding talk will draw together the complex threads of this great operatic tetralogy. We return to the Lyric Opera for a final time, with our performance of Götterdämerung commencing at 2.30pm and ending at approximately 8.00pm. We follow this with a farewell supper at a restaurant close to our hotel. (B, D)
Monday May 4: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast at our hotel. Individual or group transfers to Chicago’s O’Hare airport will be arranged for those who have purchased their flights through Academy Travel.
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!”
Housed in the early 20th-century ‘New York Life Insurance Building’ in the Loop neighbourhood, the Gray maintains its historic charm (the property gets its name from the structure’s original Georgia Gray marble, which has been elegantly restored) while offering a 4-star, upscale hotel, situated only a short walk from Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Lyric Opera. The hotel offers a rooftop bar, contemporary-styled guest rooms, each with modern amenities and free WiFi, and a 24-hour fitness centre.
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, taxis or public transport are 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
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
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?
Our 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
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. We aim to be fair and reasonable in all our dealings with our clients. We aim to provide full and accurate information about our tours and promptly provide information of any changes or alterations that take place before departure.