Check out some of this year’s best European opera festivals
The 2018 calendar for opera aficionados is getting under way with not-to-be-missed dates across Europe set to sell out fast. Of course Italy, Germany, Austria and France feature with due prominence but there are some in particular that are perfectly suited for private flying.
Glyndebourne Festival, image courtesy of James Bellorini Photography
For many, opera festivals are best enjoyed in the summer, with long balmy evenings even reaching the British Isles (though for those who cannot wait Scottish Opera has already kicked off with some wonderful offerings best enjoyed indoors). For fans of the circuit – and there is certainly choice enough to consider it one – Glyndebourne remains a must. This year sees the launch of a new singing competition, taking place in March, leading up to a programme sure to thrill the summer audience. Opening on Saturday, May 19 with Madam Butterfly, Der Rosenkavalier will open the following day, Giulio Cesare on June 10th, Pelléas et Mélisande on June 30, Saul on July 19 and Vanessa on August 5. Starting with operas even the most uninitiated would be familiar with, it is Barber’s Vanessa that The Evening Standard picked as one of their best shows to see this year.
Remember at Glyndebourne that it is as much about enjoying a feast as it is the music, and it is picnicking in the beautiful gardens that has become synonymous with the festival. So reserve picnic furniture, porter service, and of course a sumptuous picnic through Leith’s, the onsite caterers who are busy preparing a new dining reservations system which should be up and running by mid February. Or of course, order a classic Fortnum and Mason hamper and bring someone along to help. Booking has already opened for Glyndebourne members – which offers various memberships from associate to corporate – while public booking doesn’t get underway until March 4.
If you prefer to head to Provence the Chorégies d’Orange will offer one spectacular show after another. Held in a magnificent Roman amphitheatre where singers fill the vast space and captivate an audience numbering over 8,000 without using amplification, this year will see new productions of Mefistofele and Il barbiere di Siviglia. Although Marseille airport is 100km away there is the closer option at Nîmes-Garons – and with the festival just 20km north of Avignon you have a stunning medieval city (and the former Cardinal’s palace which is now the elegant La Mirande) to use as a wonderful base.
Il barbiere di Siviglia will also feature on the programme at Verona, perhaps Italy’s most famous summer opera festival starting at the end of June and running until late August. There will also be a new production of Carmen, plus Aida, Turandot and Nabucco to fill many awe-inspiring hours. If Italy is calling, why not also head to Torre del Lago, the charming village that was home to Puccini for three decades and where he composed Tosca and Madam Butterfly amongst many others. The open air theatre seats 3,400 and opens onto the wonderful Massaciuccoli Lake and parkland filled with sculptures from the likes of Pietro Cascella, Jean-Michel Folon and Kan Yasuda, and there is the chance too to spy the maestro’s old house in the grounds.
Germany has numerous festivals that draw crowds from far and wide, though for those flying private Bayreuth – staged in the opera house designed by Wagner himself – is an excellent choice that won’t involve the usual trek international fans have to endure. Set in northern Bavaria and with commercial hubs like Munich, Frankfurt and Prague between 220km and 275km away, instead fly to Nuremberg and get to the show with ease for a programme this year that includes a new production of Lohengrin. With direction by Yval Sahron and the orchestra conducted by Christian Thielemann this year’s programme also includes The Flying Dutchman (Der Fliegende Holländer), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Tristan and Isolde, and runs from the end of July to the end of August.
With tickets sure not to last, now is the time to pick a destination in Europe for some of the finest opera in the world. From new productions of classics and some airings of lesser-known works, plan your trip now for an aria-filled getaway that will have your heart soaring.
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