Only the hardest of hearts can resist being stirred by the sight of a sea of Union flags fluttering over the stalls of the Royal Albert Hall as Elgar explodes from the orchestra pit at the Last Night Of The Proms.
The problem is getting a ticket to the final. But other parts of Europe make it a little easier when it comes to letting you experience their classical and lyrical highlights. Here are six circuits where you can walk in the footsteps of some of Europe’s greatest composers.
Even if you have no interest in opera at all, you’ll be instantly transported to the tears of Gazza and 90s Italy when you hear Puccini’s opera Turandot, featuring the mighty Nessun Dorma, during the Puccini Opera Festival.
Puccini’s Tuscan birthplace, Lucca (just 20 minutes by train from Pisa) is a labyrinth of Roman walls, piazzas and chapels where you can visit the house of his birth in 1859 (puccinimuseum.org).
This five-night tour includes trips to the Tuscan Water Gardens, dinners, and two performances of Puccini’s operas at the open-air Teatro dei Quattromila in the nearby seaside town of Torre del Lago. This year’s performances include Tosca, Madame Butterfly and, of course, Turandot.
To book: From £2,167 pp including return flights from the UK (kirkerholidays.com). The tour starts on August 3, 2022.
ON TOUR WITH CHOPIN
Criss-crossing Poland, this 12-day tour is about as comprehensive as it gets in the life and work of Frederic Chopin. It’s a trip down the rather irritating feet of the romantic composer.
There are few parts of Poland he hasn’t played or visited, and in addition to a piano concert at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the tour includes the mansion where Chopin was born, the village of Zelazowa Wola and the spa town. from Duszniki Zdroj, where he went with his sister Emilia for treatment.
Finally, there is the ancient city of Torun where you can taste the pianist’s all-time favorite food. As Chopin wrote in a letter to his family: “All this [Torun’s attractions] does not surpass the gingerbread, oh that gingerbread of which I sent a piece to Warsaw.
To book: From £1,033 pp based on four people travelling. Accommodation, meals and flights not included (staypoland.com). Tours available on request.
It probably would not have pleased the humble and deeply religious Czech Romantic composer Antonin Dvorak that he was today best known for the music that accompanied the Hovis advertisement, conducted by Ridley Scott, which features Largo from his symphony From The New World played by a marching band.
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But this seven-day river cruise might have lifted his spirits – it includes an onboard piano recital and a visit to the Prague Opera for a performance.
Sailing through the former Bohemian region, the cruise docks in Melnik for wine tastings in one of continental Europe’s northernmost wine regions, as well as a visit to the Antonin Dvorák Museum (antonin-dvorak.cz), which contains his viola, his piano and an extensive collection of his sheet music and letters.
To book: Vitava River Cruise from £2,995 pp including meals and return flights (aceculturaltours.co.uk). The next tour starts June 6, 2023.
Veteran journalist turned Classic FM presenter John Suchet is on board to lecture on this distinguished eight-day Danube cruise, with a trio of classical musicians giving daily performances.
The journey begins in Budapest, where you can catch an opera at the Hungarian State Opera, before the Spirit Of The Danube ship cruises through central Europe. There are stops in Bratislava, Vienna (where there is a private concert in one of the Ringstrasse palaces) and finally in Linz, where you can visit Bruckner’s birthplace (now a museum) and listen a concert in the huge Baroque monastery of the Abbaye de Florian.
To book: From £1,559 pp excluding flights (travel.saga.co.uk). The next cruise departs November 3, 2022.
AN ITALIAN PLEASURE
You only need a day for this gastronomic and lyrical double title, which explores the cuisine and compositions of Giuseppe Verdi, a man who lived for almost eight of his 88 years in this small corner of the Italian region of ‘Emilia-Romagna.
“I was, am and always will be a Roncole villager”, he once wrote and this tour begins in the village itself (half an hour’s drive from Parma) which, when Verdi is born in 1813, was actually part of the French Empire.
From here the tour heads to Busseto, where Verdi studied music, and a museum exploring his life and rise to become a prominent landowner to protect his intensely private and reclusive personality. However, he would occasionally step out of his house for a cup of Fortana wine, and you can visit the Salsamenteria Storica e Verdiana Baratta cafe where Verdi had a lunchtime drink, before taking a tour of Teatro Verdi.
Verdi contributed financially to the construction of this tiny opera house in which, although he had his own private box, he never set foot there despite living only two miles away.
To book: From £280 pp, based on two people touring with private car and driver provided (foodvalleytravel.com). Visits on request.
RIDE ON BEETHOVEN
The Master may only have stayed in what would become West Germany’s Cold War capital until his teenage years, but Beethoven House (beethoven.de) in Bonn, where Ludwig was born, is still a fascinating and cringe-worthy place to explore and spot his collection of bizarre-looking ear trumpets, used to combat his hearing loss.
From there, this nine-day tour passes through Cologne before crossing the border into Austria. Beethoven is buried in Vienna Central Cemetery and it was the city where he wrote his famous letter from the Heiligenstadt Testament, in which he expressed his despair at his growing deafness.
The tour includes a concert at the Vienna State Opera and ends with a visit to the grand Pasqualati mansion where Ludwig lived between 1804 and 1815.
To book: From £5,353 pp excluding flights (www.odysseytraveller.com). The next trip departs September 1, 2022.