Immerse yourself in the impassioned world of opera and classical music as you discover the thriving performing arts scenes of Berlin and Dresden alongside Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed. Attend eight world-class performances in a variety of venues, from the spectacular Semperoper Dresden to the intimate, Frank Gehry-designed Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin. Attend a concert at the Berlin Philharmonie conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, take in Verdi’s arias during a presentation of “Rigoletto” at the Komische Oper and compare two unforgettable performances of Meyerbeer’s grand opera, “Les Huguenots.” Along the way, enjoy behind-the-scenes visits and private tours at historic concert halls and museums and take advantage of ample free time to discover two of Europe’s most exciting cultural centers.
Mar 7-16, 2020
Attend eight performances, including Bizet’s "Carmen” and Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” enjoying excellent seats at the world-renowned theaters of Berlin and Dresden.
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Pierre Boulez Saal, designed by Frank Gehry, and enjoy an intimate piano concert in its innovative performance space.
Explore some of Berlin’s most intriguing architecture, such as the art nouveau Hackesche Höfe, and enjoy time at leisure to discover this dynamic city, which is rich in history and culture.
Discover the beauty of Dresden, painstakingly rebuilt after World War II, and have the opportunity to participate in Dresden’s Long Night of Theater, catching short performances from ballets, operettas and symphonies.
Arrive in Berlin and transfer to the Regent Hotel. This evening, gather with Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed and fellow travelers for an early welcome dinner before heading to the Berlin Philharmonie, the city’s landmark concert hall since the early 1960s. Here, renowned conductor Sir Simon Rattle leads Berlin’s orchestra in a performance of the works of Franz Strauss and Ludwig van Beethoven. (D)
After a leisurely morning, join Mark Swed for a lecture at the hotel. After lunch enjoy this afternoon’s performance of “Les Huguenots” by French composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. Debuted in Paris in 1836, the five-act “Les Huguenots” is a quintessential example of the lavish, dramatic genre known as grand opera. During the expedition, you’ll have a chance to compare and contrast two distinct performances of this legendary opera and gain insights into the nuances and scope of artistic interpretation. Following the show, enjoy dinner at a historic wine-house in the heart of the city. (D)
This morning, take a private tour of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the majestic Berlin State Opera House. Destroyed twice — first by fire and then during World War II — the theater has hosted some of the biggest names in opera since the 1740s. Visit the Pierre Boulez Saal, a cutting-edge concert hall designed in collaboration with architect Frank Gehry and Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota — the same team that designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The brainchild of acclaimed pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, the Pierre Boulez Saal is intended to bring the audience closer to the orchestra, creating a more intimate connection between listener and musician. On a behind-the-scenes tour, examine the hall’s interplay of architecture and sound, discuss composer Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim’s unique vision and learn about inspiring initiatives to bring together young Israeli and Arab musicians here. Later, listen to the strains of Strauss and Claude Debussy in this remarkable space during an evening piano concert. (B, D)
Gather for a late morning talk by Mark Swed before lunch this afternoon at a popular seafood restaurant. During time at leisure, head for a museum or wander through one of the city’s lively neighborhoods. Tonight, meet up for a true classic of opera comique: a performance of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” by the Berlin State Opera. (B, L)
Spend a day at leisure discovering the many cultural offerings in Berlin, perhaps visiting the Jewish Museum, whose jarring, zigzag design — by American architect Daniel Libeskind — alludes to the tumultuous nature of German-Jewish history. This evening, during an optional piano recital at the Pierre Boulez Saal, hear Japanese-born pianist Mitsuko Uchida perform the works of Wolfgang Amadeus, Mozart and Beethoven (optional ticket $170). (B)
Explore the intersection of art and history on a leisurely walking tour of Berlin that begins at the Boros Collection. This contemporary art gallery is set in a World War II air raid shelter that was later used by the Red Army to hold prisoners of war. Continue to Hackesche Höfe to see stunning art nouveau courtyards in the city’s old Jewish quarter. These buildings were owned by the East German state and left to decay during the Cold War; their refurbishment has come to symbolize the revitalization of a united Germany. Stroll past the Biedermeier houses in Sophie-Gips-Höfe and visit the Old Jewish Cemetery where the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn is buried. After an early dinner, transfer to the Komische Oper for a performance of “Spring Storms,” an operetta by Jewish-Czech composer Jaromír Weinberger that premiered just days before the Nazis seized power. (B, D)
Enjoy a full day at leisure in Berlin. Visit a museum, meander the cobbled streets of the Nikolai Quarter or enjoy an optional guided tour of Cold War history in East Berlin. Stop for dinner on your own before gathering for tonight’s performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Komische Oper. (B)
Travel south to Dresden, the capital of Saxony and the home of the annual Long Night of Theater, during which performing arts venues all over the city stage previews of their offerings. After lunch and a little time at leisure, walk to the magnificent Semperoper, Dresden’s historic opera house. Watch parts of Jacques Offenbach´s operetta “The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein” and then set out on your own to see other excerpts of renowned ballets and concerts around the city. (B, L)
Famously destroyed by Allied bombing raids during World War II, Dresden painstakingly rebuilt the most celebrated buildings of this prewar cultural mecca. Discover city sites such as the baroque Zwinger palace at your leisure this morning. Gather for a farewell lunch. This evening, cap off your performing arts adventure with another viewing of the incomparable “Les Huguenots” in the sumptuous setting of Semperoper Dresden. (B, L)
After breakfast, transfer to the Dresden airport for individual flights home. (B)