Ten Best Music and Opera Tours for 2016

Photo by Freeimages.com/Adriana Martins

by Trisha Andres, The Daily Telegraph, December 17, 2015

The best music and opera tours for 2016, including classical music festivals, new opera productions and private concerts, in destinations such as Paris, Leipzig, Lucca and New Orleans.

It was the Salzburg Festival, founded back in the Twenties, which first introduced the concept of combining a holiday with musical performances. Now there are festivals all over Europe, and many tour operators offer holidays to these, and to some of the best opera houses. Some have even begun to organise their own mini festivals. Often they include insights from music specialists and historians who accompany the trips and introduce the programmes and performers.

Our selection for 2016 ranges from the opera festivals in Lucca and Verona, to a festival of Spanish music in Salamanca. And we include great options for those who would like a more general exploration of classical music – a rail journey through Germany and Austria that includes private concerts, and a visit to Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg. And there is a luxury cruise along the Danube, guided by The Telegraph’s classical music critic.

There are also tours that examine other genres, such as blues and jazz in Brussels and New Orleans . An enhanced itinerary that takes in New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis coincides with the annual New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival.

This year also sees the opening of some exciting new opera productions in key European cities, such as Milan and Leipzig, where Leipzig Opera will be staging Wagner’s Ring Cycle for the first time in several decades.

Finally, a new tour based in Paris takes in the city’s key opera houses along with a performance of Prokofiev’s “Violin Concerto No 1” at the new Philharmonie de Paris, designed by the architect Jean Nouvel.

Prices quoted in this article include return flights from London, accommodation, and admission to sights on the itineraries, unless stated otherwise. They are per person, based on two sharing a twin or double room. Some departures allow for flights from regional airports.

1. Blues in Brussels

The Brussels Blues Jazz Marathon Weekend in May includes a varied programme of free blues and jazz gigs, ensembles and open-air concerts from more than 400 musicians from all over the world. During the weekend, around 160 performances will take place across the Belgian capital on the outdoor stages of the Grand Place (Grote Markt), the Sablon Square (Sablon Zavel), the Sint-Katelijne Square, the Fernand Cocq Square, and at several clubs and cafés. Leger Holidays is offering a four-day tour which takes in this special weekend, based at the three-star Ibis Brussels Centre St Catherine. While blues and jazz are the focus, there are also latino, funk and rock performances.

May 20, from £269 b&b, including coach travel from a wide range of joining points in the UK. Leger Holidays (0844 846 0808; leger.co.uk ).

2. Verdi in Milan

This Plácido Domingo at La Scala tour is run by Travel for the Arts. It visits Milan to listen to the Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo sing Francesco Foscari in the new production of Verdi’s I due Foscari at the Teatro alla Scala. Based in the four-star Hotel de la Ville in the city centre near the Duomo, Teatro alla Scala and the Via Montenapoleone, the trip provides plenty of free time to explore the city, with recommendations from a knowledgeable tour manager. The three-day tour also includes a welcome dinner at Casa Giulini, a private residence owned by Fernanda Giulini, a trained pianist and local collector of antique musical instruments, some of which have been lent to major institutions for use in their performances.

March 8, from £1,145 including some meals and first category tickets, opera synopses, restaurant guide and city notes. Travel for the Arts (020 8799 8350; travelforthearts.com ).

3. Voyage along the Danube with Aled Jones

Aled Jones, the classic FM presenter and Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph’s classical music critic lead the new Telegraph Tours Voyage along the Danube. Based on a Scenic river cruiser which will travel through Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Dürnstein, Linz and Passau, highlights include a private Strauss and Mozart concert and a special performance from Aled Jones in the Garden Palace of the Palais Liechtenstein in Vienna. The eight-day tour also takes in Buda castle, Schönbrunn Palace and the Spanish Riding School.

April 6 and April 11, from £1,795, including flights from a choice of airports and most meals. Telegraph Tours (03330 059164; telegraph.co.uk/danubewithaled ).

4. Puccini’s Lucca

Arblaster & Clarke is running a new four-day Wine and Opera tour to the Puccini Festival, which has taken place near the Massaciuccoli Lake, just outside Lucca, almost every year since 1930. The concerts are staged in the Teatro dei Quattromila, a stone’s throw from the house Puccini built in 1900, where he lived and worked on his major operas. The tour includes performances of two of Puccini’s operas and tastings at wineries in the Lucchesi hills, including Fattoria del Buonamico, Montechiari estate, Colleverde wineyards, Tenuta Lenzini, as well as a visit to the vineyards of Buonamico, the most established name of the Montecarlo denomination.

July 28, from £1,945, including some meals with wine and opera tickets. Arblaster & Clarke (01730 263111; winetours.co.uk ).

5. Musical train ride through Germany and Austria

Great Rail Journeys is running a new Musical Heritage of Austria and Germany tour which takes in Salzburg, Vienna and Leipzig. The 10-day tour includes a motet by the St Thomas Boys’ Choir, a Mozart and Strauss concert in the Renaissance Kursalon and a Mozart concert over dinner in the Baroque Hall of St Peter Stiftskeller where the Amadeus Consort perform in period costume. It also takes in the Wartburg Castle, St Stephen’s Cathedral, Haus der Musik, the Bachhaus Museum and Mozart’s Birthplace, a yellow townhouse where the composer was born and raised. It is now a museum which houses memorabilia, including Mozart’s childhood violin, a handful of buttons from his jacket and a lock of his hair.

Departures between May and September, from £1,975, including return Eurostar travel between London and Brussels, rail travel and some meals. Great Rail Journeys (0800 140 4444; greatrail.com ).

6. Opera festival in Verona

This new five-day Ultimate Travel Company tour visits villas and gardens in and around Verona as well as performances at one of Europe’s greatest classical music festivals, the Arena Opera, including premiere performances of both Carmen and Aida in the Roman amphitheatre. Visits include Villa Guerrieri Rizzardi (by special arrangement with Contessa Orsola Guerrieri Rizzardi), La Valverde and Isola del Garda, a Venetian neo-Gothic style villa designed by the architect Luigi Rovelli. There is also a walking tour led by tour leader Susie Orso, which takes in key sites of Verona, including: the gothic Church of Saint Anastasia; Piazza dei Signori; the famed Arena; and Basilica di San Zeno.

June 23, from £1,995, including opera tickets and most meals. The Ultimate Travel Company (020 3553 0596; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk ).

7. Ring Cycle in Leipzig

The Ring has not been performed in Leipzig – the city where Wagner was born – for several decades, but this year the Leipzig Opera will stage two complete cycles for their 2016 season. A newly launched eight-day Ring Cycle in Leipzig tour offered by Kirker Holidays takes you on a journey to this musical city for a special performance of Götterdämmerung. This tour also takes in the towns of Eisenach and Pirna and includes visits to the Bach Museum, Schumann House, Mendelssohn House and the Wagner Museum, which occupies a former hunting lodge and is a short walk from the farmhouse where Wagner and his wife Minna lived in 1846.

June 27, from £2,398 including some meals and first-category tickets for The Ring (four performances). Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com ).

8. Southern sights and sounds

New Orleans will be celebrating its annual Jazz Heritage Festival in April and Titan’s Southern Sights and Sounds itinerary will include the festival for the first time. It will also visit Nashville and Memphis, and a cruise on a Mississippi paddle-steamer. The 14-day tour takes in the Belle Meade, the queen of Tennessee plantations; the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville; the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum in Tupelo; Graceland and the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum in Memphis, and Vermilionville in Layfayette, a reconstructed historic village recreating Cajun and Creole life. There is also a train ride aboard the Incline Railway, which runs up to Lookout Mountain and offers views across the terrain fought over during the American Civil War.

April 26 (this departure date coincides with the jazz festival in New Orleans), from £2,249. Titan (0808 115 6751; titantravel.co.uk ).

9. Spanish flair

A new private Music Festival in Salamanca has been put together by Kirker Holidays for next May. It includes an exciting music line-up featuring leading Spanish musicians, including Flamenco guitarist José Luis Montón, soprano Amaia Azcona Cildóz, pianist Luis Bravo and La Ritirata, one of Europe’s foremost Baroque ensembles. Based in Hacienda Zorita, a hotel and spa that was formerly a 14th-century Dominican monastery, this seven-day trip takes in Patio de las Escuelas, the Plaza Mayor, the Town Hall and the Convent of San Esteban, with a day in Avila to see the Monastery of the Incarnation and the Church and Convent of St Teresa. While the tour is centred on music, there is also time for visits to the vineyards of the Ribera del Duero and El Escorial, the King of Spain Philip II’s sprawling residence.

May 6, from £2,240, including most meals and a full music programme. Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com ).

10. Sounds of Paris

The new concert hall – the Philharmonie de Paris – designed by Jean Nouvel, which opened in Paris last year, is swiftly becoming a major draw for music lovers because of its exceptional acoustics. At the end of this month, Martin Randall is offering a Music in Paris tour, which visits this venue alongside the Opéra Bastille and Opera Garnier. The programme includes lectures and first-rate performances of Werther, the Barber of Seville, Capriccio and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 1 and Romeo and Juliet Suite No 2. Led by Patrick Bade, a lecturer on the history of opera for Christie’s, the tour also takes in Palais Garnier, Théâtre des Varietés and the Music Museum within Christian de Portzamparc’s building to see the exhibition: Chagall: the Triumph of Music.

January 30, from £2,770 including first-class rail travel between London and Paris, accommodation and most meals. Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com ).


  1. Usually accommodation is in hotels of four stars or higher, but double-check before booking.
  2. Solos - single supplements are often high, but these trips attract high numbers of single travellers and are a good way of meeting others with similar interests.
  3. Most tours include first-category opera tickets – but double check.
  4. Don’t forget to pack smart clothing for visits to the opera.
  5. Listen to recordings ahead of the performance and read the synopsis beforehand if you can. Despite surtitles, you will get more enjoyment if you know the plot.


This article was written by Trisha Andres from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.