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Welcome to our January Newsletter!

Thursday 12th January 2017

Welcome to our January Newsletter! Our annual Supplementary Tour Programme was despatched two weeks ago and I hope you have received your copy? If you have not received a copy then please contact us via email and we will send you one. One of the announcements in our recent mailing has caused widespread interest: Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Dresden will be our first visit of the 2018 season and will take place from 28 January to 5 February. The production of The Ring will be the celebrated one by Willy Decker, first given in 2001 and revived in 2010 and hailed by Opera News as remarkably free of tendentious gestures, a view widely echoed in the musical press. As one of my more nuanced colleagues put it ‘we are at least guaranteed NOT to have it set in a North Korean munitions factory’! It will be conducted by the great Wagnerian Christian Thielemann and amongst the singers engaged are Albert Dohmen, Petra Lang, Christa Mayer, Andreas Schager, Gerhard Siegel, Kurt Streit and Georg Zeppenfeld. Dresden’s Semper Opera House is, of course, intimately associated with Wagner’s career so with its wonderful acoustic and sight lines, it will make a marvellous setting for this great operatic occasion. I am delighted that for this visit I will be joined by Prof Peter Hill, who taught music at the University of Sheffield for many years and who is an authority on Wagner. Peter will give a series of introductions to each of the operas and he will also guide us round Leipzig which we shall visit for a day, immersing ourselves in the world of JS Bach, a composer on whom Peter is particularly qualified to speak, having recorded some of Bach’s works for keyboard to great acclaim. In addition to these musical excitements we shall also explore Dresden’s historic and artistic heritage as we trace the patronage of the Electors and Kings of Saxony, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Tickets for the Ring Cycle will be in huge demand and we have applied for a limited number across the top three seat ranges (all guarantee excellent sight of the stage). So, if you think you would like to join us next January, do let us know as soon as possible as places are already being reserved. Details of this visit will shortly be available on our website. Looking ahead to later this year, if any of you are planning to visit New York, do look out for a lovely temporary exhibition at The Frick, Turner’s Modern and Ancient Ports – Passages through Time. This will be on show from 23 February to 14 May and will feature 34 works in oil, watercolour and graphite. It will focus on Turner’s fascination with ports which he visited throughout Europe together with his reimagining of ancient seaports, a subject to which he returned throughout his career. Those of you who have booked our visit, Magnificence Revealed: New York & The Lower Hudson Valley, 28 March to 5 April, will of course be able to visit this exhibition as The Frick will be included in the itinerary. If you would like to join this visit, we have a few places and you would be more than welcome. The Royal Collection contains the world\'s finest group of works by Canaletto. Bought by the young George III in 1762 from Canaletto\'s agent and dealer, Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice, they are one of the jewels of the Collection. The Queen’s Gallery will show many of these wonderful masterpieces later this year when it mounts Painting Venice: Canaletto & his Contemporaries, from 19 May to 12 November. The exhibition presents a spectacular selection of eighteenth century Venetian art, with Canaletto\'s greatest works shown alongside others by Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Francesco Zuccarelli, Rosalba Carriera, Pietro Longhi and G. B. Piazzetta. Venice, its glorious architecture, its wonderful festivals and the details of everyday life so vividly captured in these paintings, drawings and engravings will be brought to life. In connection with this exhibition I will give a Study Day in London on 21 June at The Linnean Society (coffee at 10.30 followed by two lectures, finishing at 1.00 pm) with timed entry to the exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery that afternoon. The cost is £69 and we have some places left. In the 2017 CICERONI Brochure outline details and dates were announced for two visits later this year (see page 72) and I am delighted to let you know that full details are now available on our website for both visits: Torre del Lago & Lucca: The Puccini Opera Festival will run from 12 – 16 July, based in Lucca and will include performances of both Turandot and La Rondine. Habsburgs & Bourbons: The Royal Collections of Madrid, which I am much looking forward to leading, will take place from 23 – 29 October and includes several visits to The Prado (we visit privately before it opens to the public) and all the surviving, important royal palaces in and around Madrid. Finally, Stephen and I went to Amsterdam for a short holiday just before Christmas. We had a magical time and it was wonderful to see the refurbished and rearranged Rijks Musuem, a huge improvement on my last visit, over twenty years ago! We also went to The Hague where the local Tourist Office and The Mauritshuis made us very welcome. We are now ready to put together what I hope will be a wonderful visit to The Netherlands for our 2018 visit programme. Jointly based in Amsterdam and The Hague, we shall also include Haarlem and one or two other important centres of art during the famous Golden Age of Dutch Art and Architecture. Full details will be available later this year. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy the accompanying photograph? The odd perspective is the result of our visit to the amazing Escher Museum in The Hague, devoted to the work of the famous Dutch graphic artist, M. C. Escher, a must for any visitor, and something we shall definitely include. With every good wish from all of us for the coming year! Tom

Welcome to our December Newsletter!

Friday 2nd December 2016

A client rang us a few days ago to book a place on one of next year’s Study Days as a Christmas present – a first for this year. This led me to think that this might be a novel way to solve the problem of choosing a present for someone who has (almost) everything?! So, here are details of three Study Days we have organised next year, should you too be tempted to make next year a truly stimulating one for someone special? The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace has just opened a new exhibition devoted to an unusual theme: artists’ self portraits and artists portraying other artists. I will lead a Study Day on this exhibition early in the new year, Leonardo to Hockney: Portrait of the Artist, 7 February so in preparation, I went to see the exhibition a few days ago and it bowled me over. Displayed across four galleries, it includes paintings, drawings, engravings and some marvellous decorative works where the original portraits have been copied in different media. There are some truly wonderful self-portraits on show and those by Rubens, Rembrandt and Artemisia Gentileschi are remarkable paintings by anyone’s standards. Then there is the portrait drawing of Leonardo by one of his students, Francesco Melzi, thought to be the most accurate image of him known. Totally different, we can see how Rubens painted his younger contemporary, Van Dyck, in a ravishing display of bravura brushwork, apparently all done in one sitting. In fact, there are so many amazing images to see that I could take up this entire newsletter listing more of them. However, on the wall by the exit door are for me the ‘stars of the show’: side by side are hung two of Johan Zoffany’s greatest group portraits, one devoted to the original Royal Academicians, all gathered together for a life drawing class; the other his amazing Tribuna Gallery in the Uffizi, the most important image of the Grand Tour ever painted. It is worth a special journey to see these two pictures – do consider joining us in February. Woburn Abbey was one of the earliest of the great stately homes to open to the public. Setting aside the marvellous landscape in which it sits, plus the (at times) bewildering range of fauna which inhabit its ducal acres, the Abbey is full of treasures. The house and its collections will be our focus for Treasures Great & Small: Woburn Abbey Revealed, 22 February. Woburn’s curator, Matthew Hirst, will lecture us in the morning before we spend the afternoon exploring the State Rooms, when the house is closed to the public. However, the day will be very special as the Duke has given permission for us to see, out of their normal display cases, some of the amazing Sèvres china for which Woburn is renowned, particularly pieces from the Gift Service given by Louis XV to the 4th Duke’s wife, Duchess Gertrude (Leveson-Gower). This part of our day will be led by one of the world’s renowned experts on Sèvres, Dame Rosalind Savill (formerly Director of The Wallace Collection) making it truly memorable. Coffee on arrival, lunch with wine and tea before we depart are all included. Later in the year we shall visit another treasure house, this time in Sussex. A Collection of Collections: Exploring Firle, 25 September will give us an opportunity to look at a country house where the collections have fallen, as it were, into the sophisticated hands of the Gage family! Seated at Firle since Tudor times, the Gages augmented the original bones of the house with Georgian and later additions and it containts that great rarity, a collection of collections. Here you will find treasures from the Knightleys of Fawsley Hall in Northamptonshire, the Earls Cowper from Panshanger in Hertfordshire (via Florence!) and the Melbourne collection from both Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire and Melbourne House in London. Joined with the Gage family heirlooms, the ensemble makes Firle one of the finest treasure houses of these islands. There are stunning pieces of furniture ordered from Thomas Chippendale, paintings collected by that remarkable Grand Tourist, the 3rd Earl Cowper (coincidentally, also a major figure in the exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery mentioned above) and the crowning glory of the house, Sèvres porcelain of the rarest quality. Leading us through this breath taking collection will be its curator, Deborah Gage, a member of the owning family and a distinguished art historian. Her friend and colleague, Dame Rosalind Savill will be on hand to show us the Sèvres under ‘connoisseur’ conditions when it will be taken from its display cabinets for us to examine at close quarters. Coffee on arrival, lunch with wine and tea before we depart are all included. Since our 2017 brochure was sent out in September, there has been a change to the arrangements for one of our visits to Ireland next year, Forty Shades of Green: The Gardens of Ireland, 9 – 14 July. We shall now be based at a different hotel to that originally advertised (The Fitzwilliam) and this will be the 4* Davenport Hotel, perfectly located in the centre of Georgian Dublin, just off Merrion Square. One happy consequence of this change will be a reduction in the published price of the tour from £2125 to £1895 (a saving of £230) and the single supplement (double room for sole use) has come down from £495 to £375 (a further saving of £120). I hope this will encourage you to consider joining Jimi Blake, Helen Dillon and myself next July? Finally, our office will close on Tuesday, 20 December and reopen on Tuesday, 3 January. Our usual Christmas mailing will arrive either before or just after the New Year weekend, with details of some new Study Days and Visits for 2017, together with an outline of our plans for 2018. Emma, Chloe, James and Stephen join me in wishing you a peaceful holiday over Christmas and the New Year. All best wishes until I write again in January. Tom

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