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Welcome to our October eNewsletter!

Friday 13th November 2015

Monday, October 26th, was the anniversary of the birth of Domenico Scarlatti in Naples, in 1685. Known today for his wonderful keyboard sonatas, he provides a link between the theme of this month’s Newsletter, which is musical, and a visit to Spain from which I have just returned, on which more below. Indeed, this musical theme is prompted by the comments and queries we have received from friends about the several visits next year where music is a major element in the itineraries. January is one of those months when, as Winter takes hold, we look abroad to find some much needed light and warmth. If you have such a plan in mind, Malta is an ideal place to escape to with its friendly locals, Mediterranean climate and many cultural attractions. Add to these the annual Valletta Baroque Festival and surely you have the perfect ingredients for a memorable holiday? We shall return there again 23 - 30 January when participants on our visit will have the opportunity to attend many important concerts and recitals, supported by a series of gently paced, guided visits to all the major historic sites illuminating the island’s rich history. Given that the theme of the Festival is Baroque music, Bach will be one of the main composers featured in the Festival: Philippe Herrewege will conduct Collegium Vocale Gent (probably continental Europe’s leading vocal ensemble?) in a series of his finest Cantatas and this is but one concert devoted to the great man. Other composers featured throughout the week will include Buxtehude, Rameau, Corelli, Jomelli, Vivaldi and Scarlatti. The lunchtime and evening recitals and concerts will take place in wonderful historic interiors and transfers to and from all musical events are included. We have a few places left on this visit. The Art and Music of Bavaria: Munich & its Opera Festival, 30 June – 4 July next year, is now full – the combination of artistic treasures and musical highlights (not least Jonas Kaufmann as Cavaradossi in Tosca) proved to be irresistible. However, if you would like to be first on the waiting list, please get in touch - almost all our visits have cancellations and it is more than likely that you may be able to come along too. Another great staple of the European musical year is the Verona Opera Festival. We have taken groups to Verona for many years and we shall return again next year. The operas featured during our visit will include two of Verdi’s greatest works, Aida, in a brilliant production by Franco Zeffirelli and La Traviata, with Bizet’s fiery masterpiece, Carmen, a worthy counterpoint to Verdi’s musical language. 2016 will mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and given that Italy in general and Verona in particular furnished him with material for some of his most brilliant plays, we have organised a private evening performance of Romeo and Juliet, set in Verona, in and around a wonderful private country villa just outside the city. These exceptional theatrical experiences, together with the daytime cultural visits, fine food and wine should combine all that is best about Italy in Summer. Nearer to home, our two visits to Sussex 12-16 July and 1-5 August, arranged in conjunction with The Glyndebourne Festival, have led to much positive comment! This unprecedented arrangement between Glyndebourne and CICERONI Travel has definitely hit a chord, so to speak, as both visits have just a few places left. One happy client emailed to say that she had long wanted to attend Glyndebourne but that the prospect of finding accommodation, sorting out dinner and of course, securing tickets, had long put her off. However, now it has been all sorted c/o CICERNONI! In addition to the operas (Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen and Beatrice et Benedict by Berlioz – this last based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing) we shall also include visits to the wonderful gardens at Sissinghurst and Great Dixter. Finally, I am delighted that our two visits to Firle Place will be led by one of my oldest friends in the UK, a member of Firle’s owning family, Deborah Gage. Deborah is a distinguished art historian and highly respected art dealer and her “connoisseur’s” tour of the house and collection will be a very special experience, given her intimate knowledge of the house and its contents. Finally, back to Scarlatti! Castile-Leon is one of Spain’s unknown glories, from where I returned a few days ago, having led our first visit to the area. During our time there I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the country’s musical history. First, there was the wonderful polyphony of Spain’s most important composer of renaissance choral music, Tomás Luis de Victoria, as important to Spanish choral music in the 16th century as William Byrd is for us. If you do not know his work, you should hurry to discover this remarkable genius. Second, the 18th century country palace at La Granja was built for the first of the Bourbon Kings of Spain, Phillip V. This manic depressive monarch found great solace in music and walking through the wonderful interiors of his mini-Versailles, one could almost hear Scarlatti’s music and of course, the voice of his friend, the famed castrato, Farinelli, who spent many years singling the same few arias, night after night in an effort to comfort the king. Music to one side, visiting this part of Spain it was easy to imagine a cavalcade of Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Christian Knights plus assorted Habsburgs, Bourbons and our own Duke of Wellington (NB he WAS Irish!) all attempting to dominate the landscape. Indeed, evidence of this rich palimpsest of history was all around us. We enjoyed wonderful weather, saw an amazing range of ancient, medieval and more recent historic sites, all accompanied by delicious food and wine. When booking for this visit opened last year, the visit filled up in a few weeks. If you were unable to secure a place on this year’s visit, it will be repeated next 5-16 April and we have a few places left. So, as with the music of Victoria and Scarlatti, do not delay in exploring what may be for you unknown territory! Until next month, when more anon… All best wishes, Tom

Welcome to our September Newsletter

Friday 2nd October 2015

Welcome to our September Newsletter - well, just about September?! It’s been a very busy month, not least because first, our 2016 brochure was mailed out a few weeks ago with many enquiries subsequently coming into the office and second, those of us working at the rock-face of cultural endeavour have been back “in harness” as this Autumn’s visit programme has begun. I have been away for several weeks with visits to Lakeland Ireland (Fermanagh and Tyrone), South-East Ireland and Latvia, while James has been busy leading a group round Croatia - so the monthly newsletter has had to wait until now. It is very heartening to receive feedback from you, our loyal “club” of tour participants and the new brochure has elicited many positive comments, for which a genuine “Thank You” to all who have been in touch. I am so pleased that the design and content continue to excite such comment. We very much enjoy writing the text and choosing the illustrations and I hope they represent the best aspects of what we try to give you on our visits: memorable visual experiences, analytical accuracy, crisply presented, delivered with humour and panache! Looking ahead to next year, please note our March visit exploring Galicia and its gardens full of camellias is fully booked as is Ballymaloe: Houses and Gardens of Cork in May. We will certainly repeat these visits in March and May/June 2017 respectively as requests for places continue to come in all the time. A number of other visits next year are almost full and if they are of interest, I suggest you get in touch with the office in the coming weeks. These include The Villas and Gardens of Florence in late April; Munich and its Opera Festival and The Gardens of Ireland in July – this last with both Helen Dillon and Jimi Blake keeping me on the straight and narrow path of horticultural exploration! Of all the visits we have included in next year’s programme, The Key to The New World: Havana & Western Cuba, 18 – 29 January 2016 is without doubt the most intriguing. Given the recent thaw in relations between the US and Cuba, husbanded, indeed very visibly guided by Pope Francis, it is clearly a watershed moment in this remarkable country’s history. Our visit will be led by Juliet Barclay, regarded as one of our foremost authorities on this amazing island, so please do read what she has to say: “Cuba is on the brink, for better or worse, of a period of seismic change in its history: this is the end of an era. Over fifty years of political, cultural and economic isolation have turned the island in upon itself, producing a uniquely eccentric culture of ingenuity and optimism coupled with careful self-censorship. The country has been curiously suspended in aspic, with the concomitant preservation of values, historical treasures, landscape and wildlife, but the suffocation of initiative and progress. The Cubans have weathered decades of recycling everything from car parts to revolutionary slogans. Now fresh ideas and cash are at last beginning to flow and diplomatic relations with Washington have been reinstated. A tidal wave of foreign investment is set to break on Cuban shores, and it cannot help but wash away much of the island’s hitherto unspoiled beauty. The architectural riches of its sixteenth century cities, vast tracts of exquisitely empty land, its extraordinary bird and plant life and above all, the ingenious idiosyncrasies of its inhabitants, cannot remain unsullied for much longer. Come with us to see this stunning island before it is altered out of all recognition by the voracious homogeneity of overseas influence.” It is unlikely that we shall offer this visit again in the near future, so if you have thought about joining, this is the time to act! Please refer to the website for more information. Finally, Claire Ricketts, whom many of you will have spoken to or met over the last two years, leaves CICERONI Travel on October 9. Stephen, James, Emma and myself have very much enjoyed working with Claire and we wish her all the best in the future. Until (later in) October, when more anon… All best wishes, Tom

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