Exciting opportunity to attend Parma’s world famous Verdi Festival
The craft of stringed-instrument-making explored in delightful Cremona
Lectures and private recitals in Parma, Cremona & at Villa Medici-Giulini
Splendid monuments & works of art explored in Parma & its surroundings
Verdi’s Aida, Nabucco, Luisa Miller & I Due Foscari performed in historic theatres in Parma & Busseto
Italy’s greatest composer of operas, Giuseppe Verdi, was born in 1813 at Le Roncole, a little to the north of Parma. He studied in nearby Busseto before moving to Milan where his career began its ill-tempered, though steady, rise to fame and fortune. Every October, to coincide with the anniversary of his birth, Parma holds a wonderful opera festival devoted to Verdi. The featured operas in 2019 will be I Due Foscari, Aida, Luisa Miller and Nabucco, the latter three of which are included in the tour.
Cremona is remembered as the home of the world’s finest violin maker, Antonio Stradivarius. The city was renowned for making luxury goods and superb stringed instruments. The Amati, the Guarneri and the Stradivari produced their instruments in a town of singular delight.
Visual culture is as great a part of Parma’s history as are music and food: the medieval era when Parma was ennobled with some of the finest churches of northern Italy; the renaissance and baroque when the Farnese family came to rule it as resident hereditary Dukes; and the nineteenth century when Napoleon’s second wife, the Habsburg Marie-Louise of Austria, was given Parma and its Duchy.
The medieval city was clearly very wealthy as it built a marvellous Duomo, plus the remarkable Baptistery which has a unique group of medieval sculptures and frescoes. In 1545, Parma, by then in Papal hands, was made an Imperial Duchy, created by Charles V for Pope Paul III’s natural son, Pier-Luigi Farnese, initiating almost two hundred and fifty years of Farnese rule. In time, the Farnese family dies out in the male line and Parma became a neglected backwater. After Napoleon’s defeat, his Habsburg wife had to be found a home – Parma was it.
The visit will be led by Professor Peter Hill. Peter taught at Sheffield University for many years and now devotes his time to lecturing and continuing his distinguished career as a keyboard recitalist. The three included operas will be preceded by a lecture in our hotel, with piano accompaniment. We shall stay at the comfortable 4* Hotel Palace Maria Luigia, ideally located a short walk from the historic centre and the Teatro Regio.
Day by day
- Day 1: Wednesday 16 October
- We fly from Heathrow to Bologna, arriving late-afternoon. We transfer by coach to Parma where we shall stay at the 4* Hotel Palace Maria Luigia. Following Peter Hill’s introductory lecture on Verdi, dinner will be in our hotel – wine, water and coffee are included with all group lunches and dinners.
- Day 2: Thursday 17 October
- We spend the day in Cremona to the north of Parma close to the Po River. Our musical theme begins at the new Museo del Violino, an interactive and well-presented investigation into the history of Cremonese lute and violin making. It houses a magnificent selection of historic instruments including many crafted by Stradivarius, one of which will be played for us via a short recital. After a group lunch we visit the workshop of the master violin maker and restorer, Phillipe Devanneaux, who will enlighten us on the craft of violin making. We end our day at Piazza del Comune which has a rich panorama of Romanesque and later architecture. The Duomo is a wonderful Romanesque church with a very ornate west front. We return to Parma and the evening will be free. Tonight’s opera will be I Due Foscari in the Teatro Regio at 8.00 pm, and though not included in our itinerary, you will be able to book for this performance as detailed below.
- Day 3: Friday 18 October
- This morning we visit the medieval centre of Parma, dominated by some splendid buildings. The Baptistery is one of the finest medieval examples in Italy and externally has marvellous sculptural programmes. The Duomo is dominated by a series of frescoes painted in the sixteenth century by Correggio, the master of renaissance illusionism. His work is also to be found in the nearby church of San Giovanni Evangelista, which we shall also visit. The morning ends with a visit to the Camera di San Paolo, an exquisite secular dining room, commissioned by a very worldly Mother Superior for her aristocratic charges, frescoed by Correggio in his most delightful and witty style. Following a group lunch you will be free for some of the afternoon to enjoy the city at leisure. We meet in our hotel for Peter’s pre-opera lecture, after which we drive to the north of Parma to the Teatro Verdi in the village of Busseto for Aida.
- Day 4: Saturday 19 October
- This morning we visit the Galleria Nazionale, a famous picture gallery with works by Leonardo, Bernini and many others. It sits within the renaissance Palazzo della Pilotta, originally built by the Farnese family. It also contains the Teatro Farnese, a huge wooden structure modelled on Palladio’s more famous Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza. After a break for group lunch and a free afternoon, we meet again in our hotel for Peter’s second lecture before this evening’s performance of Luisa Miller in the nearby Church of San Francesco del Prato, to which we shall walk.
- Day 5: Sunday 20 October
- This morning we drive to the north of Parma and begin at the private home of the Rocca Meli Lupi family at Soragna. A muscular medieval fortress was converted into a princely residence from the sixteenth century with fine frescoed rooms. We continue to Villa Verdi just outside the hamlet of Sant’Agata. The maestro lived at this summer residence for fifty years until his death in 1901 and the house retains many original furnishings. We return to Parma for lunch (not included) where in the early afternoon Peter will give his final lecture. The mid-afternoon performance is Nabucco at Parma’s Teatro Regio. Later in the evening we meet for our final group dinner in Parma.
- Day 6: Monday 21 October
- We make our way to the north of Milan to the Lombard village of Briosco, for a splendid day at Villa Medici-Giulini. Built in 1643, this private estate has had many owners, including the Medici of Marignano. Fernanda Giulini and her family restored the villa in the twentieth century and it is where Signora Giulini displays some of her extraordinary collection of historic keyboard instruments, many of which will be played for us. After our final lunch in the villa there will be a special, private recital in the charming theatre – an apt finale to the musical pleasures we will have enjoyed during our week. We continue to Milan’s Malpensa airport and our return flight.
The four operas in this year’s festival are I Due Foscari on the second night, Aida on the third night, Luisa Miller on the fourth night and Nabucco on the fifth night. Tickets to Aida, Luisa Miller and Nabucco, together with transfers to and from Busseto, are included in the visit cost. It is also possible to book for I Due Foscari as costed in the Practicalities section. For the three included operas, all seats will be reserved in the top tier and these offer good sight of the stage and reasonable sound quality. However, please be aware that we are not able to choose individual seats or specify particular rows.
- Price: £2,975 per person
- Price without flights: £2,855
- Deposit: £375
- Single Supplement: £230 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: James Hill
5 nights with breakfast at the 4* Hotel Maria Luigia, Parma
Outward: BA542 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1445 arrive Bologna 1755
Return: BA567 Depart Milan (Malpensa) 1905 arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 2005
2 dinners & 4 lunches with wine, water & coffee, all local transfers, City Tax, entry fees & gratuities, the services of Peter Hill and James Hill, tickets for the three included operas
Travel to/from Heathrow, 3 dinners & 1 lunch, ticket for I Due Foscari
Weather Conditions for Parma in October are:
Average Temperature between: 13oC - 24oC / 55.4oF - 75.2oF
Rainfall: 76.2mm / 3 inches
Price includes: Top tier seats for Aida, Luisa Miller and Nabucco on 18, 19 and 20 October Not included: I Due Foscari on 17 October (Front Stall Seats £265 or Central/Rear Stalls £190, if required)
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.