5 days, £1,650 (including 3 opera tickets)
Lecturer: Daniel Snowman
A massive structure of rough-hewn granite rising from a rocky islet, the castle at Savonlinna is the largest in Scandinavia. Built in 1475 it was frequently re-fortified during the next three centuries, for this was border country: Nordic occupancy alternated with Russian until modern times.
Opera has been performed here in the courtyard since 1912, so it even pre-dates Verona as a festival in a spectacular historic setting. During the last few decades its artistic achievements have placed this festival among the best in the world, yet its rather inaccessible location keeps the number of visitors well below what it deserves.
The lake district of eastern Finland is an area of gently beguiling beauty.
Thousands of inter-connected lakes meet forests of birch and pine at an incredibly convoluted shoreline. The scenery and pure air provide a restful and refreshing foil to nights at the opera.
DAY 1: fly c. 10.00 from London Heathrow to Helsinki, and from there to Savonlinna (flight times to be confirmed)—transfer to the hotel.
DAY 2: a guided tour of the castle at Savonlinna—free afternoon to explore the attractive old part of the town beside the lake, with its art galleries and museums—evening opera: Aida (Verdi).
DAY 3: a boat trip through beautiful lakeland scenery to Retretti—the Retretti Art Centre is a remarkable complex with several changing exhibitions—evening opera: The Flying Dutchman (Wagner).
DAY 4: the Punkaharju nature reserve and the Finnish Forest Museum—drive to Kerimäki, the largest wooden church in the world (1840s)—some free time—evening opera: Rigoletto (Verdi).
DAY 5: free morning—fly from Savonlinna to Helsinki and on to London Heathrow, arriving c. 5.00 p.m. (flight times to be confirmed).
Price: £1,590 (deposit £200)–this includes:–three opera tickets costing c. £270–all air travel (economy class) with flights on Finnair–private coach for excursions and transfers–hotel accommodation as described below–breakfasts and three dinners with wine, water and coffee–all admission to museums, etc.–all tips for restaurant staff, drivers, etc.–all taxes–the services of the lecturer–single supplement £250–price without all flights £1,360.
Daniel Snowman: Writer, lecturer and broadcaster—educated at Cambridge and Cornell Universities—worked for many years at the BBC producing and presenting a variety of radio programmes on musical, cultural and historical subjects—has lectured widely in the UK, Europe and the USA and is currently writing a book on the social and cultural history of opera.
Hotel: centrally located by the lake in the town of Savonlinna–a good quality hotel with modern facilities.
How strenuous? Access to the castle would be difficult with impaired walking–average distance by coach per day: 19 miles.
Small group: between 12 and 22 participants.