I was totally spoiled as a child and got to see my first opera -- Verdi's Aida -- complete with a menagerie of elephants and camels, at the famed Baths of Caracalla in Rome. There was something about seeing such a grand spectacle in that historic location that resonated with me, despite probably being too young to appreciate the story line or the caliber of the operatic performances. Decades later, I am blessed to live in New York City, home to one of the world's finest opera companies -- The Met, but I often daydream of traveling to other great opera houses around the world and I am not alone.
If you would like to take in a single performance whilst traveling, you will generally need to book far in advance to secure seats, especially at highly coveted locations like La Scala in Milan, the Met in New York or the Sydney Opera House. Alternatively, sometimes it is possible to show up at the theatre box office in the morning to see if there are any remaining seats or newly released tickets for that evening's performance. The following are season dates in various cities, plus links to online ticket sales and general information. Tickets can start as low as € 25 for matinees, but in general, European opera tickets range from €75 to €275 per seat.
Teatro La Scala, Milan, Italy (www.teatroallascala.org) -- Opera Season 2008 -- April 1 to May 17. Limited tickets still available for productions of Macbeth and 1984.
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia (www.sydneyoperahouse.com) -- Opera Season 2008 -- June 21 to October 29. Productions include My Fair Lady, Don Giovanni, Otello, Lucia di Lammermoor, Orlando, The Pearlfishers, Billy Budd, The Makropulos Secret, and La Boheme.
The Metropolitan at Lincoln Center, New York (www.lincolncenter.org) -- Opera Season 2008 until May 17. Productions include La Traviata, Ernani, Tristan and Isolde, Peter Grimes, Satyagraha, The Gambler, La Boheme, A Masked Ball, La Fille du Regiment, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, La Clemenza di Tito, Macbeth and The First Emperor
The Staatsoper, Vienna, Austria (www.staatsoper.at/Content.Node2/en/index.php) -- Opera Season 2008 until June 30. Productions include La Forze del Destino, The Tales of Hoffmann, Tristan and Isolde, Parsifal , La Sonnambula, Ariadne of Naxos, Manon, Der Rosenkavalier, Der fliegende Holländer, Salome, La Traviata, the Marriage of Figaro, Madama Butterfly, Siegried, and Falstaff
Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, Russia (www.bolshoi.ru/en) -- Opera Season 2008 until June 23. Productions include Carmen, Iolanta, Nabucco, The Tsar's Bride, Boris Godunov, Macbeth, The Children of Rosenthal, and Tosca.
Budapest Opera House, Budapest, Hungary (www.opera.hu; tickets available at www.jegymester.hu) -- Opera Season 2008 until June 15. Productions include Don Pasquale, The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, Parsifal, Tosca, Don Giovanni, La Boheme, and Taming of the Shrew
Palais Garnier, Paris, France (www.operadeparis.fr) -- Opera Season 2008 until July 12. Productions include The Rake's Progress, Parsifal, Wozzeck, Le Prisonnier, The Barber of Seville, The Capulets and the Montagues, Iphig?nie en Tauride, Don Carlo, Melancholia, and Louise.
The Royal Opera House, London, England (www.royalopera.org) -- Opera Season 2008 until May 3. Productions include Salome, The Sleeping Beauty, Carmen, and Eugene Onegin.
Arena di Verona, Verona, Italy (www.arena.it/eng/) -- Opera Season 2008 -- June 20 to August 31. Productions include Aida, Tosca, Nabucco, Carmen, Rigoletto, and Romeo and Juliet.
There are several companies that specialize in cultural tourism, catering specifically to opera aficionados who would travel the world to hear the perfect aria. By their very nature, opera package prices can be high, but they usually include exclusive box or orchestra seats, ticket to prime productions, stays in four and five-star centrally located hotels, meals, tours and local transportation, often accompanied by an opera expert. The U.S. dollar dive against the Euro has also meant that this year's European opera season will be more expensive than in years past
Latitude World Tours (www.latitudeworldtours.com) offers an Italian opera tour that takes in the Verona Opera Festival with its "Spectacle and Song in the Land of Legends" trip from August 15 to 25, 2008. The tour begins in Milan with a tour of La Scala and a backstage tour of the Ansalado workshops where you'll be privy to the inner workings of production including set design, costuming and rehearsals. Enjoy the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, ride a vintage tram through historic Milan, view the art collection at the Duke of Milan's Sforzesco Castle (home of Michelangelo's Pieta); and Da Vinci's breathtaking Last Supper at the St. Maria delle Grazie. At Verona's Opera Festival in the famed open air arena, be stage-side for spectacular productions of Rigoletto, Aida, and Carmen. Tour Castelvecchio, formerly a fortress and now a museum of medieval paintings and sculpture; the magnificent St. Zeno Major Church and the home of "Juliet," Shakespeare's famous heroine. Spend a day in Venice brings touring St. Mark's Cathedral and the Doge Palace. In Vicenza, visit Palladian villas and visit the home towns of Toscanini and Verdi in Parma, Busseto and Roncole Verdi. Another day will be spend in Sirmioni, the gem of Lake Garda and Valpolicella for a special wine tastings. The eight-day tour is priced at $3,399 per person with a $689 single supplement. Book by April 14 and save $100 per person ($3,299). The price includes ten nights' accommodations; seven breakfasts, three lunches and three dinners; opera performances in Verona; sightseeing; land transportation; expert tour leaders and entrance fees.
Ovation Opera Tours' (www.ovationoperatours.com) Vienna, Salzburg and Munich trip takes opera lovers to three of Europe's most beloved musical cities. The grand 14-day tour runs from April 24 to May 8, 2008 and is priced at $6125 per person land-only (add approximately $750 for a round-trip airfare from the U.S. East coast based on Austrian Airlines flights on those dates out of New York, including all taxes). The trip includes 13 nights' accommodations; breakfast daily; land transportation; sightseeing; visits to Melk Abbey, Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace; and most importantly, four operatic performances -- Marriage of Figaro and Die Tote Stadt in Vienna and Nabucco and Abduction from the Seraglio in Munich, plus tickets to see the Vienna Philharmonic with the Vienna Boys Choir in Salzburg. Optional performances of Siegfried, Barber of Seville and Csárdásfürstin can be arranged for additional cost. Add $1711 for single supplement.
European Opera (H.A.T.) Tours (tel. 800/472-4448; www.europeanoperatours.com) features an 11-day Sounds of Central Europe tour that visits Prague, Vienna and Budapest from April 20 to 30, 2008. The Opera performances include Lucia de Lammermoor and Carmen in Prague, Salome in Vienna and Don Pasquale and Don Giovanni in Budapest. The land cost, which includes ten nights' accommodations (the Hotel Palace in Prague, Grand Hotel in Vienna and The Marriott in Budapest), orchestra level tickets to performances, breakfast daily, three dinners, sightseeing and transportation between cities is $4,950 per person with a single supplement of $850. Apart from opera, other highlights includes visits to Hradcany Castle, the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the Golden Lane, Villa Bertramka where Mozart composed some of his music, the Old Synagogue and Museum, the Jewish Cemetery, the Old Town Square and the Charles Bridge (Prague); Ringstrasse, the Vienna State Opera House, the Parliament, Belvedere Palace, the Hofburg Imperial Palace, St. Stephen's Cathedral, the museums of famous composers like Beethoven and Mozart plus The "Figaro House" (Vienna); the 13th century Matthias Church, Fisherman Bastion, St. Stephen's Basilica, the Hungarian Parliament, Hero Square and the newly restored Synagogue (Budapest) and the charming medieval town of Szentendre, Hungary. International airfare (the U.S. to Prague and Budapest back to U.S.) is additional.
Sydney Online (www.sydney.com.au) offers a Sydney Opera House and Opera Australia Dinner package priced from $286 per person. Interested participants would need to book as far in advance as possible. The package begins with an early evening guided tour of Australia's most famous icon, the Sydney Opera House, followed by a three course pre-theatre dinner with wine or beer at either Guillaume at Bennelong or Aria restaurants. Best available seats to a performance by Opera Australia (plus a cocktail at interval time) will complete the red carpet experience and you will receive an exclusive Sydney Opera House gift to take away as a souvenir. Choose from performances of My Fair Lady, Don Giovanni, Otello, Lucia di Lammermoor, Orlando, The Pearlfishers, Billy Budd and The Makropulous Secret with dates available from June 21 to October 24, 2008.
You don't always need to travel far to experience some of the world's finest opera. The International Kitchen (tel. 800/945-8606; www.theinternationalkitchen.com/opera-trip-new-york2.htm) has a special opera tour of New York during the final week of the 2008 season -- May 13 to 17. The five day operatic journey is priced at $3,195 per person based on double occupancy in a standard room with one large bed with a $700 Single supplement. Non-opera going companions pay $1,200 to join the tour if sharing with someone who will be attending performances. Led by Fred Plotkin, author of Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, the program includes four nights' accommodations at a four star hotel (all rooms have plasma screen TV, WiFi Internet connection, Frette linens, bathrobes and rainshowers); orchestra prime tickets to four outstanding opera performances at the Metropolitan Opera (Macbeth, La Clemeza di Toto, The First Emperor, and La Fille du Regiment); lectures and discussions with Fred Plotkin about the operas you will attend; four excellent meals (one lunch and three dinners) with wine at some of the finest restaurants in New York; all taxes and service charges and restaurant gratuities.
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