Going for a song – Breaks are sweeter when there’s music in the air

Last July I enjoyed that same sweet aria from La Boheme in
the warmer and more romantic surroundings of an open-air theatre in Tuscany,
just yards from where it was written. But whatever your personal tastes in
opera or classical music, there’s a festival somewhere that will hit the right
note – at home or abroad.
Italian grand opera is rarely a bundle of laughs: there’s
too much unrequited love and too many tear-jerking deaths for that. But
watching a performance as the sun sets over the lake next to the villa where
Giacomo Puccini composed his best-loved works is a memorable treat for opera
regulars and first-timers alike.
Last week’s event at London’s Italian Cultural Institute was
a curtain-raiser for next summer’s annual Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago (July
12 – August 24), where lavish productions will include Tosca, Turandot and – to
mark Verdi’s bicentenary – Rigoletto. 

My wife and I make this a regular summer highlight. The
festival is staged in a delightful location that’s also handy for the wonderful
old walled city of Lucca (Puccini’s birthplace) and the sandy beaches of the
Versilian coast.
Next summer others will be heading to places like Verona for
Verdi, Salzburg for Mozart and Bayreuth for Wagner.
At home, the big events include Glyndebourne, in East
Sussex, and the Aldeburgh Festival for Benjamin Britten fans. Elgar enthusiasts
enjoy regular concerts in Great Malvern, where Colwall Park Hotel is a handy
FIH hotel nearby. Likewise, Rudding Park is a grand base for the Harrogate
Festival, and Three Ways Hotel for the Longborough Festival, in the Cotswold
town of Moreton-in-Marsh.
If you can’t wait that long for a musical interlude, Rothay
in Ambleside is hosting its next music appreciation break from December 2
– 7. Franz Schubert will be the main subject of discussions and recitals, with
Beethoven and Mendelssohn also in the spotlight.
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