Under the inspired guidance of Director Plamen Kartaloff, the Sofia Opera and Ballet has been reborn – and there is no surer sign of its transformation than his ambitious production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. When it premiered in the 2012–13 season, it was the first-ever staging of Wagner’s masterpiece in the Balkans. We will be in the city for the production’s 2018 revival. It is a chance not just to enjoy sensational music, but also to explore a country with a rich and fascinating heritage. Thracians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans have all left their mark – as well as the Bulgars – and over eight days we will discover their richest treasures and finest monuments.
We meet at the hotel at 6pm, and have dinner together in a local restaurant.
Our first lecture is followed by a walking tour – starting at Sofia’s cavernous neo-Byzantine cathedral. The 6th-century church of St Sophia and the 4th-century St George’s Rotunda are also on the itinerary. After resting at the hotel, we walk to the opera for the 6pm start of Das Rheingold.
Second lecture. We then transfer to the National History Museum – home to the dazzling Panagyurishte Treasure, once the property of Thracian kings. Nearby, the Boyana Church is filled with 13th-century frescoes. After some free time at the hotel, we return to the opera house for Die Walküre.
A 1st-century Roman theatre, exquisite Ottoman houses and a magnificent archaeological museum are part of Plovdiv’s rich inheritance. A full-day excursion followed by a free evening.
After our third lecture, we visit Sofia’s archaeological museum, as well as the remains of Roman Serdica. In the afternoon, a tour of the Banya Bashi Mosque is a reminder of nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule. The day ends with our third opera, Siegfried.
Founded in the 10th century, the Rila Monastery has had a long and chequered history, but has always been a powerful symbol of Bulgarian identity. We spend some time there, followed by a wine-tasting in a local vineyard. Free evening.
After our final lecture, we meet artists of the Sofia Opera. In the afternoon, we see Bulgaria’s new National Museum of Art. After dinner together, it is time for Götterdämmerung.
The trip ends after breakfast.
Dr John Allison
John realised he enjoyed writing about music as much as performing it while studying for his PhD at the University of Cape Town. Now, he is the editor of Opera magazine and music critic for the Daily Telegraph. In the course of his career he’s interviewed composer Elliott Carter, tenor Luciano Pavarotti and pop star Sting, as well as publishing two books, The Pocket Companion to Opera and Edward Elgar: Sacred Music.
£1,275 per person sharing in a double room.
£1,450 for one person in a double room.
Flights are not included.
Accommodation and meals
The hotel: Best Western Premier Collection City Hotel, Sofia (4 star). Included meals: daily breakfasts and two dinners (with wine).
We have a busy itinerary planned, which involves several walking tours as well as two extended coach journeys. Although there is time to rest at the hotel before each opera, a good level of fitness is required.
Maximum group size
Joining and leaving instructions
Flights are not included, you make your own way to and from the starting and finishing point of the trip. Several carriers operate flights from London to Sofia Airport: British Airways from Heathrow, EasyJet from Gatwick, Rynair from Stansted and Wizz Air from Luton. From the airport were recommend taking a taxi to the hotel operated by the company OK Supertrans. Please note CTC does not arrange international or domestic travel.
Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book to make sure you are happy with the advice for the places you are visiting.