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Tour Director
Practical Information

  • Experience all four Ring Cycle operas, immersed in the town where Wagner made his name

  • Explore the composer’s birthplace of Leipzig with visits to the Thomaskirche, where he was baptised, and Mendelssohn House

  • Take in the wonderful art collections of Dresden including the Old Masters Picture Gallery and Albertinum

Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig in 1813; however, it was in the majestic city of Dresden – on the banks of the River Elbe – that he spent much of his childhood and made his name. Moving to the city in 1842, the composer altogether spent more than twenty years of his life there, staging Tannhäuser in 1845 and eventually becoming the Royal Saxon Court Conductor. It was during this period that Wagner first embarked upon a work centred on the Nibelungen legend, holding an early reading of the draft libretto in Dresden.

To experience Der Ring des Nibelungen in the city of Wagner’s youth represents an exceptional opportunity not only to discover the magnificent cycle itself, but also to understand the composer’s personal story and musical development. Christian Thielemann – Chief Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden, one of the world’s oldest orchestras – will raise his baton over Willy Decker’s classic modernist production of all four dramas, which together tell of an epic struggle between gods, heroes and mythological beings over the eponymous, all-powerful magic ring. Supported by richly textured orchestration, the range of excellent soloists will include Swedish baritone John Lundgren and American soprano Lise Lindstrom.

The four musical performances will be expertly introduced and interpreted throughout during a series of lectures from our Tour Director, who will also accompany us on a range of musical, cultural and artistic visits. Particular highlights will be a day excursion to Leipzig – Wagner’s birthplace – and the historical village of Graupa, site of the ‘Lohengrin House’ where Wagner spent time.

We stay throughout at the Hyperion Dresden am Schloss, a stylish hotel located in the heart of Dresden’s old town, a short walk from the Semper Opera House.

This tour will be led by Michael Downes, MA, MPhil, DPhil, a conductor, writer and lecturer with a particular interest in opera. He studied English and Music at King’s College, Cambridge, and completed a doctorate on the music and ideas of Debussy at the University of Sussex. Following two years as Director of Music at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, Michael has occupied the same post at the University of St Andrews since 2008. The following year he became musical director of St Andrews Chorus, now Scotland’s largest choral society, and founded Byre Opera. He has lectured for most of the UK’s leading opera companies and collaborated with Nike Wagner, great-granddaughter of Richard, on the English version of her book about her family’s history. His current writing projects include books about Wagner and Elgar.

Michael is particularly thrilled to be leading an ACE tour to the Ring Cycle in Dresden. He writes:


“Dresden is a singularly appropriate place in which to experience Wagner’s masterpiece: the composer spent much of his childhood in the city, and it was here, during his tenure as Royal Saxon Kapellmeister, that he first conceived the Siegfried drama that took its final form as The Ring three decades later in Bayreuth. Willy Decker’s production for the Semperoper, successor to the house in which Wagner himself presided, has been widely acclaimed for its psychological insight and vivid theatricality. I am particularly excited to hear The Ring performed under the baton of Christian Thielemann, arguably today’s leading Wagnerian conductor.”

Tour Code

Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, performances as described (category 1), six breakfasts, three lunches, three dinners (two light) with water & coffee, opera plates & drink at two performances, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £320.

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