Mention Croatia and most people will think of sublime coastlines and the attractions of Dubrovnik and Split. How about classical music? Perhaps not so many, yet anyone who counts opera, choral music and classical music amongst their interests cannot overlook Croatia anymore. World-class music can be enjoyed throughout the year in an array of spectacular venues, both in the major cities and beyond.
We believe our holiday inspirations stand out not just because of their luxury but also for their cultural aspirations and ability to surprise. At first glance Croatia’s neighbour Italy might seem more fitting for a holiday centred on enjoying classical music. However, as the following suggestions show, classical music has flourished in the region long before Croatia became an independent nation.
The Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra
Since its foundation in 1924, the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra has gone from strength to strength. The Orchestra’s consistently excellent interpretations of Baroque and Romantic classical music have seen it garner a well-deserved reputation, as evidenced by its frequent international tours; in recent years the Orchestra has performed in Washington, Versailles, Basel and Vienna. It has not forgotten its roots though, and there are regular recitals in some illustrious venues across the city, including the Rector’s Palace Atrium as well as churches and squares. If you wish to attend a performance, I recommend the Dubrovnik Summer Festival – which has been running since the 1950s – or browsing their concert schedule. Tickets can either be purchased online or at the entrance to the venue one hour before the concert commences.
Where to Stay
A happy combination of a picturesque setting, tasteful rooms and opportunities aplenty for indulging in life’s finer things make the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel completely deserving of its five-star status. Its location on the Lapad Peninsula lends a wonderful sense of isolation as you look out upon the fine west-facing views of the sea and Kolocep Island (expect glorious sunsets), yet it is a mere 15 minutes by hotel shuttle to Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
Its spa comes equipped with hot tubs, steam baths and a sauna – a massage can be easily arranged as well. Come dinner time we know you will be spoilt for choice, as there’s the oh-so-tricky decision to make about whether to dine on Dalmatian seafood specialities at the Maslina beach restaurant or take a table on the long terrace of the Elafiti and enjoy a light and delicious buffet dinner.
The Croatian National Theatre
In my mind, going to the opera at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb is almost as much about exploring the theatre itself as it is enjoying what’s on stage. Neo-Baroque in style, the theatre was opened by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1895. While the grand interior of the auditorium demands attention, closer scrutiny reveals some interesting curiosities – for example the handrails on the stairs are adorned with detailed figurines of swans.
The stage itself can be decorated with any one of seven different themed curtains, rotated to match the occasion and performance. ‘The Revival of Croatian Art and Literature’ curtain, created by Croat artist Vlaho Bukovac soon after the Theatre’s opening, is used for the most important performances. Unbeknownst even to many residents of Zagreb, an underground tunnel system lies beneath the theatre as well – such is the standard of performance that I doubt you will need to use it as an escape route at any time! Opera tickets can be purchased on the Theatre’s official website.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Esplanade is unquestionably the capital’s finest hotel – famous names from the world of politics and the arts regularly stay. It has a peerless history; opened in 1925 in order to meet the needs of travellers on the Orient Express, its beautifully-appointed rooms continue to evoke the style of the era. The Art Deco marble lobby gives a taste of things to come. The rooms have bathrooms clad in marble, while throughout the hotel gorgeous reproduction furniture proliferates. For a taste of Croatian-French fusion cuisine, I would strongly suggest taking dinner at Le Bistro.
The International Choral Festival Cantate
The International Choral Festival Cantate brings together choirs from several European countries to the seaside town of Pula, perhaps best known for its Roman amphitheatre. During the aptly-named ‘Friendship Concerts’, the choirs perform at local churches over two days, with the climax being at the town’s lovely Municipal Theatre – each choir sings a piece of their own before all join together in an ensemble performance. Despite the temptations of a boat trip across to Venice or sunbathing on one of this region’s many beautiful beaches, I have been told by many holidaymakers to Pula that attending a Friendship Concert was undoubtedly the most memorable part of their visit.