The world’s first tourist opera

Have you ever been in this situation? You’re traveling with a dozen or so nice people from several different countries, and you’re all very excited about the next leg of your journey. Everybody gets packed up, and they keep talking about departing (also various ones fall in love with each other, to the amusement of the rest), but then someone comes in with the news that the bus has broken down. What do you do? Well, after the initial disappointment you organize a big grill party and each person sings a song from his or her native country.

Frankfurt Opera program booklet

That’s essentially the situation in the comic opera Il viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Reims), composed in 1825 by Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868). Only in those days they didn’t have buses, of course, so their problem was that all the horses and carriages in the whole country were already booked out because everybody wanted to go to Reims for the coronation of the new king. But otherwise they did exactly what we would do. (And they never did get to Reims.)

There isn’t terribly much plot to this opera, but it’s great fun and it’s a true-to-life tourist situation that a lot of people can relate to. In 2004 the Frankfurt Opera put on a highly amusing and effective staging of Il viaggio a Reims by the American baritone Dale Duesing. After a long and successful singing career, this was his first production as stage director.

By the way, the Euro sign in my lead photo is not a part of the poster design. It is a reflection of the big Euro sign in the park right in front of the Frankfurt opera house.

Euro sign across from the Frankfurt Opera, with the Eurotower in the background

My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2018.

See more posts on Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and Reims, France.

2 thoughts on “The world’s first tourist opera”

    1. In this opera the soprano has the last word, or rather the last song, a beautiful aria with harp accompaniment praising the new French king Charles X. Of course it wasn’t her fault that he turned out to be a mediocre king who was forced to abdicate six years later.

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