Classical Matera 2019

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“Pure joy! Everything was done well. Nothing was too much trouble for Alex and Temi. The whole experience was really enjoyable and left me feeling so happy. I can’t wait to go on my next singing holiday!”

European Capital of Culture 2019

“Yes, it is true that King David was a flop, but I’d do it all over again because it gave me the opportunity to discover a remarkable city, Matera, which I would never have otherwise got to know.”
Richard Gere

That other great wordsmith; the painter, writer and anti-fascist Carlo Levi also wrote, “Anyone who sees Matera cannot help but be awe-struck, so expressive and touching is its sorrowful beauty”. Yes, OK, he’s slightly more profound than Mr Gere, but the sentiment from both is absolutely spot-on.

Awesome? Absolutely! Remarkable? Definitely! Beautiful? Undoubtedly! However, only seventy years ago Matera was a place of hardship and brutal poverty. The extent of the squalid conditions in the city only came to international attention when Levi was exiled by Mussolini’s fascist regime to a town close by in the 1930s. In his book, Christ Stopped at Eboli, published in 1945, Levi described the horrors he witnessed – the squalid homes, children either naked or in rags, bodies ravaged by disease – and concluded: “I have never seen in all my life such a picture of poverty.”

It took a visit in 1952 from the Italian prime minister Alcide De Gasperi, who lambasted the slums as “a national disgrace”, to propel the government to take drastic steps that set in motion a chain of events which was to have a swift and substantial impact on the city and the lives of the people who lived there.

In 1993 Unesco declared the Sassi di Matera (stones of Matera) a world heritage site and – following a long list of other achievements since – the city has now been selected as a 2019 European Capital of Culture.

Sassi di Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world and, with its stacked houses and cave dwellings, it truly is a remarkable and beautiful cultural oddity. We’ll be staying literally within the Sassi themselves, in exceptional accommodation that consists of a series of dwellings cut into the tufa rock that rises above the Murgia plateau. Uneven floors and rough-hewn walls are par for the course in our cave, but high ceilings lend these quiet, nest-like rooms a stately grandeur. When you add Philippe Starck bathtubs, powerful drenching showers, huge comfy beds, heavy wooden furniture and a constellation of flickering candles, your primal and decadent sides collide. These are perhaps the most sensuous rooms you’ll ever stay in anywhere.

On this five-night Luxury Classical Singing Holiday, we’ll be joined by guest conductor and great friend Robert Dean. Robert comes with an eye-watering amount of skill and experience and, as a principal singing teacher at the Guildhall School of Music, has taught, and is teaching, many of today’s opera stars. He’s also an international conductor of note and, as leader of both the London Choral Society and Philharmonia Chorus, he has worked under the auspices of Solti, Rattle and Barenboim. He’s a real smarty-pants!

Smarty-pants notwithstanding, Robert has a great sense of humour and, just in case you’re panicking, he’s a complete softy. He’s delighted to help anyone and everyone so if you’re still vocally pinned to the shower curtain, Matera may well be the perfect time to step into the warm towel of Singing Holidays bliss.

Our days in Matera will be full of music. After a delicious, locally-sourced breakfast, we’ll be straight into a three-hour group rehearsal with Robert. With a lively mix of vocal technique and tongue-waggling, Robert will have us up to speed in no time as he guides us through some challenging but inspiring classical repertoire.

After rehearsal, we’ll have a light lunch – taking full advantage of the delicious fruits of the region – before a free afternoon in which to explore the city’s abundant treasures and quiet corners that are quite literally on our doorstep.

We meet again in the evening for another hour of singing with Robert before enjoying a much-deserved candle-lit apertitivo. Then we’re off to dinner at one of our delicious, hand-picked restaurants, where we can reflect on our day in paradise and mingle with the locals.

The final dusting of icing on an already cherried-up confection of musical delight will be a performance by you in a stunning location.

This holiday is more than a holiday, it’s an opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the cultural and musical wonders of a once forgotten city. As you gaze over the honeyed rooftops, watching starlings dash and dart through belfries and portici, it’s difficult not to be moved by the beauty of the place, by this Phoenix that is Sassi di Matera – European Capital of Culture 2019.

Le Grotte della Civita

Restored from decaying and abandoned ancient caves in the city of Sassi di Matera in southern Italy, Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita offers a new take on authenticity.

Swedish-Italian entrepreneur, hotelier, and philanthropist Daniele Kihlgren breathed new life into ancient caves while honouring the past lives of those who dwelt in their depths. In order to provide the proper standards of luxury, he wove traditional design made from local materials with a minimum of contemporary amenities. It took over ten years of painstaking devotion to complete and the result is an architectural masterpiece that provides a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Walking into the reception of the hotel is instantly soothing. The sultry glow of candlelight against this lofty-domed structure, hewn from the surrounding rock, makes you feel instantly enveloped in a capsule of calm. Classical music ripples over you as you’re presented with a hefty metal key.

The food at breakfast is totally organic and locally sourced. None of your white sliced toast and supermarket spread here. Everything is lovingly made with a keen eye on quality and zero kilometres. I feel like I’m detoxing just thinking about it! The breakfast room itself is wondrous. The obligatory flickering candles reveal its former life as a church carved into the tufa rock.

In each room, the beds are draped in indulgent layers of lush natural linens that tumble extravagantly to the floor. Beautiful pieces of aged wooden furniture, chests and benches are dotted around, and the overall aesthetic is authentic, rustic and natural. This is less cave and more soothing sanctuary.

Sitting outside on your terrace as the blush of early evening sunlight bounces off the hills opposite, you might see swifts and kestrels wheeling silently overhead, as the music of distant goat bells splashes the valley with a sound unchanged for centuries.


Le Grotte della Civita

Via Civita 28,
Matera MT

'More like five million stars'

The fact that this was my 9th (I think…. I am losing count) holiday with Singing Holidays should tell you all you need to know about them. I don’t think there are enough superlatives to describe them. Temi and Alex go above and beyond to make sure everything is perfect.

'A very special experience!'

As you can see by the score, the service was absolutely fantastic and beyond my expectations. Alex and Temi, you were both a delight to have around, so thoughtful and caring, always going that extra mile to make sure everything went smoothly. I would definitely recommend ‘singing Holiday’s service’ and have already been ‘singing’ your praises!!

'Singing Holidays gets better and better'

I’m becoming addicted to Singing Holidays — Florence last year, Vienna in April this year and Venice last week. The formula — perhaps not the right word, because there is nothing formulaic about these trips — is simple and wonderful. We stay in lovely hotels. We eat good food in non-touristy restaurants. We have time to wander around these beautiful cities. And, of course, we sing. In Venice, we sang at San Marco, at the Sala Della Music and at San Giacomo dall’Orio. Our rehearsal room at the hotel looked straight onto the Grand Canal, an incredible sight to start us off every morning. Robert Dean made every rehearsal a joy, and Alex and Temi went out of their way to ensure that everything worked well and that everyone had as good a time as it was possible to have. Congratulations — Singing Holidays gets better and better.

'Bravissimo! The highlight of our year!'

Bravissimo! On a scale of 1 to 10 Singing Holidays always score 11! Superb location and performance venues, wonderful dining experiences, brilliant tuition and conducting from Robert Dean, our musical director, great camaraderie.

'All round excellent!'

Everything was done well. The organisation was superb. The hotel was lovely and in a great location. The music was beautiful. The singing venues were terrific. The food was varied and delicious. There was ample free time to enjoy the sights in Venice. Nothing was too much trouble for Alex and Temi. Everything was so enjoyable and we had so much fun. I shall definitely go on another singing holiday next year

'Wonderful experience!!!'

Faultless attention to detail and tireless efforts to provide a fantastic experience including singing in the most wonderful places with excellent tuition/support – thank you!!!