Sri Lanka: wonder of Asia
After twenty years off-limits for many travellers due to the civil war, Sri Lanka is well and truly back on the ‘must-do’ list of many travellers. And why not? This small country (435 km from north to south, and 225 km from east to west) offers a dazzling array of reasons to visit – including year-round balmy temperatures, a long and rich cultural heritage, delicious (and spicy!) cuisine, wonderful beaches and excellent hotels.
For the sophisticated traveller, Sri Lanka possesses not less than 8 UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, a vibrant art scene, a new performing arts centre in Colombo, a year-round calendar of festivals and a huge variety of scenery and landscapes in close proximity. A day of travel will take you from palm-fringed beaches to the Hill Country (1,500 – 2,200m), where the cooler temperatures are ideal for tea-growing, one of Sri Lanka’s main exports.
Thanks to its British colonial heritage, Sri Lanka has a number of legendary Edwardian-era hotels such as the Galle Face and Mt Lavinia hotels in Colombo and the St Andrew’s and Grand hotels in Nuwara Eliya. In recent years there has been a flurry of new boutique hotels opening – including the Galle Fort Hotel, Heritance Hotels and small luxury hotels in houses designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s great architect.
Because of its proximity to the equator, Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, with distinct dry and wet seasons, complicated by monsoon seasons which occur at different times on different sides of the island. This means that there is no single best time to visit – at any time of the year, one side of the island will be dry and sunny whilst the other side may be wet and humid.
Following the cessation of hostilities, the economy is booming once again. Previously ridiculously cheap, prices are starting to rise – but still offer excellent value on a world scale. Visitors are immediately struck by the friendliness of the local people – Sri Lanka is often referred to as the ‘Land of Smiles’.
In 2013 Renaissance Tours is offering two tours to Sri Lanka. Our ‘Sri Lanka by Viceroy Special’ (March) is fully booked and departing soon. There are limited places remaining on our ‘A Taste of Sri Lanka’ tour in September. Watch out for more tours in the future.
Back in 1988 I attended my first event at Hobart’s historic Theatre Royal. It was a performance of Don Giovanni, given by the Australian Opera as part of our Bicentennial Celebrations. I was struck by the charm, intimacy and superb acoustic of this gem of Georgian architecture and ever since I have dreamed of directing a small specialist music festival with this unique building at its heart.
The new cultural event – Hobart Baroque – is just that festival. A brand new celebration of the music of the 17th and 18th centuries.
To date, there has been no festival in Australia dedicated specifically to eaerly music. That honour falls to Tasmania’s capital, Hobart. April 12 sees the inauguration of Hobart Baroque, nine days of exceptional performances by international and local musicians.
The centrepiece of the inaugural Hobart Baroque will be the first performances in Australia of L’isola disabitata, a chamber opera by Josef Haydn, premiered at Esterhaza in 1776.
In their first-ever presentation in Australia, London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, will give four performances of their acclaimed production of this exquisite jewel of an opera. The cast comprises some of the company’s finest young singers, all of who have performed with the Royal Opera in recent seasons.
In addition to an impressive roster of international artists, many Australian musicians will also be seen on stage at the Theatre Royal, including leading early music specialist Erin Helyard who is also curator for the program, countertenor David Hansen and soprano Jane Edwards.
Two intriguing one-off events are also scheduled for MONA – Tasmania’s astonishing Museum of Old and New Art – MONACELLO and MONAORGANISM.
The six suites for unaccompanied cello by Johan Sebastian Bach are cornerstones of the repertoire for that glorious instrument. As part of Hobart Baroque MONA will present a rare performance of all of the suites performed by a group of outstanding outstanding cellists. The suites will be played in the order of their composition with a break for morning tea, another for a picnic lunch and another for afternoon tea and a tasting of Moorilla wines.
To celebrate the inauguration of Hobart Baroque, MONA will host a Baroque Banquet. Resident chef Philippe Leban will create an opulent menu inspired by the baroque era and organist Donald Nicolson of the Melbourne-based early music group Latitude 37 will perform music both new and old between courses.
I look forward to seeing you all in Hobart in April for an event that is as unique as this island itself.