(SOLD OUT) RUSSIA’S GOLDEN AGE – 19th century art, literature, and music in Moscow and St. Petersburg


Classical Pursuits returns to Russia, this time focusing on the Golden Age of Russian culture: 1850-1910. Russian realism blossomed with the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Chekhov’s and Stanislavsky’s drama, and with the music of Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff. Less known in the West are the equally extraordinary paintings of Repin, Levitan, Kramskoy, and Serov.

Together with classical painter Sean Forester and private local guides we will take an in depth tour of Russian culture. We will spend time in both historic capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg, travelling by comfortable first-class coach between the two cities. We will discuss Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which contrasts the two cities as a way of showing opposing values at the time. We will visit the Tretyakov Gallery, the Hermitage, and the Russian State Museum. Sean, who loves the robust yet tender paintings of the Russian 19th century, will help us see, through an artist’s eyes, what the painters were attempting and how they achieved it.

The artists of this era were united by an exploration of life’s timeless and profound questions: What does it mean to live a fulfilling life? Is there a God? How can we understand the complex relationships between men and women?  What is a just society? How do we balance modernity and tradition? The Russian realists shared a passion for justice and a love for their Russian homeland.

Against a backdrop of social and political unrest, writers, painters, and composers used their imaginative and emotional powers to develop a powerful realist style. They hoped that their art might serve as a vehicle for reform and help develop a national consciousness. It was this Golden Age in the arts that paved the way for the later revolutionary wave with its then unforeseeable consequences.

We will attend opera, ballet or symphonic performances in two world-class concert halls, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Mariinsky II Theatre in St. Petersburg. The former has undergone massive reconstruction to restore it to its original glory; the latter, designed by Canadian Jack Diamond, is the first new opera house built in Russia since the time of the Czars.

This Classical Pursuits trip will focus on a vitally important time and place in cultural history. We will examine how all the arts adapted Realism to their different media, brilliantly reflecting the common and burning issues of their day. And we will have a great adventure, with unforgettable sights, stimulating discussion, interesting food, and beautiful music and art. Do join us for this journey to mother Russia.


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Moscow and St. Petersburg

April 2 – 13, 2014 (11 nights)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Budapest Hotel, Moscow
Helvetia Hotel, St. Petersburg

Sean Forester, a classical oil painter, has led seminars for Classical Pursuits in Toronto, Italy, and France. Sean has long been passionate about Russian literature and painting, perhaps because he has Russian roots on his father’s side of the family.

US$5695 per person, based on double occupancy (approximate)

Fee includes readings, accommodation, two meals a day, discussions, ground transportation, walking tours, talks, excursions, and admissions.

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Travel Pursuits 2014