Monday 1 July 2013

Opera on the Irrawaddy

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A fully-hosted musical charter on Myanmar's Irrawaddy River - February, 2014.

As you travel along the river from Mandalay to Rangoon, you may recall the famous Kipling poem, " Mandalay" which tells of a British soldier's longing to be once again on an old paddle steamer chunking along the 'road' (river) to Mandalay. Set in the era of British Colonisation of Burma, the poem tantalises with exotic images of "the wind in palm trees", "flying fishes playing in the river", "beautiful Burmese girls" and a "dawn which 'comes up like thunder' in the East".

A special cruise charter has been inspired by the poem, or more accurately, the famous song setting of Kipling's words as 'The Road to Mandalay'. It's a case of a song inspiring an adventure! Ever since viewing a TV documentary about the Irrawaddy flotilla and having light shed on a song he had performed often, baritone Stewart Cameron, co-founder of highly regarded Opera, Song and Musical travelcompany,OPERATIF! determined to one day take the trip himself.

Developments in Burma in recent years have made this journey possible, with a number of luxury, small ships starting to cruise this previously closed, beautiful region.

Modelled in style on the original Scottish-built steamers referred to in "Mandalay", these new ships are far more luxurious than their predecessors, with air-conditioned cabins appointed with teak and brass opening onto promenade decks, quiet engines replacing steam and paddles, elegant dining and bar areas and a wonderful array of meals prepared using the best of local ingredients. Unselfishly, Stewart is inviting a small group to share his journey which will appeal to both history and music lovers  and yes, you will definitely hear a stirring rendition of 'The Road to Mandalay.' In fact there will be several performances of classical music, song and opera during the cruise featuring Cameron, his soprano wife, Jennifer Parish and colleagues violinist Spiros Rantos and pianist Brachi Tilles. There will also be local cultural performances on board and daily excursions to temples, schools, villages, potteries and more.

In recent times, Parish & Cameron have diversified from purely producing performances to creating their own very successful brand of 'Music Lovers Tours.' This new musical Burma River Cruise has just been added to the suite of current, diverse offerings in Europe and the Pacific. Places on the boutique cruise are limited, with just 24 cabins available, all of the same high standard, with upper and middle deck cabins to choose from. 

The cruise departs Mandalay on 1st February 2014 on the ship RV Tonle. This relatively new vessel has a shallow draft making it easy to traverse shallow waters and gain access far up river. With three decks, including a covered observation deck on top, there is plenty of opportunity to drink in the stunning scenery from many vantage points. 

Parish and Cameron's tours are rapidly gaining a reputation for high standards of organisation and bringing 'lovers of classical music' together with tours that offer something unique. A similar venture, their Opera in Paradise festival held in various South Pacific destinations, in its 9th year, proves a great synergy between music and travel.

For those who adore both, a musical cruise on the Irrawaddy in Myanmar is sent from heaven.  

Bookings and enquiries to OPERATIF - Ph 1300 308 385 or online at

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