Divas and Delights: An Opera Tour of Italy

Led by Karen Wilkerson, Instructor in Music, Voice, and Gary Wilkerson, Pastor

March 17–30, 2017


Opera was born in Italy at the end of the 16th century and continues today as a living, breathing art experience. Opera is embedded within the culture of this country.

I had the wonderful experience of spending time studying voice in Italy. I was continually amazed at how opera seemed to be a part of everyday life. People I met on the bus or in a store were very familiar with what was playing at the local opera house. One man spent 45 minutes telling me with delight how he would save some money from every pay check to buy his tickets to go to La Scala every few months. Throughout his life he had heard most of the greatest singers in the world. This was all told though a smiling mouth that was missing many teeth. I learned something that day. The wealth of his life was found in listening and seeing the magnificence of this art form. This was an essential part of living for him.

The Italians built magnificent stages and theaters though out the country. The opera houses themselves are works of art, true monuments to music. This program allows us to walk into these amazing opera houses and hear and see the splendor that is Italian Opera in its birthplace. We are so excited to share this history, both of the operas and also of the theaters in which we will be attending performances. And for good measure we will throw in some vino, pasta, cappuccino, gelato, Sicilian pizza, some excellent cathedrals, cobblestone streets, museums, coastlines, grand canals, Vatican City, shopping, strolling, and singing our way through wonderful Italy. I know I will need to stand somewhere near Naples and sing “O sole mio”!

     ~ Karen Wilkerson

The performances for our time during “Divas and Delights: An Opera tour of Italy” have been announced and they really provide a global perspective. A couple were written by non-Italians; a couple were set in other parts of Europe; a couple are more quintessential Italian operas. Scheduled performances provide us an opportunity to study a variety of musical styles and storylines.

We’ll attend:

  • In Venice, Carmen
  • In Rome, Maria Stuarda
  • In Naples, Lucia di Lammermoor
  • In Milan, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
  • In Palermo, La Traviata

Program Leaders  

Karen Wilkerson has been on the music faculty of St. Olaf College since 2008. She began her music education in Southern California, where she graduated from California State University, Northridge. She received her graduate degree in Music from Westminster Choir College, Princeton New Jersey. Karen’s performing career spans many genres including opera, recital, and choral. She appeared with Minnesota Opera, Dale Warland Singers, and most recently with Vocal Essence where she sang for international tours to England, Korea and China. She had the honor of singing as a soloist for the Mozart Requiem with the St. Olaf Chapel Choir and Orchestra. She performed with the St. Olaf Cantorei on their fall 2015 concert highlighting the music of Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck. Karen is in her 23rd year as the choir director at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Roseville Minnesota. She traveled four times to Italy to study voice with Rita Patane, and continues her voice study with Audrey Stottler in Minneapolis.

Dr. Gary Wilkerson is a Lutheran Pastor, professor, and counselor. He has served congregations in California, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Gary was on the original staff of The Betty Ford Center where he was an addictions counselor and inpatient director. He was a visiting Professor in pastoral care, and counseling at Luther Seminary and currently directs the counseling center at Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church, Minneapolis. He was educated at University of Texas, Arlington, Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, and received his Ph.D. at Luther Seminary, St. Paul Minnesota.

What to Expect   

Hotels will be centrally-located, middle tourist class with private bathrooms and English speaking staff. We look for comfortable and safe accommodations, rather than deluxe décor or spa amenities.

Though we will transfer between cities by plane or private motor coach, we will get around within cities on foot. To participate you must be capable of walking a minimum of one mile at a time over uneven terrain and up to five miles per day, of climbing stairs that may not have handrails, of keeping pace with an active group of travelers on long days of traveling, of dealing with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing a different culture, and of traveling with a group for several hours each day. You must be able to handle your luggage throughout the program.

In March, average lows are in the mid–40s°F and highs are in the mid-60s. However, keep in mind that temperatures rarely actually fall on the average. Be prepared for a variation of 10 or more degrees in either direction. We recommend packing light layers that can be added or removed as needed. Rainfall averages 1–2 inches, so you may also want a light rain jacket or travel umbrella.

You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit cdc.gov or who.int.

Program Fee  

The program fee is $4,525 per person. Based on double occupancy, it includes discussions led by Karen Wilkerson, assistance by Gary Wilkerson, accommodations, breakfast daily and group meals as listed on the itinerary, admissions for group activities, ground transportation during the program, flights within the program, gratuities to group guides, drivers and meal servers, and some medical coverage while overseas. For single occupancy, add $787.

Airfare to Milan and from Venice is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: Airfare between your home town and Italy • Airport transfers in your home town, Milan, or Venice • Any passport fees • Any recommended immunizations or vaccinations • Baggage insurance • Trip cancellation insurance above $2,000 lifetime coverage • Beverages at group meals • Laundry • Dry cleaning • Phone charges • Room service or other items of a personal nature • Tips to housekeeping staff • Expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities • Lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on program itinerary.

Making Your Travel Plans  

You should plan to leave the U.S. on Friday, March 17 in order to arrive in Milan on Saturday, March 18. Plan to depart from Venice any time on Thursday, March 30. We recommend you not purchase non-refundable airfare until we can confirm the program has enough participants to go.