Downton Abbey-On-The-Nile

The other day some of my colleagues were talking over lunch about the popular TV series Downton Abbey. I haven’t seen the show myself, but I had read somewhere that the exterior and most of the interior shots of the “Abbey” are actually filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England. What my colleagues were not aware of, however, is that Highclere is the ancestral home of the Earl of Carnarvon, and that George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, is the man who bankrolled the Egyptian excavations of Howard Carter, who famously discovered the unplundered tomb of King Tutankhamun (better known as “King Tut”) in November 1922.

For reasons that made sense at the time, I did not elect to enter King Tut’s tomb during my one and only trip to Egypt in 1999. It’s not only that it cost extra to enter, but we had limited time and our guide recommended we instead visit larger and more elaborately decorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings (your ticket to the valley allows you to enter three tombs; only Tut’s has the surcharge). But even more memorably, I had just a few days previously attended an outdoor performance of Verdi’s Aida by the Cairo Opera given at the foot of the Great Pyramids of Giza, an experience I’ll never forget.

Fortunately you won’t have to travel over 6,000 miles to hear a stunning performance of Aida. The opera, which is the subject of this year’s One Score, One Chicago initiative, will be performed in concert at Ravinia on August 3 with James Conlon conducting an all-star cast and the incomparable Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Even the Cairo opera couldn’t match that!

John Schauer
Associate Director of Communications, Publications