A Beginner’s Guide to the Opera

2 hours a week for 8 weeks

Opera mask

“Opera is about life and everything that entails – love, hate and passion.” – Lesley Garrett
This course provides a guide to the appreciation and enjoyment of opera for the beginner, as well as a deeper exploration of the history and elements of opera for the more experienced listener. We explore the history, forms and structures of opera, considering the work of composers such as Mozart, Wagner, Verdi and Puccini, and listening to performances by some of the great singers. No musical knowledge is necessary.

Course Outline

Session 1

  • What is opera?
  • The Birth of Opera
  • Monteverdi: L'Orfeo

Session 2

  • Librettos and Librettists
  • Baroque Opera
  • Handel: Julius Caesar

Session 3

  • The Operatic Voice
  • Classical Opera
  • Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

Session 4

  • Arias, Ensembles and Choruses
  • Romantic Opera I
  • Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Session 5

  • Great Singers: Women
  • Romantic Opera II: Italy and France
  • Verdi: Rigoletto

Session 6

  • Great Singers: Men
  • Romantic Opera II: Germany and Russia
  • Wagner: The Ring Cycle
  • Session 7

    • Going to the Opera
    • Late Romantic Opera
    • Puccini: La Boheme

    Session 8

    • Outside the Boundaries
    • Twentieth Century Opera
    • Adams: Nixon in China

    The material in this course is also covered in two separate one-day courses, Understanding Opera and The Opera Through History.

    Book cover A Beginner's Guide to Opera

    Buy the course notes for this class

    In hard copy book form, through Lulu Press
    $22 + postage


    “Masterful, excellent pace, well-thought out content very well prepared. I could apply it immediately. It has already profoundly changed my life – a new found passion!”

    “Susan is wonderful, takes her lecturing very seriously, is unbiased, and makes even someone like me who has never been particularly interested in opera, wanting to understand and appreciate it more”

    “A brilliant course by a talented, expert and fantastic lecturer who is a great asset to CCE!”

    “Outstanding. Varied, interesting, very knowledgeable. Showed v. thorough organisation – a true teacher.”

    “A really wonderful course. I’ve waited 10 years to do a course like this – loved it!”

    “This has been a well prepared and energetically presented course that has been stimulating, enjoyable and entertaining”

    “Fantastic. Very interesting/enjoyable – much more fun than I imagined it could be to learn about opera! Great range of material. Notes are great – I’ve been referring to them in between course days. Clear presentation – well organised. Really good mix of lecturing/CDs/DVDs and other creative ways to illustrate the point”

    About Susan Deas

    Susan Deas is a professional musician, lecturer and teacher. She has been teaching music appreciation courses for more than twenty years, through Sydney University's Centre for Continuing Education, WEA Sydney and at other venues. Her training includes a Bachelor of Music with a major in Performance (Piano) and Musicology, a Master of Music Studies (Studio Pedagogy), a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), and an A.Mus.A in Musicianship. Susan teaches piano and music theory to adults and children, and plays piano and organ at various venues around Sydney. Susan is an accredited piano teacher and musicianship teacher, and is on the Council of the Music Teachers’ Association of NSW.

    More about Susan's qualifications

    Read what people have said about Susan's other courses

    Susan's other music courses