The Opera Through History

1 day, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

The History of Opera

The history of opera is a story in itself. An understanding of this story leads to a greater appreciation of how the genre moves and enthralls us. In this music appreciation course we traverse the development of opera, from its earlist origins in the Renaissance to the beauty and drama of Puccini and beyond. We explore the great moments in opera history, listening to the wonderful music of such composers as Mozart, Wagner, Verdi and Puccini. No musical knowledge is necessary.

Course Outline

Session 1

  • The birth of opera
  • The camerata and ideas from Ancient Greek theatre
  • Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo
  • Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
  • Late Baroque opera
  • The castrati
  • Handel’s Julius Caesar

Session 2

  • Opera in the Classical period
  • The reforms of Gluck
  • Mozart’s operas
  • The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute
  • Bel canto opera
  • Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti
  • Bellini’s I Puritani
  • Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Session 3

  • Opera in the Romantic period
  • Opera in Italy and France
  • Verdi’s operas
  • Rigoletto, La Traviata, Aida
  • Opera in Germany and Russia
  • Wagner’s innovations
  • The Flying Dutchman
  • The Ring Cycle

Session 4

  • Opera in the Impressionist period
  • Opera and realism: Verismo
  • The Operas of Puccini
  • Madama Butterfly, La Boheme, Tosca, Turandot
  • Twentieth century experiments and opera
  • Britten: Peter Grimes
  • Gershwin: Porgy and Bess
  • Adams: Nixon in China

Comments from students

“First class course....excellent lecturer, excellent notes....I so enjoyed the course that I will be purchasing a package of 5 tickets for this Opera season”

“Excellent, it is great to have a greater appreciation to opera through understanding the theory behind the diffferent eras. Also to understand more about an opera singer’s voice and range and styles”

“Very good. Excellent content. Good notes can be used for future reference. Level and pace were just right for beginner”

“Really enjoyed the course and the accompanying sound and visual material”

“I appreciate the effort put in preparing these notes. They are a very good reference. Thanks Susan”

“Most enjoyable, very informative. Susan is an excellent tutor who is passionate about her subject. I really appreciated learning more about something I knew little about”

“It has been great. I loved it. Could listen all day”

“Thank you Susan – you are a legend. I feel that I have a general grasp/overview of a big area and this gives confidence, sense of control”

“Susan is an excellent presenter who uses a variety of resources to enhance the course”

“FUN. Also leads me to appreciate operas on anaother level. Now I enjoy opera even more”

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

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Susan's other music courses