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Instructor: Diana Gilchrist

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An introduction to opera through the study of selected works from the Baroque era to the 20th century. Equal attention will be paid to literary, musical and visual aspects.

Available in Winter 2020, Winter 2021

We will examine the intriguing world of opera from multiple perspectives, including cultural, historical and analytical. We will explore production aspects such as staging, costumes and lighting; and musical aspects with a special emphasis on singers.

Teaching methods include lectures, live demonstrations, attending a live opera, viewing and analyzing excerpts from operas on DVD, a creative workshop and an opportunity to discuss ‘behind the scenes’ approaches to opera production with a professional. Students will be provided with a vocabulary of operatic terms and various analytic approaches will be demonstrated and practiced.

General overviews of Early opera and 20th century opera, both set within their respective cultural contexts, will frame detailed thematic examinations of specific operas by Mozart, Bizet, Verdi, Puccini and Strauss.


Learning outcomes

Over the course of the term students should:

  • develop an appreciation of this rich performance art form by learning how to identify and distinguish various genres and staging approaches
  • be able to summarize opera’s function in changing cultural contexts since the late 16th century and appraise its current cultural role
  • be able to apply a vocabulary of operatic terms and various analytic approaches in the study of individual scenes or entire works
  • undertake primary research for a presentation that will require engaging with material in an evaluative, comparative and analytic manner


Experiential learning opportunities

Experiential Learning Opportunities are an integral and unique component of the BISC educational experience. We will prepare for each off-site ELO through discussion and preparatory assignments. Missing the ELO preparation in the class immediately prior to the trip will impair your ability to perform on the assessment. If you have a documented absence for either of those classes you will need to make an appointment with me so I can provide you with the preparatory information. You will also be expected to do background research on specific elements of the opera house tour and the live performance in advance of each ELO. Because of the integration of ELOs into the course, participation is required at both of these events. Assessments for the ELOs are worth a total 30% of the final mark and can only be done if students attend the Field Study.

ELO­_1: Royal Opera House backstage tour at Covent Garden, London (details tba) ELO preparatory research & test (20%)

ELO_2: Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House on Friday 29 January (details tba) ELO Report (20%) due Friday 5 February @ 18.00

In addition to the off-site ELOs there will be two further in-class ELO’s.

  1. Lecture-Recital: Dr. Elaine Keillor will join me to give a lecture-recital in the Castle ballroom in February. This will be an opportunity to experience how musical themes from operas became embedded in 19th century musical culture (public and domestic) through transcriptions for piano, and to viscerally experience opera arias in a live setting with a professional opera singer. Students will engage in a post-performance comparative exploration of the distinctions between live and recorded musical experiences.
  2. Creative Workshop: we will explore creative approaches to opera production in a workshop setting and compare this with our experience of opera as non-participatory viewers. Students will be encouraged to participate both creatively and performatively and will be assessed on the level of positive team spirit and constructive engagement. This skills-based activity may provide a novel, and in some ways, challenging experience but it will take place in a safe and supportive environment.



Participation - 10%

Experiential Learning Opportunity 1 Preparatory research and Test (short essays) - 20%

Experiential Learning Opportunity 2 Report (1500 – 2000 words) - 20%

Student Presentation (10 minutes) - 20%

Final Exam (2 hours) - 30%

Bader International Study Centre
Herstmonceux Castle
Hailsham, East Sussex
United Kingdom, BN27 1RN
Phone: +44 1323 834444
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Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment
Gordon Hall, 74 Union Street
Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
Canada, K7L 3N6
Phone: (613) 533-2218
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