First the Words!

Ref: C2224294

Opera composers need words to set, but who calls the shots - the composer or the librettist? Who decides on the subject matter to be used? How does a composer find a librettist and how well do they get on together. Should the libretto be in verse or prose? The course looks at (amongst others) Piave working with Verdi, Boito working with Verdi, Da Ponte with Mozart, Richard Strauss with Hofmanstahl, Britten with Myfanwy Piper, Illica and Giacosa with Puccini, Romani with e.g. Donizetti, Wagner with Wagner and Metastasio with too many comoposers to mention individually. Finally we shall attempt to adapt a source (probably Shakespeare's 'Two Gentlemen of Verona') for a composer.

Course aim

To understand better the role and work of the librettist in Opera.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is for improvers
  • Participants are expected tp have a knowledge of and a love for opera

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • A respect for the work of the librettist
  • Understand the difference between a play and a libretto
  • Know more about versification and meters
  • Understand how a librettist gets paid
  • To examine the influence of the librettist in the change from a ;'number' opera to one that is through composed

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • There will be a number of tasks appropriate to your course such as written work, creating art or craft, video, photography or small projects. Some of these may be marked to help you progress

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • See more opera either in the theatre or the many live transmissions now available. Consider how well hjs the librettist met the composers needs.

Download full course outline

First the Words! Course Outline


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  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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