Opera - The First 200 Years

Ref: C3742980

The origins of opera can be dated to around the year 1600 when some composers, notably Monteverdi, developed dramatic stage works with music, initially as court entertainments for private audiences. A few years later, the new art form was offered as public entertainment to paying audiences and this resulted in big changes in the style and subject matter presented. This led subsequently to the separation of serious and comic operas in the early decades of the 18th century, when Enlightenment ideas were very influential. During the later decades the form of opera became very formal and stereotyped until the era of Gluck and Mozart who introduced many fresh ideas. This course will chart the evolution of opera through these first two centuries.

Course aim

The aim of this course is to provide insights into the evolution of opera from its origins around the year 1600 through the following 200 years, taking us to the time of Mozart.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • This course is for anyone with an interest in and desire to learn more about opera.

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

  • Identify the origins of opera.
  • Identify the transition from opera as private entertainment to popular public entertainment.
  • Identify the essential features of opera seria and the differences from opera buffa.
  • Relate to the importance of star singers, male and female, in establishing the popularity of Italian opera.
  • Identify how opera developed differently in different countries in Europe.

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
  • Students who watch or listen to operas outside the class will be encouraged to contribute their experiences to the discussions.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor

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
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Prior experience of operas from this period will help to stimulate class discussions.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Information on relevant books, CD recordings and videos will be given out during the course, as well as information about forthcoming opera performances.

Download full course information sheet

Opera - The First 200 Years


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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