Skip to main content

Modern opera from Verdi to today

This course is currently unavailable for booking

There are currently no upcoming dates available for this course. Be the first to know when new dates are announced by joining the mailing list.

This module will offer a guided study of modern opera analysed through essential operatic repertoire from the last two centuries.

Through guided study and weekly screenings with discussion, this course will offer greater appreciation of 10 key works from the operatic repertoire, and a broader understanding of how opera evolved through artistic innovation and wider socio-political contexts.

From Otello (Verdi), Die Meistersinger (Wagner) and Carmen (Bizet) via Madame Butterfly (Puccini), Salome (Strauss) and Lady Macbeth (Shostakovich) through to more contemporary works like Greek (Turnage) and The Death of Klinghoffer (Adams).

Learning and teaching

This module is taught in 10, two-hour sessions, delivered on a weekly basis.

Classes will be taught through a variety of lectures, workshops, discussion exercises and group work. Students will be issued with handouts and a reading list, allowing them to read up on relevant topics, as well as allowing them to develop their own interests and identify the key questions which they need to answer in their assessments.

Indicative content

  • How modern opera reconsiders basic assumptions about dramatic structure and the role of music within it.
  • Opera is a hugely powerful and the most emotionally direct art form that usually deals with “real” characters and big human themes (life, love, death, loss, passion, joy, anger). We will explore how opera can make us see, feel and hear the world differently, and what opera is today.
  • Why is opera important? Good opera makes people feel something, especially if it inclines people to greater sympathy or more profound self-knowledge. We will explore how contemporary opera raises important issues about race, gender, nationalism and religion in our society, and how creators of opera and modern directors can manipulate our relationship to various social stereotypes.

Coursework and assessment

Assignments and assessments may include a course learning journal, questionnaire, presentation, essay, or a combination of these assessment methods.

Reading suggestions

  • Robert Cannon, Opera (2012)
  • Mervyn Cooke, The Cambridge companion to twentieth-century opera (2005)
  • Simon Goldhill, Victorian culture and classical antiquity: art, opera, fiction, and the proclamation of modernity (2011)
  • Karen Henson (ed), Technology and the diva: sopranos, opera, and media from Romanticism to the digital age (2016)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.


21-23 Senghennydd Road
CF24 4AG