Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

MUSC 154 - Introduction to Opera

Spring 2012



This course, distributed in weekly sessions, offers the student an overview of the development of opera in Europe with a particular emphasis on some of the most representative Italian operas and authors from the 17th to the 20th century. As the course considers opera as a cultural phenomenon, the historical, intellectual, political, social, religious and economic conditions that influenced the development of this art, will be also examined during the semester. The course includes some opera projections; each one preceded by an introduction of the period in which they were first performed in order to give them a historical, social and cultural background. Each projection will be followed by class discussion. In addition to the operas seen in class, the students will be asked to watch other operas: assigned out-of-class videos will be suggested during the semester.

The teacher will also organize one (mandatory) or more opera evenings according to the season of the Opera House. Moreover, as this course considers opera as an art form that combines music and drama, librettos structure, music forms, different types of arias and other aspects will be analyzed.




The aim of this course is to acquire the basic knowledge to understand the cultural phenomenon of opera. Difference in style between early operas and later operas will become easy to grasp. The student will become familiar with musical terms like da-capo aria, cavatina-cabaletta, recitativo secco, recitativo accompagnato, chorus, ensemble etc. The distinction between an opera seria, a comic opera, an opéra comique and other genres will be clear by the end of the semester and it will be easy to catch musical themes and descriptive symphonies.



The text including basic notes for the course and synopsis of the operas that will be seen in class or assigned during the semester is available at school. Other handouts will be distributed during the semester.



Students are warmly suggested to attend Delia Surratt’s class “Voice for Beginners” .

COURSE GRADE                                       GRADING SCALE

MID TERM               20%                            A         100      96

                                                                  A-        95        93

FINAL EXAM          30%                             B+       92        90

                                                                  B         89        87

FOUR QUIZZES      40%                             B-        86        84

                                                                  C+       83        81

Class discussion/                                      C         80        78

Participation              10%                        C-        77        75

                                                                   D+        74        72

                                                                   D         71        70

                                                                   F          69        0



1.      Attendance: Students are expected to attend class regularly and to participate to the opera nights organized during the semester (evidence strongly indicates a correlation between the completion of these requirements and satisfactory performance on examinations). Unexcused absences are never allowed and travel related justifications are never accepted.


2.      Class participation: Participation in oral and written class activities is required. Engaging in intelligent discourse and collaborating with other members of the class in the on-going exploration of the world of opera remain essential for achieving the objectives of the course. This assumes attentive and respectful consideration of others’ contribution as well as the thoughtful presentation of one’s own. Students should prepare reflections, insights and questions in anticipation of class discussion.


3.      Video screenings: Assigned out-of-class videos will be announced.


4.      Examinations: Students will sit for two examinations during the semester. The examinations will include multiple-choice questions, short answer questions and three longer watching questions.


5.      Quizzes: Quizzes will be given the next class after each projection of a new opera. Missed quizzes may not make up.


6.      During the semester and before watching the opera Tosca the students are asked to visit the places of Tosca: Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant’Angelo.









16        Introduction, technical terms, singers voices with samples. Forerunners of opera.

The seventeenth century: the beginnings, the Florentine camerata, the Roman opera,

the Venetian opera, Claudio Monteverdi. Introduction to L’Orfeo.


23        Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.


30        Discussion of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.

I QUIZ.           The second half of the seventeenth century: Lully. The eighteenth century opera: Scarlatti, Handel, Rameau, Bach. The opera seria and the comic opera. The operas of Mozart. Introduction to Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.



6          Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.


13        Discussion of Le Nozze di Figaro.

II QUIZ.         The nineteenth century: introduction, Cherubini, Spontini, Grand Opera, Rossini.  Introduction to Rossini’s  The Barber of Seville.


20        Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.


27        Review and discussion of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.






12        The nineteenth century: Opera Comique, Operetta, Lyric Opera, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Bizet. Introduction to Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore.


16        Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore.


19        Discussion of L’elisir d’amore. Introduction to Verdi’s La Traviata. (the students are asked to watch the complete opera, on reserve in the library, before the next class). Verismo operas, the Romantic opera and Wagner, Puccini and his operas. Introduction to Puccini’s Tosca.

III QUIZ.                   


26        Puccini’s Tosca.



2          Discussion of Verdi’s La Traviata and Puccini’s Tosca.

            IV QUIZ.




16        Review and conclusions.


23        FINAL EXAM time 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.