Centre for Continuing Education

Music Appreciation Course: Opera

Music. Learn, enjoy, appreciate.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

This opera course provides a guide to the appreciation and enjoyment of opera for the beginner, as well as a deeper exploration of the history and elements of opera for the more experienced listener. We will explore the history, forms and structures of opera, considering the work of composers such as Mozart, Wagner, Verdi and Puccini, and listening to performances by some of the great singers. No prior musical knowledge is necessary.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • list some of the elements of opera
  • list some opera composers
  • list some operas and name the musical period they come from.


This course covers the following topics:

  • what is opera
  • The birth of opera: (1590-1700)
  • Librettos and Librettists
  • Baroque Opera (1700-1750)
  • the operatic voice
  • Classical Opera (1750-1810)
  • arias, ensembles and choruses
  • Romantic Opera I (1810-1840)
  • great singers: The Women
  • Romantic Opera II (1840-1890), Italy and France
  • great singers: The Men
  • Romantic Opera II (1840-1890), Germany and Russia
  • going to the opera
  • late Romantic Opera (1890-1920)
  • outside the boundaries
  • Twentieth Century opera (1920 onwards).

Intended audience

Designed for fans of classical music, beginners and experienced listeners alike. No prior musical knowledge is necessary.

Delivery style

This course will be richly illustrated with musical examples, illustrations and video clips. The tutor will use the piano to demonstrate musical concepts to the everyday listener. Questions will be encouraged and there will be room for discussion throughout the course.


Handouts will be provided in class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • A very engaging teacher who has an excellent knowledge of opera and music in general.

  • A pure joy, learning for pleasure from a professional, knowledgeable and entertaining lecturer, in a comfortable environment among other opera lovers – what more could one ask for? Thank you so, so much!

We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.