Centre for Continuing Education

Exploring Music Course: The Story of Opera Through History  

Music. Learn, enjoy, appreciate.

Appreciate and learn about music the smart way with Music courses at the University of Sydney.

An exploration of the history of opera is the telling of its own story. Its development from late Renaissance attempts to revive Ancient Greek theatre to the lavish and dramatic productions of today leads to a greater appreciation of how the genre moves and enthralls us


This music appreciation course explores the history of opera, and the great composers who contributed to its journey. We will explore the great moments in opera history, listening to the wonderful music of such composers as Mozart, Wagner, Verdi and Puccini. No musical knowledge is necessary.


Upon completion of this course, it is expected that participants will be able to:

  1. List some great composers of opera
  2. List some operas and name the musical period they come from
  3. Describe some of the features of the development of classical music


Baroque Opera

  • The birth of opera
  • The camerata and ideas from Ancient Greek theatre
  • Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo
  • Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
  • Late Baroque opera
  • The castrati
  • Handel’s Julius Caesar

Classical and Early Romantic Opera

  • Opera in the Classical period
  • The reforms of Gluck
  • Mozart’s operas
  • The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute
  • Bel canto opera
  • Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti
  • Bellini’s I Puritani
  • Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Later Romantic Opera

  • Opera in the Romantic period
  • Opera in Italy and France
  • Verdi’s operas
  • Rigoletto, La Traviata, Aida
  • Opera in Germany and Russia
  • Wagner’s innovations
  • The Flying Dutchman
  • The Ring Cycle

Opera in the Twentieth Century

  • Opera in the Impressionist period
  • Opera and realism: Verismo
  • The Operas of Puccini
  • Madama Butterfly, La Boheme, Tosca, Turandot
  • Twentieth century experiments and opera
  • Britten: Peter Grimes
  • Gershwin: Porgy and Bess
  • Adams: Nixon in China

Intended Audience

This course is designed for fans of classical music, beginners and experienced listeners alike. No prior musical knowledge is required.  

Delivery Style




Recommended Reading



Handout of printed notes  


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion