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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2005

T C 357 • Gripping Opera-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42640 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
CAL 21

Course Description

Opera has conquered the world in our Post-Modern Age. It is the art form that transcends the most cultural barriers with its music, spectacle and powerful pull on our emotions and appeal to our sense of right and justice. If the two greatest opera houses are La Scala in Milan and the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan, certainly the Bolshoi of Moscow, the Colon of Buenos Aires, Covent Garden in London and La Bastille of Paris are tough competitors. And now Tel Aviv has a new opera house, Beijing just completed a splendid one, and who can forget the fabulous Sidney Opera house in Australia? And in America alone: the Houston Opera, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and every summer at Santa Fe and Glimmerglass: OPERA! And do you hear Salzburg clamoring, and Finland! The glorious old Venetian house, La Fenice, burnt down, is now restored! Vienna is calling and the San Carlo in Naples! An opera company exists in Kansas City! And St. Louis. And all are performing the classics and introducing newly composed works. Houston led the way in Texas with the contemporary work of John Adams that swept America and all Europe: Nixon in China! This course will present 15 of the greatest operas of the repertor. And we shall, see if not attend, some of the most contemporary. Opera is a hybrid form and appeals to our modern sophisticated sensibility. Opera, as Wagner called it, projects a Gesamtkunstwerk, a fusion of all the arts at its best. In this course, we shall acquire the tools to understand how it is constructed, how its history developed, why its has been the central cultural institution of every great capital. We shall gain the terminology and understanding of the various forms and structures that weave the work together: the aria, the cavatina, the recitativo, the continuo, the role of the prompter, the place of the orchestra, the function of the chorus, the principals, the play of the plot, the design of the set, and even the place of the clack! All will be studied and absorbed easily.

About the Professor Seth Wolitz is a professor in Slavic & Eurasian Studies.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component. Five 4-page papers with one complete rewrite: 75% Midterm: 10% Final exam: 10% Class Participation: 5% Knowledge of musical theory is not necessary, nor even reading of a score or reduction.


The aesthetic experience of opera demands the study of performance and audience, so all contemporary methodologies of textual and theatrical analysis will be proffered and integrated from cultural studies, gender studies, orientalism, post-colonialism, post modernism, from multiple perspectives. The opera course is organized around key themes rather than by chronology. The Plan II students in class are invited to debate the themes and tease out the various levels of interpretation. To grapple with opera is to encounter four centuries of human creativity at its finest: intellectually, culturally and esthetically. It can become a lifes passion and place you among the most cultivated people in the world. I. Introduction II. Feminine Protest and Victimization: Lucia di Lamermoor, Carmen, Lulu. III. Political Repression and Human Freedom:Fidelio, Don Carlo, Tosca, IV. Creating a National Opera: Boris Gudunov, Porgy and Bess V. The Comic Opera: The Barber of Seville, Die Meistersinger von Nuremburg VI. The Fantastic and Imaginary: The Magic Flute, The Cunning Little Vixen, Turandot VII. The Mythic Impulse: Orfeo, Orfeo and Eurydice VIII. Conclusion The above operas will be seen on Monday nights in a viewing room in the Undergraduate Library Film Library (FAC 3rd Floor). This will prepare the student for intelligent discussion in class. The operas are in video or DVD. They can also be seen at the Fine Arts Library at any other time and will be available in the Joynes Reading Room.


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