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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

MUSS3825 Opera North: Opera in Practice

20 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Prof. Edward Venn

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

MUSS2825Opera North: Opera in Practice

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module is taught in partnership with Opera North, England’s national opera company of the north, based in Leeds. Students will have the opportunity to observe the operatic production process and to study opera in practice through a number of critical perspectives. Opera North will be introduced as a company in its artistic, regional and historical contexts. Under the guidance of tutors, students will then be expected to observe the production process at Opera North (when possible attending rehearsals and performances at Opera North and The Grand Theatre in Leeds) – from model showing to orchestra run to final performances. A broad choice of critical angles and perspectives, introduced in seminars and lectures, will be applied to the study of these operas. These typically include musicological, ethnomusicological, dramaturgical, contextual, historiographical, cultural, conceptual and semiotic approaches, as well as work with literary, dramatic, musical and cultural policy (re)sources. The University’s newly acquired Opera North archive (held in the Special Collections) will also support students’ investigations of operatic practice. Students are expected to use one of the operas from Opera North’s winter season as a research topic for their final project.


This module aims to introduce students to specific topics within the field of opera studies, engaging with the professional opera company, Opera North, based in Leeds, as a practical exemplar for investigation. Students will be involved in the development of project work that engages with the multi-modal and interdisciplinary practice of opera. Students will combine theoretical approaches to opera studies with practical observations (in person or virtual as appropriate) of Opera North; they will gain ‘insider’ knowledge of Opera North and consider the relationship between theory and practice as it concerns historical and modern operatic production and performance.

Learning outcomes
1. demonstrate understanding of the interdisciplinary field of opera studies
2. apply appropriate historical, analytical and critical methodologies to the study of opera;
3. demonstrate a sophisticated awareness of the way in which operatic production and performance interacts with contemporary artistic, social, political and economic culture;
4. demonstrate the ability to make and defend critical judgements of operatic productions and performances
5. demonstrate the ability to creatively combine practical observation with theoretical frameworks in the form of a final project.

Skills outcomes
Applied dramaturgical/musicological/historical/literary research skills in opera and performance


An indicative syllabus for the module:

• Introduction to Opera North and the field of opera studies
• Approaches to observing opera in practice
• Lecture/seminars on the operas in the ON winter series
• Opera and language
• Opera and media
• Composer/librettist collaboration

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will be directed to online resources developed to support the module as appropriate, and a reading list will be provided. Students will be expected to demonstrate their understanding of the relevant research context for their work.
Private study time will typically include:
• 18 hours of performance review preparation,
• 1.5 hours of writing up notes per lecture (12 hours in total),
• 2 hours of preparation per seminar (24 hours in total),
• 74 hours for creation of the final project,
• 32 hours of self-directed background reading, listening and viewing in relevant opera studies, and those operas assigned as focus operas,
• Around 20 hours observing practical work of rehearsals and performances at ON (or video equivalents as appropriate)
One of the twelve scheduled seminar sessions may be substituted for individual or group tutorials as appropriate. In this case, students should spend the additional private study time preparing for and working on ideas and approaches discussed in the tutorial.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Opportunities for formative feedback will come in the form of seminar sessions in which students will be expected to express their opinions on their reading and viewing, and to share their observations of rehearsals and performances at Opera North. In seminars students will share their developing work, forming and defending critical interpretations of opera performances; they will be expected to submit a project proposal in semester 2 for approval by the module tutors.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay or DissertationCritical review of a performance 1200-1400 words20.00
ReportEquivalent 3800-4200 words80.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/11/2023


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