Module WXM-2013:
Post-War British Opera

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Media

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Rhiannon Mathias

Overall aims and purpose

  1. generate a greater awareness of twentieth-century British opera

  2. introduce outstanding operas by twentieth-century British composers

  3. examine the ways in which these composers and their works have been received

  4. provide and develop methodological tools for a critical and differentiated understanding of music historiography

Course content

This module will begin with a focus on Britten and Tippett’s major contributions to the genre, and subsequent lectures will examine the ways in which British composers have explored different categories of opera. Many composers, for instance, have been drawn to chamber and/or comic opera, with Elizabeth Maconchy’s The Sofa (1956-57) and Grace Williams’s The Parlour (1960-66) as notable examples. During the 1960s, British musical life was vitalised by the expressivist theatricality of music theatre works by Alexander Goehr, Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies, and these composers continued to enrich the operatic genre in subsequent years. The series will conclude by examining a selection of later, full-scale opera including William Mathias’s The Servants (1980) and Judith Weir’s A Night at the Chinese Opera (1987).

Assessment Criteria


A-: Work which demonstrates a thorough grasp of the subject and mastery of music-analytical and critical tools, with evidence of further study, outstanding intellectual engagement and originality of approach and/or insight as appropriate to work at Level 5, expressed convincingly and compellingly.


C- - B+: Work which displays a sound grasp of the subject, adequate control of music-analytical and critical tools and conceptual engagement at Level 5, expressed intelligibly and interestingly


D-: Work which displays basic knowledge of the subject, with limited ability at conceptual thought and musical analysis at Level 5, and a limited awareness of issues, but has some evidence of a generally intellectual approach, with fair expression

Learning outcomes

  1. developed skills in oral and written presentation at Level 5

  2. gained familiarity with methodological tools for a critical and differentiated understanding of music historiography.

  3. explored different formal procedures and techniques used in operas by composers.

  4. acquired a knowledge of the contributions made to twentieth-century British opera by significant composers.

  5. developed an acquaintance of the rich tradition of twentieth-century British opera.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

Essay questions are given in the module handbook. To be submitted by noon.


See module handbook.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 78

Eleven weekly lectures (2 hours each)


One individual tutorial in preparation for student presentation (15 minutes) and one individual consultation in preparation for student essay (15 minutes)


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Musicianship skills – recognition, classification, contextualisation, reconstruction, exploration
  • Intellectual skills specific to Music – contextual knowledge, cultural awareness, critical understanding, repertoire knowledge, curiosity, analytical demonstration
  • Intellectual skills shared with other disciplines – research and exploration, reasoning and logic, understanding, critical judgement, assimilation and application
  • Skills of communication and interaction – oral and written communication, public presentation, team-working and collaboration, awareness of professional protocols, sensitivity, ICT skills, etc.
  • Skills of personal management – self-motivation, self-critical awareness, independence, entrepreneurship and employment skills, time management and reliability, organisation, etc.
  • Enhanced powers of imagination and creativity (4.17)


Courses including this module

Optional in courses: