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Module WXM-3019:
Opera: Moteverdi to Mozart

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Performance

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr John Cunningham

Overall aims and purpose

Opera is one of the central genres of the Western art music tradition. This module explores the development of opera from its origins in the early seventeenth century (Monteverdi) to one of its acknowledged apexes in the late eighteenth century (Mozart). This will be done through exploring several case studies, ranging from Monteverdi, Purcell, Telemann, Mozart and others. In the process, the module will explore the socio-cultural contexts of opera from its conception to the enlightenment focussing on why it became the main genre for compositional activity by the eighteenth century. We will explore also ancillary aspects such as gender issues, performance practice, reception.

Course content

The module will address the following topics, from a range of perspectives that will include music analysis, performance practice, gender studies, reception:

– Opera: texts and contexts – Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo – Case studies of operas from the 17th and 18th centuries by composers such as Henry Purcell, Telemann, and Lully – Mozart’s operas

Assessment Criteria


B- to B+ The work should display a sound grasp of the subject, a good level of conceptual thought, awareness of the main issues, with evidence of intellectual acumen and very good expression.


D- to D+ Work which displays basic, restricted knowledge of the subject with limited ability at conceptual thought, and a limited awareness of issues, but has some evidence of a generally intellectual approach, with fair expression.

C- to C+

C- to C+ Work which displays fair knowledge of the subject, with some ability at conceptual thought (albeit inconsistent or otherwise flawed), and a general awareness of issues, with evidence of a generally intellectual approach, with good expression


Please also see the Explicit Marking Criteria for Musicology:

A- to A** Work which displays a thorough grasp of the subject, with evidence of further study, deeper thought, originality of approach and excellent written skills.

Learning outcomes

  1. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to critically evaluate and synthesise scholarly literature about operas composed c.1600–1800

  2. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to synthesise a range of concepts within a critical evaluation of one or more aspects of opera composed c.1600–1800, from creation to modern reception

  3. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to utilise analytical concepts in the discussion of one or more extracts from an opera written c.1600–1800

  4. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to demonstrate advanced skills in communication.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

Presentations will be held during the course of the semester on dates agreed with the module tutor. Depending on the class size it may be necessary to hold one or more separate sessions for student presentations. Topics are given in the module booklet at the start of the module.


Essay questions are provided in the module booklet, distributed at the start of the module.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Private study, including lecture preparation (reading, listening, watching) and assignments. Each week students will be expected to spend at least two hours on assigned (unassessed) preparation tasks.


One two-hour class in each of the eleven teaching weeks in the semester.


Up to one hour for each student to discuss the assessments.


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.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

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.


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Reading lists will be provided as appropriate to the topic studied.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: