Cropped image of the painting the Singer by Degas

Discover the joy of great opera.

Information at a Glance

  • Evening Class
  • Wednesdays 18:30 to 20:30
  • 20 weeks: October to March
  • 2 hours taught time per week
  • Tutor: Dr Bruno Bower
  • Fees from £210 to £395
  • Location: Imperial College, South Kensington Campus

The aim of this course is to give you new ways of listening to opera, whether you are getting to know the form for the first time or you already familiar with it and are looking for something unusual.

Together we will explore a wide variety of operas and their social and cultural contexts, ranging from the eighteenth century to the present day, catering to all tastes. If you are new to the genre will get to hear some of the most famous works in the form. If you are more familiar with opera you will gain fresh perspectives on the works you already know, and will have the opportunity to discover some less well-known works as well.

The course will introduce the various elements of opera production in the first term, and will explore some of the more general ideas around opera in the second term. In each class we will take a single work as a case study, outlining some of the general history of the composer and of the background to the opera, looking at all of the relevant social and cultural context. We will also go into some depth on nuts-and-bolts the opera itself, discussing the plot, the characters, the music, and different approaches to staging, all illustrated with plenty of audio and visual examples.

This course is open to all and you do not need any qualifications to join the class. No prior knowledge of opera, music, theatre, or history is required.

Course Information

Course Programme

 Indicative Programme

  • Week 1 - Introduction: Puccini Madame Butterfly.
  • Week 2 - Singers: Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos.
  • Week 3 - Dancers: Rameau Hippolyte et Aricie.
  • Week 4 - Orchestra: Wagner Die Walküre.
  • Week 5 - Staging: Meyerbeer Robert le Diable.
  • Week 6 - Musical Structures: Rossini La Cenerentola.
  • Week 7 - Text: Verdi Otello.
  • Week 8 - Direction: Mozart Cosi fan tutte.
  • Week 9 - Technology: Machover Death and the Powers.


  • Week 10 - Art: Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande.
  • Week 11 - Politics: Adams Nixon in China.
  • Week 12 - Nationalism: Weber Der Freischütz.
  • Week 13 - Religion: Poulenc Dialogues des Carmélites.
  • Week 14 - Other times: Prokofiev War and Peace.
  • Week 15 - Other places: Bizet Carmen.
  • Week 16 - Other worlds: Haydn, Il Mondo della Luna.
  • Week 17 - Class and Status: Donizetti L’Elisir d’amore.
  • Week 18 - Gender: Puccini Tosca.
  • Week 19 - Anti-Opera: Shostakovich The Nose.
  • Week 20 - Opera on Screen: Britten Death in Venice.

This programme may be subject to change.

Additional Reading and Credit Information

There is no compulsory reading required for this course, and there is no set course text.

No academic credits are available for this course. An attendance certificate is issued only to those who attend at least 80% of the taught sessions.

About Your Tutor

Photograph of Bruno BowerDr Bruno Bower is a lively and enthusiastic tutor, whose love of music is infectious. He is both an academic and a performer, having studied at Oriel College, Oxford, Birmingham Conservatoire, and King's College London. He completed his PhD at the Royal College of Music in 2016, with a thesis on nineteenth-century programme notes for orchestral concerts. He has written on subjects as diverse as Gilbert and Sullivan, John Cage, and Victorian polymaths, and he is also the General Editor for critical editions of music by Peter Gellhorn and Norman O’Neill. He currently teaches music history and analysis to first- and second-year students at Cambridge University, and is the principal oboist of West London Sinfonia and the cor anglais player for Chelsea Opera Group.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
 40  20  £395    (Early Bird Rate: £360*) £230    (Early Bird Rate: £210*)
£305    (Early Bird Rate: £280*) 
* The Early Bird rate is available for enrolments made before the end of 30 September for courses starting in October   |   All fee rates quoted are for the whole course.
Term dates 1

Rate Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email evening before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • Friends of the South London Botanical Institute
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Santander Bank staff (Imperial College Walkway branch only)
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started, subject entirely to agreement by the tutor delivering the course. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read the  before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 40  20 14 Oct - 12 Dec 2019 (9 weeks)* 6 Jan - 19 Mar 2020 (11 weeks) n/a
* Followed by the Christmas break

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 August

Enrolment & payment are through the Imperial College eStore. Please use above booking link noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on this page and your applicable category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
  • The following email notifications will be sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms your payment, date of payment and order number
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment receipt and therefore does not show your course however these details are sent to us via the system
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of September. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Confirms your course choice
  • Shows the programme your course is part of as well as the term dates
  • Confirms your course' day of the week & time
3. Programme information Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains further course details incl. classroom location and teacher contact information
  • Provides further general programme details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Certificate of Attendance

Although no credits are offered for this very part-time course, an attendance certificate is presented to students who attend at least 80% (16) of the taught classroom sessions.

Any Questions?

Questions regarding the content and teaching of this course should be sent to the course tutor, Dr Bruno Bower at