What you will learn
- Gain an appreciation and understanding for the typical characteristics of Italian opera, classical music, and performance art—including instruments used and types of singing.
- Understand the revolutionary relationships created between music, drama, and storytelling in opera.
- Build on your learning and explore how performances have changed over time.
- Compare the social and cultural influences of each work.
- Learn the technologies and innovations behind opera performances, choir, instruments, and stage structure.
- Follow the composition, legacy, and significance through time and the relevance today.
Take an aural journey through 17th- to 20th-century Europe—exploring world-renowned works in classical, orchestral, and operatic music to create a cultural and social context for each performance’s circumstances.
You’ll begin your tour 1607, Matua, Italy for Claudio Monteverdi’s L ‘Orfeo—long regarded as one of the first and most important examples of opera. You will also focus on Monteverdi's life and work as a Renaissance court musician.
Travel into the 18th century for German composer George Frederic Handel’s Messiah, premiering in Dublin in April 1742. Popular during the Baroque era, Handel gained popularity for his oratorios and unique operatic techniques. Next up, take a trek east to Vienna for Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, with its famous choral finale changing our views of orchestral music forever.
One last train ride brings you to the City of Lights, for the Paris premiere of Hector Berlioz’s five-movement symphony, Symphonie Fantastique, before capping off your journey in 1913 for Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring ballet premiere in Paris—one of the most challenging and rewarding ballets ever written.
By examining these works, both uniquely and collectively, Thomas Forrest Kelley, Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard will guide you through an explanation of the arts, from key features of classical works and Baroque opera to character development on stage and through music to techniques in orchestral music and choreography. Each course is designed to give you a closer look at each work of art from the cultural context and performance circumstances at the time of premiere—combining passions in art, music, society, and history.
Courses in this program
HarvardX's Classical Works XSeries Program
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