• King's College London logo
  • Royal Opera House
  • Victoria and Albert Museum

Inside Opera: Why Does It Matter?

Discover the hidden world of opera, find out how it works and debate whether it’s still relevant today.

18,615 enrolled on this course

View of a theatre
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

See opera in a new way

How does opera work? How has it changed over 400 years? And most importantly, is opera relevant today?

Get the answers to these questions and more with this course taking you behind opera’s velvet curtain.

If you’ve never been to an opera, or assumed it’s not for you, you’ll learn the basics in a new and exciting way.

If you already enjoy opera and want to learn more, this course will enrich your future experiences, helping you to develop a toolkit of operatic concepts to draw on long after you have finished the course.

Now is your chance to explore this diverse and spectacular art form.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds House lights out, to screen in, and tiny smoke. Go, thank you. Projection queue nine, go. [Wagner’s ‘Flight of the Valkyries’] Strobes, go.

Skip to 0 minutes and 20 seconds Final smoke burst, go.

Skip to 0 minutes and 31 seconds Explore these questions and more with this free online course taking you behind opera’s velvet curtain. Whether you’re just getting into opera, or wonder whether it’s for you at all, this is your opportunity to gain a backstage pass

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds into one of the world’s leading opera houses: the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. You’ll hear from experts in the field from King’s College London and delve into the archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and you’ll have an opportunity to throw your own voice into the discussion about opera’s relevance today. Join me, Dr Flora Willson, over the course of four weeks as we talk to a host of the people who bring opera to the stage, including musicians, technicians, directors and stage managers. The emotions are so extreme. The score controls everything. Opera is this art form that somehow has a need to kill off its women. Opera is live. It’s an extremely dangerous medium. It’s a life-changing art form.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds So join the conversation, and decide for yourself, why does opera matter?

What topics will you cover?

  • What is opera?
  • What happens onstage?
  • What goes on backstage?
  • How is opera embedded in the world beyond the opera house?

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe opera and its main musical and dramatic features
  • Discuss how opera has changed with the world around the opera house
  • Explore the major roles involved in staging an opera, both in the past and today
  • Reflect on opera’s changing role in culture and society during its four-century history
  • Explore how new technologies have altered the way audiences experience opera
  • Discuss what opera has to offer in the 21st century

Who is the course for?

The course is for anyone interested in opera and how it works musically and theatrically, whether or not you’ve experienced opera before.

What do people say about this course?

"I started the course knowing very little about opera, having seen a live feed of La Boheme at a local cinema. I have learned so much from the presenters, and enjoyed reading the comments in the discussions. Thanks to you all I’m looking forward to seeing my next opera."

"This was my first course on FutureLearn. I picked it because I knew nothing of opera and thought that would be the best way to try out this format. I have to say, this course set the bar for future ones incredibly high."

Who will you learn with?

Flora is a Lecturer in Music at King’s College London, where she specialises in 19th-century opera. She is a regular guest on BBC R3 and also writes for The Guardian and Opera magazine.

Who developed the course?

King's College London

King’s College London, established in 1829 and a founding college of the University of London, is one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities, based in the very heart of London.

Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House, home to two of the world’s great artistic companies - The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, aims to enrich people’s lives through opera and ballet.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLinsideopera to talk about this course on social media.