Editor’s Picks

12+ Ways to Learn about Opera Online

By Henry Kronk
March 25, 2019

Performed in venues optimized for audio projection and proudly (although not always) performed without microphones or speakers, opera is a decidedly analogue art form. Learning about opera via online courses and eLearning initiatives, which are frequently applied to learning emerging technology and skills, like software development or data science, might not seem like the most intuitive modality. A new effort, however, is using online learning to educate people about the art form. On March 13th, the Metropolitan Opera Guild announced a series of online courses for opera enthusiasts.

The Met Guild Announces Online Courses

These online courses are instructor led and feature lecture videos, selected readings, and score excerpts. The first course, “Libretti and Librettists,” explores the relationship between the music and the individuals who created the stories and lyrics for the stage. The course is taught by Naomi Barrettara, a staff lecturer at the Met Opera Guild and one of the producers of the popular Metropolitan Opera Guild podcast. Barrettara is currently pursuing her PhD in musicology at the The Graduate Center, City University of New York. 

“The success of The Metropolitan Opera Guild podcast shows a high demand for our programming outside of New York,” said Thomas M. Martin, Managing Director, Metropolitan Opera Guild. “With our Online Learning courses, we are pleased to be able to expand our reach to those who wish to take their opera education to the next level, but may not have access to our material in-person.”

Coming in May is “Wagner’s Ring: Music Motifs, and Magic.” Courses cost $100 and must be completed within 60 days of enrolling. 

According to a Met Guild FAQ page, “No music reading skills are necessary! Our lesson readings often include score examples and illustrations within the flow of reading, however, readings have been carefully curated such that you do not need to read music in order to understand the main point of the text. Our courses are designed to be accessible for all levels of music reading knowledge.”

Opera MOOCs

The Met Guild is not, of course, the only provider of online courses on Opera. Class-Central, the site that actively compiles a database of massive open online courses (MOOCs) lists over 11 different courses on opera. 

The courses range from short, self-paced, introductory courses to specialized topics for the savvy opera lover and are offered by some of the most esteemed institutions around the world, such as Dartmouth, the Sydney Opera House, King’s College London, Harvard, and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing arts. 

“Introduction to Italian Opera,” for example, is about as basic and accessible as you can get. With self-paced instruction over a recommended 3-4 weeks, Dartmouth Professor Steve Swayne and instructional designer Adam Nemeroff have prepared a course for listeners who might have never encountered the art form. 

On the other end of the spectrum, one can find offerings like “18th-Century Opera: Handel and Mozart” from Harvard or “Cantonese Opera: from Backstage to the Stage” from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. There are even a series of courses provided by the Sydney Opera House intended to teach teachers how to teach opera. Learn more at

Featured Image: Vlah Dumitru, Unsplash.