MUS4525 – Opera through the stage door

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Developed in close collaboration with the Norwegian National Opera, this course seeks to introduce students to the practices and possibilities of stage interpretation in opera. Students will be invited into the opera house in order to gain a critical understanding of how meaning is created in the rehearsal room. Having actively observed the work of interpretation in the course of rehearsals in the opera house, students will in turn be asked to formulate their own conceptual approaches to a given work. No prior experience in opera direction is expected, but a keen interest in the nature of artistic interpretation and a willingness to think expansively, creatively, and rigorously about how meaning-making transpires in artistic practice is required.


We will discuss a broad range of materials, encompassing musicological works that offer insight into the specific opera being staged, to more theoretical work (encompassing theatre practice, social theory, textual theory, and/or media theory) on theatrical interpretation and performance practice.


By investigating some of the historical, technological, and aesthetic discourses surrounding opera and opera production, this course aims to clarify some of the ways in which opera functions as a living art form, shaped by and shaping contemporary sensibilities, informed by and in turn informing the way we understand and experience the world.

Learning outcome

By the end of the course, the student will:

  • have gained familiarity with the form and experience of opera as an historical, theoretical, and process-based art form
  • have gained familiarity with the elements of opera production and how they are being deployed at Operaen
  • have developed increased awareness of historical, commercial, and social factors in the opera industry
  • have gained skills in aural and visual perception, critical assessment, and reasoning, and applied these skills to written work
  • be able to prepare an analysis of an opera production as a basis for discussion of operatic elements such as dramaturgy and musical meaning-making


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Admission to the Master’s programme in Musicology at the University of Oslo.


The teaching will consist of four triple introductory lectures at Blindern (to be announced at the semester pages) and one week of sessions every day at the Opera House (also to be announced at the semester pages). The one week with sessions every day at the Opera House, normally towards the end of October, will take place from 10.30 to 16.30. Here the students will have the opportunity of following rehearsals, there will be lectures given by University staff, and the production team of the opera in question will speak about their different perspectives on their work. In addition there will be screenings of different productions of the same opera as is being currently worked with.

After the week at the Opera House is finished, students will get access to two individual coaching sessions of up to 30 minutes each, as part of their preparation for the term paper.  

PLEASE NOTE: Attendance is obligatory for all sessions arranged for this course.


The exam consists of a term paper which should be limited to a maximum of 15 pages of approximately 2,300 characters (not including spaces), with title and topic as agreed between student and instructor, to be handed in by a specified date at the end of the semester.

Bibliography, appendices, and/or diagrams are not included in the page count. The assignment must be written in English.
The assessment criteria for MUS4525 can be found here.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You submit your assignment in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






This course is normally offered in the spring semester, but will unfortunately not be offered in the spring semester 2021.


Normally every spring. No exam will be offered in the spring semester 2021.

Teaching language