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The University of Southampton

MUSI3107 19th Century Italian Opera: Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the processes of creation, production, dissemination, and reception of Italian opera in the 19th century
  • the careers and historical significance of Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Giuseppe Verdi, and their relations with their musical and social environments
  • the formal, stylistic, and textual features of a number of contrasting Italian operas from the early- and mid-19th century
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • communicate coherently your knowledge and critical perception of subjects related to 19th-century Italian opera with your peers and others
  • research and interpret primary and secondary sources
  • present your knowledge and ideas in persuasive written prose
  • impart the results of your research with a secure handling of appropriate apparatus (footnotes, bibliography, examples)
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • comment perceptively on the social, intellectual, and political forces that shaped the culture of opera in 19th-century Italy
  • demonstrate confidence in handling the multi-layered notion of operatic text
  • appreciate opera performances with a developed understanding of their status as (and relation to) ‘texts’


Through the study of operas by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi, this module will familiarise you with the dominant genres and trends of Italian opera from the 1800s to the 1860s. You will explore the world of Italian opera, including its socio-economic factors, and the roles of impresarios, composers, librettists, singers, critics, publishers, and political authorities in shaping that world. You will study issues relating to sources and editions of 19th-century Italian operas, and cultivate a sophisticated understanding of the complex interplay between ‘text’ and ‘performance’ at the verbal, musical, and visual levels.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Lectures - Class discussion - Individual tutorials Learning activities include: - A wide range of reading (certain books and articles will be required reading) - Use of online resources to find newspaper articles and other material relating to the subjects being studied - Listening to and viewing of poperas

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Carl Dahlhaus (1989). What is a musical drama?. Cambridge Opera Journal 1. , pp. 95-111.

Reinhard Strohm (1997). Dramma per musica: Italian Opera Seria of the Eighteenth Century. 

Philip Gossett (2006). Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera. 

Alison Latham and Roger Parker (2001). Verdi in Performance. 


Assessment Strategy

Differentiation between 2nd and 3rd level work The assessment of skills will be the same as for 2nd level students. For 3rd level students taking this module, expectations will be higher than those for 2nd level students, and the assessment criteria will be accordingly stricter. In particular: • Topics chosen should allow a greater degree of focus and detail, whether of analysis, examination of and commentary on facts, critical insight, independent argument, or other factors. • Conversely, assignments should demonstrate a broader knowledge and understanding of context, a more confident use of analytical and critical tools, and a more mature handling of argument, etc. • Optimal standards of presentation are required, in terms of spelling, punctuation, and grammar; sophistication of vocabulary; provision of footnotes; inclusion of full bibliographic and related details; physical appearance of work, etc. In short, 3rd level students should aspire at all times to the highest possible levels of undergraduate work. Students at level 3 will be required to produce essays that engage with complex ideas in the recent scholarly literature on opera, in addition to demonstrating a clear and developed understanding of the historical factors that shaped the work of nineteenth-century Italian composers.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2400 words) 60%
Essay  (1600 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2750 words) 100%
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