Some kids find learning about opera boring but they can actually be very entertaining. I believe music is an important part of education. Teaching them about different styles, eras, even composers is common, but opera is one genre often overlooked.
Yes, the music is a little different and sometimes in a foreign language, but the storyline can be followed just by watching the acting. I always found operas fascinating. From the ornate costumes to the music to the dances, it is all part of creating the story.
Brief History of Opera
Although many modern operas include both spoken dialogue and songs, early operas were entirely sung pieces. Now they include several different genres that incorporate spoken dialogue such as musical theatre, number operas, and more. The word opera literally means “work” in Italian. Even though it orginated in Italy in the late 16th century, the composers drew inspiration from courtly entertainment during the medieval and Renaissance eras.
The first known work, Dafne by Jacopo Peri, was produced in 1598. Soon after, works by Claudio Monteverdi, Heinrich Schütz, Jean-Baptiste Lully, and Henry Purcell in England began to rise up through the end of the 17th century. Italian opera genre continued to gain popularity as composers such as George Frideric Handel entered the scene in the 18th century. The most distinguished form of Italian opera, called opera seria, was also the most common.
However, in the late-18th century, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart started out with serious operas, but is most well-known for his comic operas such as The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute. Guiseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner gained fame in the mid-to-late 19th century, ushering in the golden age of opera which continued on into the 20th century with composers such as Giacomo Puccini and Richard Strauss.
Learning About Opera Terminology
There are a number of terms that are unique to opera and knowing them will help you understand operas even more. One of the most important terms to know is libretto, which means small book, and are the words of an opera. Most composers worked closely with a librettist, but a few wrote their own. Other commons words children should learn are recitative, number opera, aria, and arioso.
Add some music culture and studies to your homeschool. Learn about some of the most famous operas and their composers with these resources.
Learn all about Richard Wagner and his works in this Monthly Composer Unit Study from Year Round Homeschooling.
Verdi and His Operas – Lesson Plan Resources | Laura’s Music Studio
The San Francisco Opera has a variety of links for Opera Basics and even one-hour streaming options!
If you’re new to opera, The Dallas Opera has an Opera 101 section that is the perfect place to start your learning!
The Pittsburgh Opera Resources offers information for both beginners and seasoned opera-goers. You’ll find a recommended reading list, study guide, and lesson plans.
One of my favorite operas is The Phantom of the Opera. I have had the privilege of seeing it in person three different times and loved each one. Check out this opera guide for The Phantom of the Opera from Unschool Rules.
Check out these Teacher Resources for learning about the opera, Hansel & Gretel from Go Classical for Kids.
Don’t miss these FREE Famous Composers Cheat Sheets that include their birth country, birth and death dates, and famous works!
Kids can also learn about 50 different composers, including Italians Puccini and Verdi with this FREE Famous Composers Notebooking Research Journal.
Videos for Kids About Opera
Kids Meet an Opera Singer from HiHo Kids
Opera 101 from The Dallas Opera
Intro to Opera – a program for kids from Painted Sky Opera
CSU Opera: Hansel & Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck (Colorado State University)
Check out Opera for the Young to find all kinds of videos geared toward kids about opera.
Find more homeschool resources on my Pinterest boards!
Annette has been married to her husband and best friend since 2003. Together they are raising their six children to follow the Lord’s will, no matter what. Annette longs for the day when she will meet her angel babies who have entered heaven before her. She enjoys creating UNIT STUDIES and FREE PRINTABLES for homeschool families. You can follow her crazy life at In All You Do where she blogs about homeschooling, homemaking and marriage while trying to maintain her sanity. She is also the owner of Thrifty Homeschoolers where she shares her tips on homeschooling without breaking the bank.