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WSP 358 — The Essence of French Opera

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Saturday
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 1 day
Date(s): Nov 2
Time: 10:00 am—3:30 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 26
Unit: 0
Grade Restriction: NGR only; no credit/letter grade
Tuition: $215
Instructor(s): Speight Jenkins
Status: Open
Please Note: Class schedule: Saturday, November 2, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm; 1:30 - 3:30 pm
10:00 am—3:30 pm
Nov 2
1 day
Drop By
Oct 26
0 Unit
Grade Restriction
NGR only; no credit/letter grade
Speight Jenkins
Please Note: Class schedule: Saturday, November 2, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm; 1:30 - 3:30 pm
Italy invented opera and has always created great works in which singing has meant everything. Germany and Austria illustrated how important the orchestra could be in opera. French composers emphasized color, subtlety, and dance, together with singing and an expressive orchestra; this made French opera different and in many ways unique. The work that transcended nationality is Georges Bizet’s Carmen, today the world’s most popular opera.

Opera began in France only seventy years after it was invented in Italy, and in the 19th century the goal of every opera composer, including Verdi and Wagner, was success in Paris, which had the best and most experienced orchestras and the most money to present elaborate operas. But composers’ adaptations of what was popular in Paris did not fundamentally change the unique sound of French opera.

We will explore a variety of French operas that have been part of all major opera companies’ repertory from Gluck’s Orphée et Euridice in 1774 to Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites in 1957. Included will be Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Delibes’s Lakmé, Massenet’s Manon, Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmann, and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Finally, we will consider the French style of singing, which is influenced by the language, and in some cases has made some of the most popular singers in France popular only in their native country.

Speight Jenkins, General Director of Seattle Opera, Emeritus

Speight Jenkins led Seattle Opera from 1983 through 2014, producing ninety-two separate operas and traveling extensively in Europe and the United States. In 1981, he became the Metropolitan Opera’s host on the nationally televised Live from the Met broadcasts. He received a JD from Columbia and honorary doctorates from Seattle University, the University of Puget Sound, and the New England Conservatory.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.