Romeo and Juliet: a musical history

Course Dates: 20/09/19 - 29/11/19
Time: 10:30 - 12:40
Location: KS - Keeley Street
Pauline Greene

The familiar Shakespeare story has inspired many musical adaptations. We will delve into works for orchestra, ballet, dance, opera, theatre, musicals and film to find varied interpretations of the ultimate lovers’ tragedy. This course has a scheduled break week: 25th October 2019.


What is the course about?

Shakespeare’s tale may have been based on real families and real characters in Verona. His play, published in 1597, has caught the imagination of many creative artists. Focusing on music, we will look at a broad variety of musical forms and styles, from orchestral works which illustrate episodes from the play, to ballets and operas which tell the whole tale in detail. More up-to-date interpretations include those on film and for modern choreography. We will also think about the story’s themes and effect, and try to evaluate which interpretations come closest to the original or, indeed, provide new insights into the story.

What will we cover?

- The story and brief history of Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
- A variety of musical interpretations including Tchaikovsky’s orchestral Overture-Fantasy ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Bellini’s opera ‘I Capuleti e i Montecchi’, Bernstein’s musical ‘West Side Story’, and the score of the 1968 Zeffirelli film by Nino Rota.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Understand the details of the Shakespeare play’s plot and characters.
- Consider and discuss the reasons for the treatment of this story in so many different musical forms
- Analyse the way in which composers utilise elements of the play in their interpretations across many different art-forms.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is open to anyone interested in music and dance, and no technical musical or choreographic knowledge or vocabulary is required. Where this is used in class it will be explained by the tutor.
You will need to follow written and verbal instructions in English and engage in class discussions.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

- You will be taught using a range of techniques including short lectures, slide shows and discussions, practical demonstrations on the piano and guided listening sessions. Courses use a variety of materials including YouTube clips. Links to these are given on handouts so that further exploration may take place between classes if you wish.

- Occasional short preparation tasks, such as listening to a piece of music or reading about a person or style, may be set from time to time.

- Listening and reading outside class is encouraged and, once enrolled, further online resources will be available via Google Classroom.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

There are no additional costs as part of the course. Students may like to purchase books, CDs or DVDs as a result of studying, but none will be used as required class material, and should in any case be readily available from libraries.
Students may like to bring paper and pen for taking notes during the sessions.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

City Lit offers a wide range of music history classes, as well as related courses in history, art history and philosophy.

Next term Pauline will be teaching MD026 Introduction to Musicals, and MD624 Introduction to Film Music, as well as a course focusing on opera, MD997 Opera studies 2: Mozart and da Ponte, and introductory courses on arts administration and management. In the summer term she will teach MD506 Music for film: a history, as well as MD999 Opera Studies 3: Operas in Production and other music history and appreciation courses.

To find out more about music history classes and to read our year-long selection of courses, please see the blog post Music history: your guide to the 2019/20 programme which lists our full programme of classes ordered by term, and by day of the week. You may then click on each title to read the full course outline.


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This course has now finished

Course Code: MD621

Finished Fri, day, 20 Sep - 29 Nov '19

Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)

Full fee: £199.00
Senior fee: £159.00
Concession: £121.00

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.