Opera Studies BA (Hons) (by online learning)

show all

About this course


3-10 Years (Online Learning)

Term Start

January 2018 and September 2018

Entry Requirements

  • Entry requirements: none

Recognising Prior Learning
You may have skills and knowledge that you have gained elsewhere that might count towards your learning with us.  If you think you have relevant prior learning, please email Dr F Jane Schopf Fiona.schopf@bruford.ac.uk for advice.

You will be studying a unique Opera Studies programme, now in its 20th year. It is the only on-line undergraduate course that focuses on opera as a performance art. You will explore all the elements of this amazing and versatile art form, guided by expert tutors.

You will study key composers and historic periods, learn about the libretto, the singer, the orchestra and conductor, the director, Shakespeare in opera, women in opera and much more. It is an ideal complement to vocal studies and equips directors and singers alike to fully appreciate the material they work with.

You will have a personal tutor for each module to guide you through the materials. You will be able to ‘meet‘ fellow students in the real-time chat rooms and your tutor will run on-line tutorials every month. You will be able to get free access to on-line resources  including Grove Online, the Naxos Music and Video Libraries and Opera America. During your studies there will be opportunities to attend  blended learning Study Events at the Rose Burford College campus and elsewhere.

There is an optional Level 4 practical module enabling you to study vocal technique as well as acting, movement, and repertoire. This module run is in conjunction with Associated Studios


Why choose this course?

  • The only course worldwide that covers all aspects of opera as a performance art allowing you to deepen your knowledge and passion.
  • Intellectually challenging and satisfying; many graduates continue to higher degrees.
  • You can study anywhere, any time. The in-built flexibility accommodates your life style and work patterns
  •  Real-time chat rooms and tutorials enable you to ‘meet’ your fellow students and tutors.
  • If you are thinking about teaching music, there is a separate degree in preparation for a PGCE in Music. Please click here for full details.

What our students say:

“I am enjoying this course immensely.  It is adding so much to my appreciation and understanding of opera and of music in general” – Andrew Mosely, Opera Studies student

"I have really enjoyed the academic challenge of studying to degree level, and the opportunity to finally indulge a life-long passion. What I find particularly nourishing about the Rose Bruford course is getting to understand the relationship between the composers and their music.  Opera in particular seems to me to be an outpouring of the soul. Exploring the lives and backgrounds of the composers within their historical and socio-political context is giving me a much better understanding of the depth and beauty of the human condition and it has enhanced my life in so many ways."  Gillian Callow, Opera Studies student

"It was the BA (Hons) Opera Studies course that set me on the road to my PhD and now the book! When I first went to university back in the 1960's. I didn't think that I would one day have a PhD! Long live the Opera Studies course and Rose Bruford College!" Julie Tretchikoff, Opera Studies graduate.

“Doing the course enhanced my enjoyment of opera immeasurably, by giving me a much better understanding of what composers/librettists/ directors/designers might be aiming to achieve, and how they set about it. I feel very lucky.” Liz Grimsey, Graduate First Class Honours, 2016.

Employability & Industry

Graduates have become dramaturgs, teachers, opera singers, directors, journalists and arts administrators. A number of students continue onto further study on postgraduate programmes at the College.

Fee and Application Information


  • Mode of Study: Online Learning (flexible from 3-10 years)

Following the granting of Taught Degree Awarded Powers, students joining us in September 2017 will be registered on a Rose Bruford College award, and will be governed by Rose Bruford College regulations.

How to Apply

UK/EU Applicants

International Applicants

Please e-mail international@bruford.ac.uk to apply.

2017/2018 Course Fees

You can study at a pace that suits you, taking advantage of the flexible, online modules. You can spread the cost of study because you will only pay for each module as you study it. If you are a UK citizen and this is the first time you are studying at degree level, you might be eligible for a student loan. You will need to study a minimum of 30 credits per year. Please watch the video below for guidance and click here for more details.

Fees for 2017-18 are £186.40 per month for five months for each 20 credit module and £93.20 per month for five months for each 10 credit module. All fees can be paid over five months by Standing Order or credit card.

Fee totals:
20 credits = £932
10 credits = £466.
The full degree is 360 credits.

As a guide (using 17/18 fees), if you are looking at completing the degree in three years, it will currently cost you £5,592 per year (£16,776 in total) compared to £9000 per year (£27,000 in total) for a full-time degree.


Once you have completed one module you would be able to apply for one of the competitive bursaries (£850.00 p.a.) from the Edith Gray Rudinger Trust. A dedicated trust fund for RBC opera students only. 

Please contact Fiona.schopf@bruford.ac.uk  for more information.

Course content

Year 1 (Level 4):

  • Opera at Work
  • Mastering the Basics of Music
  • Mastering the Basics of Analysis 1 & 2
  • Opera in Context
  • Ways of talking about opera
  • The Singer
  • Elective: The Singer in Practice (in conjunction with Associated Studios)

Please click here to view our Level 4 module specifications

Year 2 (Level 5):

  • Baroque Part 1 + 2
  • Romanticism Part 1 + 2
  • Electives:
  • Monteverdi
  • Mozart
  • Verdi
  • Wagner
  • The Libretto
  • The development of the operatic overture and its relationship to the symphony
  • The orchestra and conductor
  • Opera in France
  • The Musical

Please click here to view our Level 5 module specifications

Year 3 (Level 6):

  • Birth of the Modern Part 1 + 2
  • Electives: 

 Independent Research Project (for Honours degree only)
  • Wagner’s Ring: An introduction
  • Wagner’s Ring: The Music
  • Women in opera: The Theory
  • Women in opera: The Practice
  • Opera since WWII
  • Shakespeare in opera
  • Nationalists
  • Production, design and direction
  • Lieder
  • Berg
  • Britten
  • Puccini
  • Myth in opera

Please click here to view our Level 6 module specifications

Please click here to download a pdf of the programme specification.


You will be taught by:

Dr Nicholas Clapton

Born in Worcester, England, Nicholas Clapton studied Music at Oxford, and singing privately in London, most recently with Diane Forlano. He made his debut at the Wigmore Hall in 1984, since when he has enjoyed a wide-ranging career across six centuries of repertoire, including nearly forty world premieres, while breaking every “counter-tenor rule” imaginable. He has also written three books: Alessandro Moreschi and the Voice of the Castrato, Budapest, City of Music and Thoughts on Singing, as well as numerous articles and reviews on voice-related subjects. He is a professor of Singing at the Royal Academy of Music, London, a Visiting Professor at the Music University of Budapest, and a faculty member for the renowned Si parla, si canta summer programme in Urbania, Italy. He has given masterclasses at the Dartington International Summer School since 1995, in Hungary since 1996, and recently taught alongside Dame Emma Kirkby on a new course on early bel canto, held at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. http://www.nicholasclapton.com/


Dr Victoria Vaughan

Dr. Victoria Vaughan trained as an orchestral and choral conductor before pursuing a Ph.D. in Music Analysis at the University of Southampton. Throughout her musical studies she has always been involved in music/theatre, but when the balance of her time and energies began to tip towards the practical and away from academia, she decided to take the plunge and re-train as an Opera Stage Director at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in the USA.

In 2000 Vaughan became the Assistant Director of Opera Theatre at the Oberlin College and Conservatory, where she continued to write and publish research while building up a repertory of the operatic canon, delving into the chamber operas of Benjamin Britten, and exploring some lesser known opera-ballets from 17th century France. In 2003 she co-founded Real Time Opera, a non-profit performing arts organization in the USA that specializes in the world premiere productions of new operas and the re-creation of old operas in new ways.

Her directing credits range from the modern premiere of Pancrace Royer’s 1743 Le Pouvoir de L’Amour to the US premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s Lost Highway and the world premiere of Leave me Alone! by Harvey Pekar. Her academic publications range in topic from Schenkerian Analysis Pedagogy to Opera Stage Management, and her current research interests include the influence of digital media in the preparation of operatic roles. https://about.me/victoria.vaughan


Dr Jonathan Rees

Jonathan Rees is the Course Leader and Musical Director of Stella Mann College of Performing Arts, Bedford. His PhD thesis, completed in 2011 with the Open University, was an analytical study of Peter Maxwell Davies’s Revelation and Fall. He has presented papers on Maxwell Davies’s works at conferences organised by the Society for Music Analysis at the Universities of Durham and Bangor and at King’s College London in a Music and Philosophy study group. He recently gave a paper on Erwin Schulhoff’s opera, Flammen, at an interdisciplinary symposium on the Don Juan legend at the Institute of Musical Research, London.


Dr Trevor Siemens

Trevor Siemens abandoned his early studies in medicine, drawn instead to the possibility of writing for the operatic stage. He went on to complete undergraduate studies in composition and voice (opera studies) at McGill University in his native Canada, before pursuing postgraduate study in composition at Manchester University; receiving a full scholarship to complete  his PhD at Bristol. Trevor has composed two chamber operas, based on texts by Oscar Wilde and A. S. Byatt, and his works for various instrumental and vocal ensembles and individuals have been performed in the UK, Europe, Canada and Brazil. His music explores the drama of musical transformation; that moment of beauty and violence that exists between silence and sound. His current music theatre project looks to explore immediacy - re-examining the multiple relationships that form between the text/score, performers, audience, and the performance space; incorporating contemporary theatre techniques and electronics.

In addition to composition, Trevor’s main research interests lie in the area of contemporary and alternative music theatre. Recent publications include the chapters “Stolen Fire: A Light on the Invisible Theatre of Nono’s Prometeo” in Music on Stage and “Gods and Heroes or Monsters of the Media?” in Opera in the Media Age. Trevor is also  an Honorary Research Fellow in Composition at Liverpool Hope University. http://www.trevorsiemens.co.uk/


Susan Bissat, MA

Susan's passion for the voice has led her to inspire and enable others to sing. She combines a performing career with a range of roles as vocal director and teacher, working with groups of singers from the age of 2 to 82, which reflect her belief in the joy and therapeutic nature of singing.

She teaches in the faculty of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University; Leeds College of Music and of course at Rose Bruford.

She is an experienced vocal and performance skills leader and teacher, and leads workshops across the UK and internationally. She has recently been involved with the prestigious Erasmus-funded project “The Complete Freedom of Truth”. (TCFT) is an international 5 year project with the ambition to develop global youth citizenship through culture and the arts. thecompletefreedomoftruth.com

Her varied career and wide experience of both performing and teaching has allowed her to explore and develop this passion in depth, and she holds an MA in the study of singing as a therapeutic activity. As a result, she is regularly invited to deliver her own "Singing for Health & Enjoyment" workshops, open to all, by private and public sector organisations. http://www.susanbisatt.co.uk/


Gerald Stollwitzer, MA

Gerald was born in Klagenfurt, Austria. He studied Journalism and Theatre Studies at the University of Vienna as well as Musical Theatre Direction at the Vienna University of Performing Arts where he graduated with an MA in 2007 with the direction of Monteverdi`s L`incoronazione di Poppea. In Vienna he also directed Gian-Carlo Menotti`s  The Telephone and the operetta Le vent du soir by Jacques Offenbach (all Schlosstheater Schönbrunn).

Most recent productions as director include the scenic world premiere of Simon Laks L`hirondelle inattendue at the Bregenz Festival in Austria as well as Tchaikovsky`s Eugene Onegin at Yekaterinburg State Opera and Verdi`s La Traviata at Hongkong Opera.

As Assistant Director/Resident Director/Stage Manager Gerald Stollwitzer worked with famous opera directors such as Keith Warner, Graham Vick, Philipp Himmelmann, Stephen Langridge, Christine Mielitz, Reto Nickler, Cesare Lievi and Dieter Kaegi all across over the world. http://www.stollwitzer.at/


Tom Mansfield, MFA



Dr Sinead Dempsey-Garratt

Latest News

Congratulations to Opera Studies graduate Dr Julie Tretchikoff (PhD The University of Auckland School of Music, 2013) who has been officially commissioned to write the Centenary Book for Auckland Music Theatre Inc.

Opera Studies Student Elysia Stars in Musical



Opera Studies Graduate Rewrites Operatic History

Creating Der Rosenkavalier

In his ground-breaking book, Creating Der Rosenkavalier, Rose Bruford graduate Mike Reynolds has created the first full account of the genesis of Hofmannsthal and Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.  The book is an excellent read being insightful and lavishly illustrated. Reynolds argues the opera, one of the favourites throughout the world, owes its existence to an earlier opérette L’Ingenu libertin whch Count Harry Kessler saw and transmuted into Der Rosenkavalier which was clothed in Hofmannsthal’s inimicable verse. Click to purchase a copy


Music on Stage

An exciting volume of papers from our biennial Music on Stage conference has just been published by Cambridge Scholars Press ("Music on Stage" edited by Fiona Jane Schopf) covering historic opera, the musical and performance practice by thirteen scholars from around the world. Click to purchase a copy.

Click to purchase the latest Music on Stage Volume 2


Disordered Heroes in Opera: A Psychiatric Report

Opera Studies graduate, John Cordingly has recently published a fascinating book looking at key male opera characters through the prism of psychiatry.

Click to purchase a copy.