From Opera to Film (W3002)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

This module is split into two five-week units and will examine the history of musical narrative from classical opera to film music. Its focus will be the audio-visual study of musical 'texts', uncovering the technical means by which music creates metaphors of linear plot and development. The module concentrates on opera and film, although it also considers some more abstract instrumental music, such as the symphonic poem.

The work of Richard Strauss, for example, occupies a space between the language of late romantic opera and 20th century film music, made more explicit in the work of Eric Korngold, whose operas lead directly into his film scores of the 1930s and 1940s.

You will also consider post-war scores in which the role of music is more complex than the mere ghosting of visual action. The 'psychological' music motifs in Hermann's scores for Hitchcock's Psycho and Vertigo are cases in point; these works have operatic links, with the 'irrational' music of Schoenberg's Erwartung and Berg's Lulu. Essays are balanced with regular aural analysis training in opera and film music. No prior technical knowledge of music is needed to study this module, nor an ability to read music; the objects of study are audio-visual, not written scores.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Portfolio)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 24 hours of contact time and about 126 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: