This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable
Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Creating an Original Opera
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional activities


Media Components

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above
  • Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
Specific Software Needed:
  • Microsoft Word or any other word processing program
  • HyperStudio or PowerPoint (optional)
  • Digital camera and photo-manipulation software like Photoshop (optional)


  • Simon, Henry W. 100 GREAT OPERAS AND THEIR STORIES. Doubleday & Company, Incorporated, 1989.
  • Audio recordings of at least 4-6 well-known, accessible operas including "Where The Wild Things Are," "The Magic Flute," and "La Traviata." (***You can acquire these titles through a good circulating audio/video collection in your local public library system or through retailers like Barnes & Noble.)

    Students need the following supplies:

  • Computers with Internet access and word processing software
  • Basic classroom percussion instruments including, but not limited to: rattles, shakers, bells and/or triangles, drums, barred Orff instruments (xylophones, metallophones, and/or glockenspiels)
  • Optional: Computer software program easily available in schools that allows students to create multimedia slideshow with text, graphics, and sound (i.e. Hyperstudio or Powerpoint)

Bookmarked sites:
    This site, a companion piece to the PBS documentary, has several pieces on what makes opera, plot synopses of many popular operas, short biographies of several famous opera singers, and a glossary of terms for becoming "opera friendly."

    This site has an excellent database of artist biographies, including many famous musicians, composers, and conductors such as Placido Domingo and Leonard Bernstein.

    This companion site to the PBS program has excellent links to their series, “Opera on Film” including video and audio clips of many popular artists, “Meet the Artists”, “Behind the Scenes” and much more.

  • The Metropolitan Opera
    This site for the world-famous opera house includes synopses of many important and popular operas.

  • KidsOp: The Children’s Opera Project
    This is an entertaining and well-done site for an opera company whose mission is: “Creating new operas for children, adults, and professionals to perform together - working with local communities - linking internationally through the Internet.” There is a kid-friendly, interactive version of site, which contains many audio recordings of performances of their original operas.

spacer spacer

Introductory Activity:

  • Throughout this lesson, make sure to play recordings of operas as background music whenever appropriate. Students are often not used to classical music, and usually find the genre of opera quite foreign. They need consistent exposure to opera’s unique sound to become more comfortable with the music.

  • Using the Opera Summary organizer, begin a discussion with students about the differences between opera and theater. Complete the organizer during the next activity.

  • Watch the film version of an opera, such as Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” or Verdi’s “La Traviata.” (***You can find opera videos either through your local public library system, a local university/college with a circulating collection of arts videos, or even your local bookstore. Alternatively, video clips for some operas can be viewed on GREAT PERFORMANCES site After watching the opera film(s), discuss tools of exaggeration, dramatization and fantasy. Use the Opera Summary student organizer to collect their thoughts and impressions about the films.

  • Read plot summaries of the opera(s) watched in class while listening to recordings of these specific operas. Plot summaries can be obtained either from the Web site AMATO: A LOVE AFFAIR WITH OPERA or from the book 100 GREAT OPERAS AND THEIR STORIES. Conclude by asking students to discuss the similarities and differences between their lives and the opera characters.

    Learning Activities:
    If you have access to a digital camera, take pictures of the opera creation and performance. Digital pictures can be a great tool to document your project, and could be used for a digital presentation of the project using a slideshow program like Hyperstudio or Powerpoint.

    Days 1-3

  • Have each student create a brief chronology of important events in their life using the All About Me student organizer. They should do this for homework after first day. The next day, have the class review the chronologies and select one particularly interesting life event to develop as an opera plot.

  • Begin opera development by forming different student groups to perform the following jobs: plot writers, lyricists, composers and musicians, and publishers. The four groups together will create one opera. Explain the roles and responsibilities of each group.

  • Students should work as a class to develop a general story for the opera. Note: If you are not a music teacher, try collaborating with your school or a neighboring school’s music teacher and pool instruments, resources, and time. Continue to brainstorm about the opera. Develop a working title for the production.

    Days 4-9

    Day 4
  • Plot writers and lyricists should begin to draft the plot and lyrics. Emphasize simplicity: for example, there should be no more than 3-5 main characters. Decide, either by class vote or discussion, who will play the characters. In the meantime, musicians/composers should experiment with their instruments. Publishers can create concert posters to promote the performance.

    Day 5
  • Work with musicians to emphasize the idea that they are creating setting and tone through the instrumentation they choose. Their choice of musical setting and mood should be written into the script. Musicians group should also create a list of instruments they will use, and how they will acquire the instruments (e.g. another classroom, the music teacher, etc.).

  • Publishers should begin to create the title page, including the names of the characters, names of students who are participating, etc.

    Day 6
  • Plot writers and lyricists should begin a final version of the script.

  • The publishing group should begin typing up final draft.

  • Musicians should have at least one separate rehearsal. Actors/singers should also have at least one separate rehearsal.

    Day 7
  • Rehearse the musicians and actors/singers together.

  • Publishers should continue typing up final draft.

    Day 8
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Do a final dress rehearsal before performance.

    Day 9
  • Do another final dress rehearsal.

  • Publishing group should finish and print final version of script.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment

  • It's showtime! Have a performance for just one class, possibly at the same grade level, to minimize jitters and nervousness. Then, schedule additional performances for other grades or parents. Record the performance using digital cameras and/or audio visual equipment.

  • Give Process and Performance Reflection organizer to students to have them evaluate the project.


    Cross-Curricular Extension:

    • Collaborate with an art teacher at your school or a neighboring school to create sets and costumes for opera production. Perform the opera as a full-fledged production in the school auditorium.

    • Collaborate with a technology/computer teacher to create a multimedia presentation of the opera using Hyperstudio or Powerpoint (or any other accessible presentation software). Include digital pictures taken of process and performance, as well as audio recordings.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students