Directing Opera

12 weeks open enrollment
Private classes with Daniel Kramer


This course is designed for theatre directors who want to move into opera but need that first step into how to approach the art form.   Opera is the collision of all performing arts into one magical art form: music, story, acting, movement, and image. Operas are often epic, with giant emotions, matching stage designs and costumes, plus large choruses, the orchestra, and accordingly, financial risk.  But how to break into this specialized industry? How to approach getting involved in opera and how to stage an opera? When listening to an opera score for the first time, what are you listening for?  Is the story the beginning point or the music?  What are the essential steps from the moment you hear an opera, to getting it produced, to conceiving the world of the opera, to directing a creative team and ensemble of singers to emobody the world of the opera? In this course, students will choose an opera, in discussion with Daniel Kramer, and execute a series of exercises to fully conceive and prepare an operatic production on their chosen scale.  The opera world is a full of rich opportunities for artists who love music, story, movement and images - and are ready to step into the thrilling waters of music theatre. 

Reading and viewing list available upon registration; please contact Daniel Kramer directly for course eligibility.  


Class 1

Why have you chosen this opera?  What do you want to carefully argue? What must you say to the world?  Then, how to listen to an opera: abstract sound versus the libretto. Immediately connecting your subconscious to the world of the score. Cultivating first impressions, images, music, visions, poetry, metaphors, actions, ideas and questions. 

Class 2

The emotional world of the opera. What does this world feel like to you? Who, what culture could sing this music now? Where?  What are the political, cultural and religious themes of this opera? What feelings will this opera leave with the audience?  

Class 3

European dramaturgy. The opera is bigger than you: it exists before during and after you. In what context did the composer birth the opera?  What was happening in the wider world around the composer? What are the core ideas and questions underlying the opera? 

Class 4

Libretto and score analysis. Classical structure: beats, discovery posts, chord shifts, and turning points. Psychological analysis of melodies, motifs, dynamics, language, actions, activities, intentions, motivations, patterns of behavior. Extract stated, implied and imaginary circumstances from the libretto and music. Who are these people, where are they, what are they doing? What do they need? What must surround them as a frame?

Class 5

What is the ruling idea/sensation of your vision of this opera? Deconstruction and Reconstruction. Identify the target for which you want to aim: the audience journey towards what final moment – feeling? Idea? Question? Focus your dreaming, your dramaturgy, your score analysis. The middle point of your own archaeology into the opera and your own internal world.

Class 6

Design Step 1. Arrive with your visual storyboard. Architectual and spatial metaphor, objects, spatial needs. Understanding space with the Viewpoints: topography, floor pattern, shape, gesture, duration, repetition, tempo.   Sacred Geometry, the Golden Section and Divine Proportion.

Class 7

Design Step 2. The emotional space versus illustrating location. What is actually needed to embody the opera? Containers, shellys and contemporary design.  Set design as acoustic box.   Costume theory: the Period versus the Personal versus fantasy. 

Class 8

Set and Costume draft 1.0 presentation. Video and lighting desig exploration: exploring texture, counterpoint, irony, shade, texture and visual assault or complementary imagery.

Class 9

Video/Lights presentation 1.0. Set and Costuem layer 2.0. Checking in again with the "acoustic design" of the opera.  Directing sound.  

Class 10

Blocking the opera within the physical world: directing the voice, entrances and exists, floor patterns, shape with architecture.  Actions into movement, blocking, metaphor.  Working through the movement of the piece. Arc of story, character, action and audience. Preparing the rehearsal score in full for day one.  Preparing blocking for soloists and the Chorus.  How to approach a Chorus rehearsal: expectations, options, emergency measures! 

Class 11

Creating a rehearsal schedule. Layering a process. Week 1,2,3,4, 5… what to expect. What to demand of yourself and the artists in the room, what to allow… Technical Rehearsals.  the build up to opening night - without previews!  Key differences of opera and theatre and how to be ready without being ready!

Class 12

Final Presentation of directors’ workbook to industry.

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