Introduction to Music Theater

I.     Course Prefix/Number: HUM 126

       Course Name: Introduction to Music Theater

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

Humanities 125 is recommended

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course surveys the musical, dramatic and stylistic development of music theater, from the year 1600 to the present. Content includes selected major works of opera, operetta, musicals and ballet. Focus is on the cultural framework that gives rise to these art forms.

IV.   Learning Objectives

The student will become acquainted with three major areas of the musical theater,
  1. opera/operetta
  2. The Broadway Musical
  3. The Dance
  4. Important works from various countries and how they reflect their respective cultural and social milieu will be studied.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

1. Opera
Week 1 What is Opera? Historical and Philosophical Background from Ancient Greece. How did it develop? Religious ritual as roots of Western Musical Theater. Musical Drama and the Medieval Church. Components. Vocabulary. Integration of Words and Music. Should Operas be given in Translation? Detailed study of De Banfield's Lord Byron's Love Letter with text by Tennessee Williams. Do all Plays make good operas?
Week 2 The Great National Schools of Opera I: The Italian Tradition. "Monteverdi to Puccini. The Customs of the Florentine court that gave rise to the development of opera. The pre-eminence of the Voice in Italian Operatic style. Opera with Henry Butler (OCC A.V.)
Week 3 The Great National School of Opera II: The French Tradition. Lully to Debussy. Importance of Ballet in French Opera. The Court of Louis XIV as a Social Background for the Development of Opera in France.
Week 4 The Great National School of Opera III: The German Tradition. Mozart to Berg. Breaking away from Italian styles. Importance of Orchestra in German Opera. The Political, Social & Musical Customs that Establish a German National School of Opera. Beethoven's Fidelio and Social Change.
Week 5 The Great National Schools of Opera IV: The Russian and Slavic Schools. Glinka to Prokofiev. Smetana, Janacek, Moniuszko. Influence of French and Italian styles on Russian Operas. The Importance of the People as Social Commentator in Moussorgsky's Boris Godounov.
Week 6 American Opera in Nineteenth Century American. The Political and Social Climate that Mitigated Against Opera. Undeserved Neglect. Establishment an American Operatic Tradition. Early Composers. George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Douglas Moore, Gian Carlo Menotti, Phillip Glass. The Differences Between American and European Operas. Opera & Television.
2. The Dance
Week 7 Background. Religious Ritual. Folk Dance in World Society. Court Dances. The Renaissance Customs and Society in Italy & France and Northern Europe. English Masques. Commedia dell'Arte as Popular Entertainment.
Week 8 The French Ballet Tradition: The Court of Louis XIV, Society and Customs. The Romantic Tradition. Adam. Delides. Marie Taglioni and Fanny Elssler: The Sacred and the Profane in European and American society.
Week 9 The Russian Ballet Tradition: The Court of Catherine the Great. The Slavic Romantic Tradition compared to Western Tradition. Tchaikowsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Nijinsky, Pavlova. Serge Diaghilev opens Russia to the West.
Week 10 The Modern Dance I: The Breaking of European Victorian Traditions in America. Loie Fuller. Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham, Agnes De Mille. New Horizons in a New Cultural Climate.
Week 11 The Modern Dance II: George Balanchine, of Robert Joffery, Bejart, Pilobolus. Jazz Dancing. American Dance and its Influences in Europe. The Trend toward an International Dance Style. African influences.
3. The Musical
Week 12 Backgrounds. The Ballad Operas of England. The European Romantic Operetta. The German Sinspiel. America's First Musical Theater - The Break with England. Jacques Offenbach and France. Johann Strauss and the Viennese operetta--comparing the two traditions.
Week 13 The Minstrel Show. Burlesques. Extravaganza. Oleo. The Black Crook. Vaudeville: George M. Cohan. Popular Entertainment as a Reflection of a Bold New Society, Culture and Nation.
Week 14 American Operetta: The Revue. Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg. Jerome Kern, Showboat. The Musical as a Social Statement. European Influences in a Melting Part Society. La Belle Époque. and America.
Week 15 The Musicals of Gershwin. The Rodgers and Hart Era. Kurt Weill. America Finds Her Own Voice. The Appreciation of Americana. The Depression and the Need for Escapist Musicals and Revues. The Movie Musical.
Week 16   Rodgers and Hammerstein. Lerner and Loew. Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, Musical or Opera? Stephan Sondheim. The Concert Musical. The American Musical on the International Scene.

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

  1. Attend lecture sessions
  2. Out of class listening assignments
  3. Class trips to operas/ballets/musicals as assigned by instructor
  4. Textbook and reading handouts
  5. Term paper and listening critiques
  6. Exams and Quizzes

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Records, tapes, videos, readings, slides.  Libretti.  Mid term and final exams; and end of semester term paper or special project.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Quality participation in class discussions.  Depth of analysis of each work studied.  Attendance (absences in excess of two class periods will lower the final grade by one (1) letter grade, and by one letter grade thereafter.  The student's final grade is also determined through exams, quizzes, term paper(s) and listening critiques.

XI.   Other Course Information

Oakton's Instructional Media Services is open 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday; Friday 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Room 1815.  Students who would like help in matters of proper term-paper-format should consult the staff in the Learning Center in Room 2400 or call 635-1658.  Always consult your instructor first if you have questions.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.