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 Thank you for looking at this page – I hope I can justify your interest as I want to share the joy I have had from opera.   I know a lot about the subject but my experience of sharing that knowledge is very limited – to my own group and to the little I hear from other group leaders.  However, my home group has been running for over twenty years and is quite successful, so I must assume that the formula, whilst obviously not to everyone's taste, does work quite well.

I prepare a presentation of an opera by compiling a CD of about an hour's excerpts for a 90 minute session.  I have found this an ideal time.  We start at 10.00 with coffee and chat, and then at 10.30 I start on the background and origins of the opera which are often of great interest.  Much can be found on Wikipedia and the invaluable Viking Opera.  If you don't know Viking Opera I thoroughly recommend it (the full 1328 page version, not the toy one) and you can get it second hand very cheaply (about £8 including postage) on Amazon.  I also prepare a single sheet handout so that the members can get some idea of what's going on while they are having coffee.   So, we start with the background, go on to the opera itself with the action and the musical excerpts, and I encourage input from the group members as we go along.
 
I like to follow the presentation a week later with an evening showing of the DVD, though this is not always possible and then we have some opera related film or whatever.
 
You can also download from this page a pdf pdf of my list of presentations (75 KB) that I send out to interested U3As - the price of the CDs is purely the cost of the blanks plus postage and I email the notes and handout to go with the disc. 
 
Do try and be a bit adventurous – after all the top ten can be repeated only a few times before they become rather too familiar and just because an opera isn't well known or isn't 'box-office' it doesn't mean it isn't good.  In my list of presentations I am pretty sure there will be some that are unfamiliar, but it doesn't mean they are not worth listening to and I have had some wonderful surprises.
 
Lastly, you may be interested in a MOOC – FutureLearn:  Inside Opera.  You won't learn a great deal on the free four week course, but it's interesting.
 
Naturally I look forward to hearing about your group and how you get on.