Are You Afraid of Opera?

July 27th, 2006 by Adam

Think opera is an elite pastime? Think again. Plymouth State University Professor Emeritus Manuel Marquez-Sterling has been helping would-be patrons conquer their fear of opera in his community education course, Are You Afraid of Opera? for 19 years. The 20th edition is scheduled for Wednesdays, September 20 – November 15 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. on campus.

Dr. Marquez-SterlingFor first-time attendees, Marquez-Sterling will explain the basic elements of opera such as recitatives and arias, opera seria, opera buffa and music theatre and provide numerous listening opportunities.

One popular class technique is to compare the literature, movie and opera versions of a work such as Alexander Dumas’ novel, La Dame aux Cameli (Camille). In 1853, one year after Dumas dramatized his work, Verdi used the story for La Traviata, one of the most popular operas ever written. The 1936 movie starred Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor and Lionel Barrymore.

Some years Marquez-Sterling highlights great moments in history as depicted in opera.

Marquez-Sterling says, “The final class will be a fun and exciting ‘Night at the Opera.’ Participants can choose to wear formal attire, invite a guest and bring food, while watching an opera in its entirety.” He also encourages repeat participants—no two sessions are ever the same.

Marquez-Sterling developed a love for opera as a child in Cuba. He says, “I was 10 years old when my aunt, who was a singer, took me to the opera for the first time. To children, opera communicates in straight forward, simple emotions, like love and hate. I also discovered that I love the human voice.”

A history professor at Plymouth State for 35 years, Marquez-Sterling wanted to teach something new to a different audience. He and several friends enjoyed listening to opera together and one suggested that he put together a course to help people know how to approach what they often consider a daunting subject. Are You Afraid of Opera? was the result. He says, “Opera is for the heart—not just the intellect.” Since retiring from full-time teaching, he has also taught the course on cruise ships as an activity which has been very well attended.

Tuition for Are You Afraid of Opera? is $85 and there is a $5 registration fee.

Registration information is available online; by calling (603) 535-3151 or sending e-mail to
To register in person, visit the College of Graduate Studies at 23 Avery Street next to Speare Memorial Hospital. The office is open Mondays through Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Fridays, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Marquez-Sterling says, “Don’t worry about expensive tickets, wanting to go to sleep, or foreign languages, since there will always be subtitles. Are You Afraid of Opera? is your front-row ticket to fully experience and understand this exciting art form.”

Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.