Shakespeare at the Symphony

The dramatic works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) inflamed the imaginations of 19th-century composers and inspired the creation of operas, incidental music, and concert works that have remained popular to the present day. Join us for this exploration of Shakespearean symphonic masterpieces by musical geniuses from Germany, France, Hungary, Bohemia and Russia. We will hear the music of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and others as they respond to works including A Midsummer Night's Dream, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Nicolas Krusek $170.00 6 Register

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, November 8 to Friday, December 3. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to discussion board topics, and engage in course activities. You will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Tuesday from 1–2:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Give examples of a diversity of musical compositions inspired by Shakespeare
  • Describe different composers’ approaches to creating music in response to Shakespeare’s work
  • Discuss what these pieces tell us about musical composition and about Shakespeare

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Reading academic and non-academic articles
  • Listening to music
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in videoconference seminars

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Early romantics

We begin with Mendelssohn's overture and incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Schumann’s overture to Julius Caesar, and Berlioz’s King Lear overture and Romeo and Juliet symphony.

Week 2: Midcentury

Liszt’s development of the symphonic poem transformed the landscape of 19th-century descriptive orchestral music. We will compare the Hungarian master’s Hamlet with Richard III by Smetana and King Lear by Balakirev.

Week 3: Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the most familiar and beloved overtures of all time, but the great Russian master’s passion for Shakespeare is also reflected in his lesser known works inspired by The Tempest and Hamlet.

Week 4: Fin de siècle

We round out our survey of musical bardophilia with Richard Strauss’ Macbeth, Dvorak’s Othello and a brief glance at such early modern works as Elgar’s Falstaff.

Books, materials and resources

’You will access course resources using SFU’s online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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