Retired professors’ lectures foster appreciation for the opera
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 02:02
Larry Peterson’s lecture series at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Wilmington are known to include opera, the occasional dance step and commentary that causes his students to “think about what’s happening” in the operas they watch, Ethel Sayre says.
When Sayre, a 89-year-old student at the Lifelong Learning Institute in heard about Peterson’s opera lecture series this past fall, she says she was excited to see that the public has a chance to hear the expert speak.
Not only does Peterson “retain a vast amount of knowledge” about operas, Sayre says, but he can also share his knowledge with his students in a meaningful way.
“The difference between Larry and other instructors—he can convey that information to you,” Sayre says.
After the former music professor decided to retire in 2009, he began teaching classes focusing on opera performances at the Lifelong Learning Institute. Last semester marked the beginning of Peterson’s free lecture series that he plans to continue throughout this semester.
In addition to teaching two opera classes at the university, Peterson led groups of students to New York City to see operas at the Metropolitan and at other theaters within the city. Peterson says his lectures aren’t too different from these trips.
“On the bus trip to New York City, the trip leader who was University of Delaware faculty— we would do trip leader notes and we would show excerpts from the New York City opera on the bus,” Peterson says. “I’m kind of replicating what that was.”
In Peterson’s lecture series, he shows broadcasts of the operas performed in New York. During the intermission of the operas, the Metropolitan adds interviews and other features not available to those watching the performance live. Peterson adds his own commentary to the features as well as the opera itself.
He also teaches dance steps to help his listeners gain hands-on knowledge of the performances, she says, an aspect of his classes that makes the unforgettable.
For students though, it’s getting to the class that is the biggest hurdle for the lecture series.
Senior Angela Pasquale says she is drawn to opera because she finds it to be “soothing” and “deeply emotional,” but she did not know about Peterson’s lecture series.
“I haven’t heard anything about it,” Pasquale says. “I would probably go if I had time.”
Peterson says when he taught at the university many students had heard of his classes but were not so enthusiastic to learn about the opera. He says they often changed their minds after signing up for his classes.
Oftentimes, students would begin the classes thinking they did not like opera and leave thinking they did, Peterson says.
Though students have a harder time finding out about the lecture series now that Peterson has retired his position as a professor, Peterson says he thinks the series is much more convenient for many, including himself.
He says the lecture series is not only far less “time-consuming” than his bus trips to New York but is also easier for older people to attend the series.
This semester Peterson says he plans to change up the series from his lectures last fall. He says they end of the series will feature a guest lecturer who will speak on Giuseppi Verdi’s MacBeth, a four-act opera.
Peterson says he is open to featuring more guest lecturers in his series. He says he believes his series could expand significantly with the help of more speakers. In the future, Peterson says he hopes to have a guest lecturer every year from upper Delaware.
The public can see Peterson’s next lecture on Verdi’s Rigoletto Friday at 12:30 p.m. and on selected Fridays thereafter.
Wherever and whenever Peterson chooses to share his knowledge, Sayre says many should take advantage of his teachings and commentary.
“He’s the best teacher in the whole world,” Sayre says. “No one can touch him with a 10-foot pole when it comes to teaching.”