Nationalism and Music: How Opera Sings the Identity of Nations

Kathryn Heinen, Vocal Music, East Mecklenburg High School

Final Unit (PDF)  Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)


In this unit, I will use four nationalist operas to teach students about the role
of music in nationalism during the nineteenth century. I wrote this curriculum unit
because I want to expose my students to specific examples of music’s importance in
history. Over the course of this unit, my students will explore four composers who wrote
operas demonstrating nationalism. Students will complete research on these composers
who represent nationalism in Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Russia. Music from
these operas provided nations with a voice to symbolize their identity. Our final project
for the unit will involve students creating their own playlist, and describing why the
chosen songs help to define their personal identity.