Aria Institute: Soprano Edition (July 2020)

Quarantine and social distancing might suppress public performances, but they cannot extinguish the creative spirit. William Shakespeare famously wrote some of his greatest plays immediately after and during outbreaks of plague. Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel wrote a cholera cantata. Today’s opera world needs vibrant new repertoire too much to let a global pandemic stop (appropriately distanced) creation.

During July 2020, Really Spicy Opera will offer its Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists online and free of charge to a select group of participants. This offering of the Aria Institute has been specifically tailored to accommodate the scheduling constraints common to working and quarantined parents.

About the Aria Institute

Each offering of the Aria Institute channels a selected group of composers and librettists through a practical training program focused on writing a specific subset of opera composition (e.g., arias, duets, and scenes). The July 2020 offering will focus on writing arias for the soprano voice.

The Aria Institute provides opportunities for librettists (or aspiring librettists) and composers to work with professional performers in a workshop environment to explore writing opera.

Each Friday, accepted librettists and composers will receive instruction and other guidance in writing and refining opera arias. Participants rotate through different team pairings, with a new team writing assignment due the following Sunday. Each draft aria composition will be reviewed by and receive private feedback from our panel of directors, after which there will be an interval for revisions. On the following Friday, the revised pieces will be sightread by our performers, feedback and further guidance follows, and the process repeats. At the end of the main workshop, participants will vote on which pieces will be showcased in a livestreamed online recital.

A decorative image of musical notes flying out of an up-do of hair.


The July 2020 Aria Institute is co-directed by:

Collaborative pianist Steven Seigart.
Soprano Suzanne Karpov.

Our artists in residence are:

The 2020 Aria Institute: Soprano Edition participants.


There is no specific age requirement for the Aria Institute. However, participants must:

  1. Be current residents of the United States.
  2. Have prior experience writing and notating vocal music (composers) or poetry and/or drama (librettists).
  3. Commit to the full Aria Institute schedule (see below).
  4. Be willing to try something new.
  5. Be open to giving and receiving constructive feedback throughout the 3-week journey.

Prior experience writing opera is not required, only an interest in learning and a ready foundation.

In keeping with the mission of Really Spicy Opera, women are strongly encouraged to apply. Three slots are specifically reserved for female/female-identified participants.

Schedule and Access

All times in Central Time.

All participants must have access to a high-speed Internet connection and a desktop or laptop computer (not a smart phone or tablet) with a webcam that can run Zoom. A headset with a microphone is strongly recommended.

Composers must have also convenient access to music notation software that can produce a piano-vocal score in PDF format.

All participants are asked to pre-emptively reserve the following dates and times:

  • Friday, 7/10
    • All: 2-5 PM 
  • Saturday, 7/11
    • Writing Day
  • Sunday, 7/12
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • 2-4 PM: Feedback Sessions*

Monday, 7/13-Thursday, 7/16: Off/Revisions

  • Friday, 7/17
    • All: 2-5 PM 
  • Saturday, 7/18
    • Writing Day
  • Sunday, 7/19
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • 2-4 PM: Feedback Sessions*

Monday, 7/20-Thursday, 7/23: Off/Revisions

  • Friday, 7/24
    • All: 2-5 PM 
  • Saturday, 7/25
    • Writing Day
  • Sunday, 7/26
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • 2-4 PM: Feedback Sessions*

Monday, 7/27-Tuesday, 7/28: Off/Revisions

* – Each team will be scheduled for a specific time window within this time. However, since participant’s team will change weekly, we ask that you not schedule other activities during this time.

Application Instructions

Note: The application requires a free Google email account to fill out. 

Apply now! Applications received by end-of-day on June 29 will receive priority consideration.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there an age limit to participate in the Aria Institute?


Are there are any costs or fees associated with attending the Aria Institute?

Not in July 2020.

Can I apply as a composer-librettist?

No. To participate in the Aria Institute, you must pick one of these roles to practice for the duration. What you do afterwards is up to you, but our particular process includes collaborating with another writer to see what interesting and exciting fusion is created.

Can I be part of the conversation about new arias for soprano?

Sure! We have a survey form for that.

Why did you select soprano arias for the July offering?

Women – and mostly sopranos – make up the vast majority of collegiate voice program graduates in the United States. If you want to write music that will be performed, you should most definitely be writing for sopranos.

Are there any conditions?

Yes – Really Spicy Opera asks for a non-exclusive, limited license to perform, record, and broadcast works created directly through the Aria Institute for online education purposes, showcases, and performances for which RSO derives no ticketed revenue.

As a writer-participant, you are fully free to develop works further (owing RSO no royalties), including expanding an initial proposal or musical excerpt into a larger work.

I’m not available for all of the dates and times – can I skip some?

No. Signing up for the Aria Institute is an all-inclusive deal: we fully commit to you, and you fully commit to us for the designated days and times. If the July offering doesn’t work with your schedule, the best thing to do is to apply to the next round of the Aria Institute in September.

Drama that burns and music that sates.