Aria Institute: Chamber Opera Edition (September-October 2022)

In September-October 2022, Really Spicy Opera will offer the tenth installment of its Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists online, free of charge. Designed to build on participants’ experience and familiarity with prior content, this installment will focus specifically on writing multi-character scenes and interconnected operatic material.

There is no fee for applying to the Aria Institute, or for participating. Financial awards to maximize participation and to provide child care assistance are available. This installment is open to new and returning participants.

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 Chamber Opera Edition will specifically have participants write:

  • a scene with an embedded aria,
  • a duet or trio, and
  • a 4-voice ensemble number.

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.

Every two Saturdays, the accepted librettist-and-composer teams will receive instruction and other guidance in writing and refining opera. Each draft composition will be reviewed by and receive private feedback from our panel of directors, after which there will be an interval for revisions. Two weeks after the assignment is given, 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 September-October 2022 Aria Institute will be led by:

  • Tess Altiveros (faculty at Seattle University)
  • Basil Considine (Artistic Director of Really Spicy Opera)
  • Anne Wieben (Creative Director of Opera on the Lake)

Artist in Residence:

  • Dr. Bree Nichols, soprano


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 7-week journey.
  6. In September 2022
    • Both:
      • Attended the Aria Institute: Soprano Edition or Mezzo Edition, or received a specific invitation from one of the co-directors.
      • Attended the Aria Institute: Duet/Trio Edition.
    • Librettists: Attended the Libretto Workshop.

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

Schedule and Access

All times in Central Time.


  • Access to a high-speed Internet connection.
  • A desktop or laptop computer (not a smart phone or tablet) with a webcam that can run Zoom.
  • Composers: Convenient access to music notation software that can produce a piano-vocal score in PDF format.

Strongly recommended:

  • A headset with a microphone is strongly recommended.
  • A computer screen of at least 13 inches in size. A limited pool of loaner equipment is available for U.S. residents.

The draft schedule for the September-October 2022 offering of the Aria Institute (all times in Central Time-US) is:

Weeks 1-2

  • Saturday, 9/10 Main Session 1
    • All: 12-3 PM
  • Tuesday, 9/13: Libretto draft due @ 11:59 PM. Draft comments provided.
  • Thursday, 9/15: Score draft due @ 11:59 PM. Draft comments provided.
  • Sunday, 9/18: Latest date for ad-hoc, 30-minute feedback session.
  • Tuesday, 9/20: Reading version due @ 11:59 PM.

Weeks 3-4

    • Saturday, 9/24 Main Session 2
      • All: 12-3 PM
    • Tuesday, 9/27: Libretto draft due @ 11:59 PM. Draft comments provided.
    • Thursday, 9/29: Score draft due @ 11:59 PM. Draft comments provided.
    • Sunday, 10/2: Latest date for ad-hoc, 30-minute feedback session.
    • Tuesday, 10/4: Reading version due @ 11:59 PM.

Weeks 5-6

  • Saturday, 10/8 Main Session 3
    • All: 12-3 PM
  • Tuesday, 10/11: Libretto draft due @ 11:59 PM. Draft comments provided.
  • Thursday, 10/13: Score draft due @ 11:59 PM. Draft comments provided.
  • Sunday, 10/16: Latest date for ad-hoc, 30-minute feedback session.
  • Tuesday, 10/18: Reading version due @ 11:59 PM.

Week 7

  • Saturday, 10/22 Main Session 4
    • All: 12-3 PM

Application Instructions

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

Apply now! Rolling admissions in-progress; we strongly recommend applying before May 1.

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 at the moment!

Why aren’t you charging a fee?

Two reasons: potential and actual participants have told us that this is a major barrier to participation, and funding organizations have responded to this input by underwriting our expenses.

We are very grateful to the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Minnesota Arts Board, and Network of Ensemble Theaters for their financial support in making this possible.

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.

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 September-October offering doesn’t work with your schedule, the best thing to do is to apply for a later round of the Aria Institute.


Drama that burns and music that sates.