Aria Institute: Duet & Trio Brunch Edition (September 2021)

During September 2021, Really Spicy Opera will offer the eighth installment of its Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists online, with a $200 reservation and recording fee charge. Designed to build on participants’ experience and familiarity with prior content, this installment will focus specifically on writing operatically for 2-3 voices.

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 September 2021 offering will focus on writing duets and trios for women’s voices.

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 Saturday, 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 Saturday. 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 Saturday, 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 2021 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)

Artists in Residence:

  • TBD

See the December 2020 Showcase

Selected pieces written for the last Aria Institute: Duet-Trio Edition  can be viewed online:


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.
  6. (September 2021) Have either attended the Aria Institute: Soprano Edition or Mezzo Edition, or received a specific invitation from one of the co-directors.

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.

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.

The draft schedule for the September offering of the Aria Institute is:

  • Saturday, 9/11
    • All: 10 AM-1:30 PM 
  • Sunday, 9/12-Monday, 9/13
    • Writing Days
  • Tuesday, 9/14
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • Feedback Sessions Scheduled via Sign-Ups*

Wednesday, 9/15-Thursday, 9/16: Off/Revisions

Friday, 9/24 Off (Scores due at 8 AM)

  • Saturday, 9/18
    • All: 10 AM-1:30 PM Main Session
  • Sunday, 9/19-Monday, 9/20
    • Writing Days
  • Tuesday, 9/21
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • Feedback Sessions Scheduled via Sign-Ups*

Wednesday, 9/22-Thursday, 9/23: Off/Revisions

Friday, 9/24 Off (Scores due at 8 AM)

  • Saturday, 9/25
    • All: 10 AM-1:30 PM Main Session
  • Sunday, 9/26-Monday, 9/27
    • Writing Days
  • Tuesday, 9/28
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • Feedback Sessions Scheduled via Sign-Ups*

Wednesday, 9/29-Thursday, 9/30: Off/Revisions

Friday, 10/1 Off (Scores due at 8 AM)

  • Saturday, 10/2
    • All: 10 AM-1:30 PM Final Session 

Showcase: TBD

* – 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! Rolling admissions in-progress.

Pay Your Deposit

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?

Yes. For the Duet/Trio Brunch Edition, there is a $200 reservation and recording fee. This fee will:

  • reserve your slot, and
  • specifically pay performers for the licensing necessary for you to get reference copies of all works that you produce as part of this Aria Institute installment.

Why are you charging this larger fee?

Making great art requires great artists which requires paying great artists. We work very hard to keep costs down, including applying for public and private funding and fundraising. However, the Duet/Trio edition is considerably more expensive to mount than our other offerings.

One of the most commonly requested element is to get copies of all recordings. This is a separate service than live musical readings, and needs to be paid accordingly because we value our artists’ work.

While the $200 fee represents a small fraction of the actual Aria Institute costs, we are working to obtain additional funding to subsidize it further.

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.

Why did you select women’s voices only for the September 2021 offering?

Women make up the vast majority of collegiate voice program graduates in the United States. For many reasons, however, the vast majority roles (and most substantial roles) in the most commonly performed operas are for male singers.

This imbalance doesn’t get better when looking at duets: most are duets for male and female voice types, with female-female duets usually being only about men. There’s room for a lot of new works here.

I think it’s overly restrictive to not be able to write for men’s voices.

You are welcome to write whatever you want on your own time.

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 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.