Aria Institute: Duet & Trio Edition

During December 2020, Really Spicy Opera will offer the third installment of its Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists online and free of 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 December 2020 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 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 December 2020 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:

Free Showcase

Selected pieces written for the Aria Institute: Duet-Trio Edition will be broadcast online on Tuesday, 12/22 from 7-8 PM Central Time. FREE and open to the public.


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. (December 2020) Have either attended a previous installment of the Aria Institute 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.


The following composers and librettists are participants in this edition of the Aria Institute:

  • Caroline Cao
  • Tiffa Foster
  • Jodi Goble
  • Jamey Guzman
  • Lauren McCall
  • Mona Washington
  • Jane Wong

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 schedule for the December offering of the Aria Institute has now been finalized:

  • Friday, 12/4
    • All: 2-5 PM 
  • Saturday, 12/5
    • Writing Day
  • Sunday, 12/6
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • 2-5 PM: Feedback Sessions*

Monday, 12/7-Thursday, 12/10: Off/Revisions

  • Friday, 12/11
    • All: 2-5 PM 
  • Saturday, 12/12
    • Writing Day
  • Sunday, 12/13
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • 2-5 PM: Feedback Sessions*

Monday, 12/14-Thursday, 12/17: Off/Revisions

  • Friday, 12/18 Note: This is the start of Hanukkah.
    • All: 2-5 PM 
  • Saturday, 12/19
    • Writing Day
  • Sunday, 12/20
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • 2-5 PM: Feedback Sessions*
  • Monday, 12/21: Off/Revisions
  • Tuesday, 12/22
    • All: 12-3 PM
    • Showcase Concert: 7-8:30 PM (Open to Public)

* – 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! For priority consideration, please apply by Sunday, 10/30.

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 December 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.

Why did you select women’s voices only for the December 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 December 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.