Aria Institute: Libretto Workshop (March 2021)

During March 2021, Really Spicy Opera will offer the fourth installment of its Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists online and free of charge aside from a $40 reservation deposit. This installment is open to new and returning participants, provided that returning participants have not attended both of the two preceding installments.

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 March 2021 offering will focus on writing and workshopping opera librettos, starting from initial scenarios. Participants will:

  • draft synopses of increasing detail,
  • practice pitching their work, and
  • learn how to align their storytelling with practical stagecraft and audience expectations.

There will also be selected opportunities to read and receive feedback on librettos-in-progress, although this is not the major focus of the Libretto Workshop.

This installment of the  Aria Institute provides opportunities for librettists (or aspiring librettists) and composers to build their skills in a mediated environment and create a strong foundation for future collaborative writing. It is open both to librettists and composers, and requires equal engagement and participation regardless of prior background. Every participant will be expected to participate in weekly readings.

Each Friday, accepted librettists and composers will receive instruction and other guidance in writing and refining opera librettos and related material. Participants rotate through different team pairings, with a new team writing assignment due the following Sunday. Each draft 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 read and pitched, receive feedback and further guidance follows, and the process repeats.

There is no showcase for the Libretto Workshop.


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


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

  1. Be current residents of the United States. There is no citizenship or residency requirement.
  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 3.5-week journey.

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.

The draft schedule for the March 2021 offering of the Aria Institute is:

  • Friday, 3/5
    • All: 2-5 PM 
  • Saturday, 3/6
    • Writing Day
  • Sunday, 3/7
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • 2-4 PM: Feedback Sessions*

Monday, 3/8-Thursday, 3/11: Off/Revisions

  • Friday, 3/12
    • All: 2-5 PM 
  • Saturday, 3/13
    • Writing Day
  • Sunday, 3/14
    • Writing & Feedback Day
    • 2-4 PM: Feedback Sessions*

Monday, 3/15-Thursday, 3/18: Off/Revisions

    • Friday, 3/19
      • All: 2-5 PM 
    • Saturday, 3/20
      • Writing Day
    • Sunday, 3/21
      • Writing & Feedback Day
      • 2-4 PM: Feedback Sessions*
    • Monday, 3/22-Thursday, 3/25: Off/Revisions
    • Friday, 3/26: Final Session Note: Passover starts at sundown.
      • All: 2-5 PM

* – 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 11:59 PM Central Time on Saturday, 2/13.

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?

There is no application fee; however, there is a $40 nonrefundable reservation deposit, due within 3 days of being accepted to the institute.

What happens if I have to drop out after paying my deposit?

Then your nonrefundable reservation deposit will cover the staff and other time spent to offer your slot to another person and orient them.

Can I apply as a composer-librettist?

Yes, but you’ll still be paired with other participants each week. To participate in this installment of the Aria Institute, you will be practicing the craft of libretto-writing, regardless of your prior background. 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.

How will the time commitment compare to previous Aria Institutes?

This depends on how much you want to put into it. However, the Libretto Workshop is intended to be less all-consuming of your weekend schedule than previous Aria Institute offerings that include music composition.

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 March 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.