Aria Institute: Senior Stories Edition (July 2024)

From July 7-28, 2024, Really Spicy Opera will offer the 17th installment of its Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists online, in a special edition designed especially to tell the stories of Minnesota seniors through opera. Due to the need to interview Minnesota seniors in person, librettist applicants are limited to residents of the State of Minnesota.

Priority is given to participants living in the State of Minnesota. Past Aria Institute participants may apply to function as an Aria Institute mentor.

This installment will be offered in a 1-month intensive format, with the main sessions occurring at 1-week intervals.

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, including participants of the various Soprano Editions. 

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 2024 offering will focus on creating pieces telling stories of Minnesota seniors, using the medium of opera.

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 Sunday afternoon from 2:30-5:30 PM Central Time, 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 every week. 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.

  • At the end of each week, 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.
  • Copies of the recordings for all showcase pieces will be made available to the participants.

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


The Aria Institute is co-directed by:


There are no costs or application fees.


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

  1. Have prior experience writing and notating vocal music (composers) or poetry and/or drama (librettists).
  2. Commit to the full Aria Institute schedule (see below).
  3. Be willing to try something new.
  4. Be open to giving and receiving constructive feedback throughout the 3.5-week journey.

Prior experience writing opera is not required, only an interest in learning and a ready foundation. In a change from prior practice, we are now using rolling admissions.

In keeping with the mission of Really Spicy Opera, women are strongly encouraged to apply. Half of the 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 and a MIDI realization or MP3 of the audio.

Strongly recommended:

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

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

Week 1

  • Sunday, 7/7 Main Session 1
    • All: 2:30-5:30 PM CT
  • Monday, 7/8 @ 8 AM: Libretto draft due. Draft comments provided.
  • Tuesday, 7/9
    • 2 PM: Score draft due. Draft comments provided.
    • 5-8 PM: Window for small group feedback sessions (30 minutes).
  • Thursday, 7/11 @ 8 AM: Final reading version scores due.

Week 2

  • Sunday, 7/14 Main Session 2
    • All: 2:30-5:30 PM CT
  • Monday, 7/15 @ 8 AM: Libretto draft due. Draft comments provided.
  • Tuesday, 7/16:
    • 2 PM: Score draft due. Draft comments provided.
    • 5-8 PM: Window for small group feedback sessions (30 minutes).
  • Thursday, 7/18 @ 8 AM: Final reading version scores due.

Week 3

  • Sunday, 7/21Main Session 3
    • All: 2:30-5:30 PM CT
  • Monday, 7/22 @ 8 AM: Libretto draft due. Draft comments provided.
  • Tuesday, 7/23:
    • 2 PM: Score draft due. Draft comments provided.
    • 5-8 PM: Window for small group feedback sessions (30 minutes).
  • Thursday, 7/25 @ 8 AM: Final reading version scores due.

Week 4

  • Sunday, 7/28 Main Session 4
    • All: 2:30-5:30 PM CT



Application Instructions

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

Apply now! Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. We strongly suggest 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?


Is there financial assistance available? What about child care funding?

Yes! Please select the applicable check box(es) in the application form.

Note: Your selection is hidden from the application review panel until after acceptances have been made. Selecting this will not impede your application in any way.

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.

What does an Aria Institute mentor do?

Mentors participate as co-creators (composers or librettists, based on their specialty), but with a specific priority of helping less experienced opera creators have a productive experience.

In practice, mentors are encouraged to help their paired collaborators with proactive and supportive feedback, in addition to a conscious openness to their collaborators’ input.

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

Sure! We have a survey form for that.

Why do you usually select soprano arias for Aria Institute offerings?

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. Offerings for other voice types are planned for future offerings, subject to grant funding.

Will there be opportunities to write something besides soprano arias for this Aria Institute offering?

Yes; the exact arrangement will depend on the seniors being interviewed, availability of performers, and overall mix of people involved.

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.

You must also commit to making all of the sessions, in full.

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 current offering doesn’t work with your schedule, the best thing to do is to apply to a future round of the Aria Institute.

Drama that burns and music that sates.