Aria Institute: Sopranos of a Certain Age Edition (March 2023)

From March 11-April 1, Really Spicy Opera will offer the 12th installment of its Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists online. 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 March 2023 offering will focus on writing arias for the “mature” soprano voice, defined in research literature as “age 50 and older”.

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 afternoon, 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.

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.

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

Week 1

  • Saturday, 3/11 Main Session 1
    • All: 1-4 PM
  • Sunday, 3/12 @ 8 AM: Libretto draft due. Draft comments provided.
  • Monday, 3/13
    • 12 PM: Score draft due. Draft comments provided.
    • Small group feedback sessions (30 minutes), scheduled ad hoc.
  • Thursday, 3/16 @ 8 AM: Scores due.

Week 2

  • Saturday, 3/18 Main Session 2
    • All: 1-4 PM
  • Sunday, 3/19 @ 8 AM: Libretto draft due. Draft comments provided.
  • Monday, 3/20
    • 12 PM: Score draft due. Draft comments provided.
    • Small group feedback sessions (30 minutes), scheduled ad hoc.
  • Thursday, 3/23 @ 8 AM: Scores due.

Week 3

  • Saturday, 3/25 Main Session 3
    • All: 1-4 PM
  • Sunday, 3/26 @ 8 AM: Libretto draft due. Draft comments provided.
  • Monday, 3/27
    • 12 PM: Score draft due. Draft comments provided.
    • Small group feedback sessions (30 minutes), scheduled ad hoc.
  • Thursday, 3/30 @ 8 AM: Scores due.

Week 4

  • Saturday, 4/1 Main Session 4
    • All: 1-4 PM



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 March 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.

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

Sure! We have a survey form for that.

Why did you select soprano arias for this offering?

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.

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 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.