Guest post by Michael Ching
In the first week of January, the National Opera Association gathered in New Orleans for its annual conference. An association of mainly college and university operas, the NOA is an important market for new operas. The three day gathering featured a performance at Loyola Opera Theatre of composer Tom Cipullo and librettist David Mason’s After Life. Their work was the winner of the NOA’s 2016-2018 Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition–more on this production here. Competition Guidelines for the next cycle can be found here.
In addition to the exciting production of After Life, Cipullo and fellow opera composer Michael Ching put together a panel of twenty suggestions for opera composers in order to be successful and produced in today’s marketplace.
Number one on both Michael and Tom’s lists was “Write excerptible arias.” Arias get performed by singers at auditions, recitals, and juries, and these occasions are like free advertising for new works. Michael jokingly said that he’d offered to pay singers to audition with arias from his operas. If a singer falls in love with an aria from a new work, they can use it as a piece that is uniquely theirs, that makes them stand out from the crowd.
Another item that both Cipullo and Ching had on their list of suggestions was to learn how to write words. Even though a composer might be working with a librettist, writing their own words can help guide a librettist in order to replicate a certain meter, or amplify a theme that the composer wants to explore musically.
Other suggestions included the need for the composer to write a piano vocal score and to write music that singers can memorize without excessive study. The full list of suggestions will be published in a future post.
Michael Ching is a composer and opera consultant for ECS Publishing Group.