How to write an Opera

As I was working on my second opera I was also reading a lot about Carlos Gomes, who burned a number of first acts and some second and third acts too. So I figured it would be rational that I should have a solid text and be very enthusiastic about it, before I committed any music on paper.

Writing an opera can be overwhelming. I tend to write down lots of notes in moments of inspiration, but trying to connect these as a long story could lead into awkward dead ends.  So I came up with a simple, straight forward “Dummies Guide to Writing Opera.”

Initially I thought that this was only useful for me. But recently, as I discussed the process with some collaborators, I realized it could be useful to others. I guess this map could come in handy to any professional who wishes to initiate the process that is an opera production. So, I am posting the plan, as obvious as it may seem. You can do what you wish with it.

Of course, in order to approach the plan it it is recommended that you are already familiar with the musical language and also with the latest developments in all of the related performing fields. More than anything else, opera is a collaborative art form. I think it may be an inspiration to think of the non-musical elements and to create opportunities for other professionals to shine. It is also important to have the correct vocabulary, to negotiate your vision. A well rounded background in all arts is  as essential as a solid command over your field.

Of course, creativity is often more important than technique. There is a drive to make things happen that precludes any guideline, any plan, any pre-conceived idea of what a show can be. These are moments of blessing from the Goddess; touched by the muse, art flows. But suppose you are confronted with the blank page, and you just need to get it done, then it’s useful to have some guidelines.


The Plan:

1 – Choice of theme, number of characters and voices. Is the theme relevant? What is the drama? What is the conflict? Is there an epiphany? What is the size of the production and instrumentation?

2 – Scene list. Outline of dramatic structure: intensity curves, turning points. Definition of solos, duets, trios, quartets, instrumentals.

3 – Write libretto. Revise. Brainstorm. Improve.

4 – Write music. Revise. Brainstorm. Improve.

5 – Concert Premiere. Audio recording. Final revision.

6 – Opera may be handed in for staged production in the following year.

Have fun!

Concert Premiere scene 9

Plastic Flowers – Concert Premiere


There are other sources that may help online. One article that I like: