August 11th - 18th, 2024

“Opera from Scratch is a gem. The positive, nurturing environment helps singers and composers of all ages and experience levels explore what it means to create, and leaves no room for egos or inhibitions. It is programs like this which bring art to life!”

Applications are now closed.

Opera From Scratch is a one week long workshop which allows six composers and six singers to develop six 10 minute operas for solo voice and piano. Composers are asked to base their mini-opera on a Nova Scotia theme of cultural or historic significance. Each composer will be expected to complete their work six weeks prior to the workshop, and each singer will be required to learn one work before attending. Composers will be paired with singers during the first week of April.  Scroll down for online applications and financial information.

During Opera from Scratch, the six mini-operas will be intensively workshopped in consultation with a senior composer/mentor and singing teacher in private daily sessions, as well as a private round table for the composition students. A resident pianist will be available for private rehearsals and masterclasses. Lectures, acting classes, and round tables will be given by a new music singing specialist, dramaturge, and a theatre director. Both composers and singers will be expected to attend each other’s lessons in order to gain insight into each other’s creative process. Masterclasses will be available to all participants.

Senior Canadian composer James Rolfe will serve as our mentor for the week. Mr. Rolfe is a perfect choice for this workshop, having recently won the Louis Applebaum Composers Award for his outstanding work in the field of opera, and he is well known for his first opera – Beatrice Chancy, with libretto by George Elliott Clarke. Mr. Rolfe will have individual sessions with each composer during the week as well as offering master classes for the singers.

Opera from Scratch is an organic/collaborative process where the composers and singers are exposed to each others’ methods, resulting in a better understanding of the depth of thought, creativity, and effort that goes into creating even a short work, from both the composer’s and singer’s perspective. Singers often have reservations about performing new works, but an intimate exchange such as this will help composers approach singers in ways that relax them and help them overcome their fears.

Above all, singers need to understand exactly what the composer intends, and composers need to understand how to write for different voice types and communicate their intent to singers. We hope that this intensive week of Opera from Scratch workshops will assist both in this regard – and perhaps sow the seeds for a whole new generation of exciting Canadian and International operas.

Supported has been generously supported by the Socan Foundation and the Fountain School of Performing Arts.

Opera From Scratch has legs!

The mini operas premiered during Opera From Scratch have been performed around the world:

Sandy Moore’s 10 minute opera, Escape To Freedom has become a full length one hour production which received its first workshop performances in Eastern Front’s STAGES Festival in Halifax in June 2020.

Maureen Batt has performed and work shopped Monica Pearse’ Aunt Helen several times over the past year, including in Vancouver at the Art Song Lab, in Toronto on the CMC’s 13th Street Winery Piano Series, and in Parrsboro as part of the Classics By The Bay Festival. She has also included it on a Canadian/American tour with stops in Toronto and Philadelphia.

1000 Paper Cranes by Rita Ueda has been performed by the Erato Ensemble in Vancouver last May and she has written and expanded version for the Chamber Sounds opera company in Singapore which was performed last August.

Adam Scime’s Images of John A. Wilson has been performed on 5 separate occasions since Opera From Scratch 2012, including a concert in Toronto’s Music Gallery Emergents Series.

Matt Frey turned his 10 minute opera, 111 Heavy, into a 20 minute chamber opera for soprano and tenor and large ensemble, recorded on Navona Records

Financial Information

Application fee:  $40 (CA)
Workshop fee:  $750 (CA)
Accommodations:  We have billeting possibilities on a first come first serve basis as well as the potential for staying in residence in several universities in Halifax at very reasonable rates.
Food and travel is the responsibility of the participant

Canadian funding sources
Canada Council for the Arts:
SOCAN grants to composers:
Arts Nova Scotia:
Arts New Brunswick:
Newfoundland Arts Council:
PEI Arts Council:
Conseils des arts et des lettres du Quebec (CALQ):
Ontario Arts Council:
Saskatchewan Arts Council:
Manitoba Arts Council:
Alberta Foundation for the Arts:
British Columbia Arts Council:
North West Territories Arts Council:  https://www.nwtartscouncil.c


During Opera From Scratch vocalists receive the following:
– An acting workshop focusing on the librettos (without music)
– 3 private singing lessons
– Auditing 2 composition lessons
– 3 private coaching sessions with vocal coach / pianist
– 4 masterclasses focusing on singing, performance and acting skills
– 4 lectures on dramaturgy and opera, creating and producing opera
– 2 private sessions with Janice Isabel Jackson
– A final public performance at the end of the workshop
– Each singer has a mini opera specifically written for them and receives personal and individualized attention with regards to vocal training, acting skills, performing skills, internalizing character, and collaboration on multiple levels and much more


During Opera From Scratch Composers receive the following:
– Access to a dramaturge during the compositional process
– Auditing 2 private singing
–  2 composition lessons 
– 1 private singing lesson 
– 2 private coaching sessions with a vocal coach / pianist 
– 4 masterclasses focusing on dramaturgy, performance and acting skills
– 4 lectures on dramaturgy and opera, creating and producing opera
– 2 private sessions with Janice Isabel Jackson
– A round table with James Rolfe (composer)
– Public speaking lessons
– A final performance of their mini opera


Janice Isabel Jackson – Voice, Direction, Lecturer, Producer
James Rolfe – Composition
Lucy Hayes Davis – Voice
Jason Davis – Voice 

Joseph Dowell – Pianist
Roberta Barker – Lecturer
Emily Jewer – Direction 


“One thing that stands out about Opera From Scratch is its emphatic focus on the collaborative process and on building the sense of a shared project. By the end of the week, I found myself deeply invested in the success of all my fellow participants’ work.”

“The approach to creating opera fostered in the Opera From Scratch program is totally in line with the changing needs and definitions of the genre.”

“It’s rare that a program has passion and fire that burns visibly at every level. The magic of OFS begins with Janice and continues through the mentors, classes, composers, and performers. Watching the process and culmination of the OFS Program shows the apparent passion, talents, and magic that I believe only exists at OFS. It was an honor to be a part of this process.”

“Opera From Scratch is more than just an opera program. It’s a full experience, jam packed with information and supported by excellent faculty. Because of my time here, I have tangible tools to bring to everything I sing. I recommend this program to anyone who dares to be, or who wants to dare. At Opera From Scratch, you get to know every faculty member and every member, making connections internationally and proving that at this program, it’s impossible to fall through the cracks.”

“I was amazed at how much I learned in such a short time. I now have a better understanding of the instrument of the voice. I was impressed by how dedicated and supportive all of the mentors and participants were and was honored by how dedicated they were to my music. I learned things about writing music, for voice and otherwise, that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.”

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