March 23, 2022

Four Student Composers See Fulfillment with A Pocketful of Operas

opera student in Mixon

Four short operas sidelined by the pandemic are about to get their moments in the spotlight at CIM.

With A Pocketful of Operas, on April 1 and 3, four student composers will see works they penned two years ago – each no more than 15 minutes long – at last come to fruition at Mixon Hall, courtesy of CIM Opera Theater and the New Music Ensemble.

“It’s going to be a great learning experience,” said Keith Fitch, head of composition at CIM and director of the school’s New Music Ensemble. “It’s a real challenge to tell a story in 15 minutes, and in that way I think it’s going to be an interesting experience for the listener, too.”

The project kicked off in 2019 when Fitch, eager to promote collaboration, invited students to compose short operas on any story, promising staged performances.

Four rose to the challenge: master’s student Emma Cardon (Fitch), undergraduate student Daniel DiMarino (Fitch/O. Kaler), Arseny Gusev (BM ’22, Fitch/Babayan) and undergraduate student Yoav Sadeh (Fitch). One adopted an original libretto while the others took textual inspiration from the Bible, Maeterlinck and Bruno Schulz.

All four then worked closely with Fitch to hone their librettos and music into a cohesive, freestanding opera suitable for Mixon Hall, student singers and a chamber ensemble.

“This is how opera and musical theater have always worked,” Fitch said. “It’s very important for the students to learn how to work with others.”

That they did. But they also learned how to wait. Shortly after the operas were finished, the pandemic hit and their premieres had to be postponed not one year but two.

Now, at last, the works are headed to the stage, live and in-person. Fitch said he suspects a few budding composers may already be eager to try their hands at opera again, perhaps on a grander scale.

“For now, they just want to hear their pieces,” he said. “But some may have caught the theatrical bug. This is the first step. This is just the beginning.”

Reserve Your Tickets

What: CIM Opera Theater and the New Music Ensemble present “A Pocketful of Operas”

When: 7pm Friday, April 1 and 4 pm Sunday, April 3

Where: Mixon Hall, Cleveland Institute of Music

Tickets: $10, available at or by phone at 216.795.3211.

Learn more and reserve your tickets today!