Alma Deutscher is already an accomplished musician; she’s mastered the piano and the violin. Now she can add composing her own opera to the list - and she’s only seven years old.
Like so many other child prodigies, she plays beautifully. But what sets her apart is her ability to write, and improvise, classical music. Deutscher can sit at the piano and create music that sounds as if it had been written for her.
“It’s as if she’s speaking to Mozart and Bach and questioning them and then answering in their language,” Robert Gjerdingen, professor of music theory and cognition at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, told ABC News.
He has been helping the Deutscher family teach Alma in a classic style that encourages her ability to improvise. “Usually prodigies excel in reproducing music, not in creating it. She is the Bobby Fisher of music.”
“When I compose, I’m very happy if I manage to find a beautiful melody,” Alma told the BBC. The young musician hails from the country town of Surrey, England, and has always showed a passion for the arts.
“It was striking that when she was about three, she heard a lullaby by Straus, by Richard Straus,” says her mother, Janie Deutscher. “And she came to us and said, ‘How can music be so beautiful?’ She was so struck by the beauty of it.”
For her most recent project, Alma composed a seven-minute opera called ‘The Sweeper of Dreams.' She woke up one morning with a musical theme in her head and with the help of her father, who is also an amateur musician, she recorded the theme on the piano.
She later fashioned the theme she recorded into a seven-minute “mini-opera” for a competition held by the English National Opera, which praised her work.
The opera features a Dream Sweeper, whose job it is to make you forget your dreams. One day the Dream Sweeper is fired and, after convincing skeptical adults, a 16-year-old girl replaces him. “I was born for this job,” she sings.
Alma felt the story was perfect for her. But she doesn’t have to wait that long to impress adults. She is often compared to another famous prodigy, whom in some respects she actually is ahead of.
While Mozart could play and name notes at three years old, Alma could do that at two. And Mozart wrote his first songs at age five - Alma began improvising at just four.
And for the seven-year-old musician, it just comes naturally. “Normally when I try to think of ideas, it doesn’t come,” she said. But “when I’m improvising, then I have lots of ideas.”