an opera by João MacDowell


|   Main Characters: |

Carol: bird, soprano – American woman, journalist.

Aruanan: anteater, baritone – Street poet.

Pedro: jaguar. tenor – Brazilian man who’s lived in the US, drug dealer.

Julia: she-wolf, mezzo – Brazilian woman, mother of Sofia (daughter of Aruanan).

| Plus: |

Jose & NY Editor: Tenor (1 Comprimario, may come from chorus)

Solo Dancers: 4 Animal Spirits


2 Flutes (both double on piccolo)

1 Oboe

1 Clarinet in Bb

1 Bassoon

2 Horns

2 Trumpets in C

2 Trombones


Timpani (4 kettles)

3 Percussionists

Violins I, II




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Check: Scene by Scene

Program Notes by Prof. Jeffrey Gall:

(for the Performance by the Montclair State University Opera Workshop, Alexander Kasser Theater, Peak Performances – December 2009)

Tamanduá is conceived as a meeting place, whose physical symbol is water: the frontier between land and sea, the boundary separating New York from Rio, the mysterious source of life and (as blood) death. The opera’s protagonists bring their hopes and desires, fears and prejudices to a series of encounters, as their fates cross at the water’s edge. A larger spiritual context surrounds their experience, relating the plot to the African Brazilian religion of Candomblé and the native shamanic rituals of Pajelança. The role of the chorus oscillates between the realistic (dance-hall crowd) and the hieratic (the witches).

Deriving archetypes from the indigenous animism, the opera assigns an animal soul to each of the characters. These spirits are not merely symbols, like the Orishas, or patron deities of Candomblé, they lend the protagonists special characteristics and guide their fates. Carol is perpetually in flight. Julia is a mother as well as a lover. Pedro is a quicksilver and predatory figure; Aruanan, earthly and direct.

Aesthetically speaking, Tamanduá is a trans-cultural hybrid. It is sung in English, Brazilian Portuguese and various indigenous tongues. The libretto employs a wide range of tone from slang to soaring lyricism. The music embraces elements of classical modernist compositional techniques, Western pop, Brazilian popular styles (samba, bossa nova, baiao) and indigenous chant.

More Info:



3 Acts: 2h40min
Languages: Portuguese and English
Cast (4) SMTB.
Chorus SSATB
Orchestra: 2fl, 1ob, 1cl, 1bs, 2hr, 2tp, 2tb, tba, timp, 3 perc, strings.
Chamber version: Piano, cello and percussion.

Tamanduá stands as João MacDowell’s inaugural opera, conceived as a guidebook for what he terms the “Opera of the Oppressed.”

The work is engineered to invite participation from both seasoned opera professionals and community choruses, intentionally embracing individuals beyond the traditional opera sphere. It allows the production to incorporate non-trained and non-traditional performers. By doing so, the production process itself becomes a reflection of the opera’s central themes.

At its core, Tamanduá ventures boldly into discussions surrounding colonialism and the lack of diversity entrenched within the hierarchical structures of high culture. It challenges the prevailing eurocentric models and explores the stereotyped role of women within traditional operatic narratives, offering alternative perspectives to established genre conventions.

The narrative unfolds as a poignant love triangle between Carol, an American journalist heading to Brazil, Aruanan, a street poet, and his friend Pedro, a drug dealer fascinated by the idea of moving to New York. The complexities deepen with the introduction of Julia, Aruanan’s former partner and mother to his child, whose insightful commentary and prophetic vision foreshadow the impending tragedy.

Tamanduá emerges not merely as a lyrical tale but as a compelling exploration of societal constructs, cultural nuances, and human relationships, epitomizing MacDowell’s innovative approach to operatic storytelling.