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Opera Composition – The Mezzo Voice – Fall 2024

Ema Mitrovic - mezzo

Professor: João MacDowell

Mezzo-Soprano: Ema Mitrović

The International Brazilian Opera Institute offers a contemporary opera composition course.

The class will focus on:

  • Characteristics of the solo mezzo-soprano voice in contemporary opera setting.
  • Demoing instrumental parts and preparing a digital guide for record production.
  • Tempo Map or Conductor Track
  • Polyharmonic and multicultural writing.
  • From small to large: thematic writing and structuring large-scale compositions.
  • Opera and collaboration.
  • The opera composer is a cultural force.
  • Strategies to think, demo, workshop, and premiere productions.

Students should develop skills in melodic writing, text editing for voice, harmonic development, rhythmic frame, large and expansive form, notation standards, software strategies for organization of large scores, techniques for remote recording and electronic demo, virtual orchestra, tempo map, and self-criticism.

Works developed following course guidelines will receive studio recordings featuring mezzo-soprano Ema Mitrović.

Fee:  U$900.00

The classes will take place online from September 11th to December 04, 2024.

12 Online Sessions: Wednesdays 7-9 PM EST

Application Deadline: September 1st.


International Applications are welcome

Application Form:


  • Facility with music writing
  • Basic knowledge of notation and music production software
  • Some experience as a composer and/or arranger

João MacDowell – IBOC Artistic Director and Resident Composer

João MacDowell: Noted by the Swedish press as “a new thinker of the opera genre” (Johanna Paulsson, Dagens Nyheter), João MacDowell’s musical journey ranges from punk to opera. Raised in Brasilia under the military dictatorship, he grew up among artists and educators and was influenced early on by Augusto Boal and José Celso. His work, referred to as “Opera of the Oppressed” or “Opera Nova,” draws on the philosophy of Paulo Freire. MacDowell has collaborated with entities like the Metropolitan Opera NY and the New York Opera Alliance, and his repertoire extends to chamber music, electronic, choral works, and film scores. Since 2008, he has been the Artistic Director of the International Brazilian Opera Company – IBOC, a New York-based nonprofit. His commitment to music education led him to train new composers, a methodology he details in his book “Polyharmony and Consonance – An Architectural Approach to Large-Scale Composition.” Notable compositions include his Symphony n.1, premiered by the Claudio Santoro National Theater Orchestra in 2014, and soundtracks like the 2014 FIFA World Cup for ESPN (USA). He has authored five operas, including Tamanduá (Boston Metropolitan Opera Award 2009) and The Seventh Seal, with performances internationally recognized, including a premiere at the Museum of Modern Art Stockholm.

Ema Mitrović – Mezzo-Soprano

Ema Mitrović is described: “It was unforgivable that the night’s best female voices (especially mezzo-soprano Ema Mitrović) were hidden among the valkyries’ octet, in comparatively small roles” (TUNDI Productions, Schwertleite (Die Walküre) Berkshire Eagle 8/23/23) and “Mezzo-soprano Ema Mitrović laid down a plush carpet of notes, performing Ulrica’s Aria from “Un Ballo.” The tessitura’s low end dropped into the contralto range where she voiced both authority and menace” (Benefit Concert for Ukraine OperaWire 3/21/22).  Ms. Mitrović performs music across different genres, having performed 20+ operatic roles thus far, a number of solo recitals, and has enjoyed being a cross-over jazz singer, often performing programs that include both classical and standard jazz repertoire to connect to a wider audience.

Credits include: Annabella (The Doctor & the Devils by Jason Overall, *World Premiere), La Frugola (Il Tabarro), Mrs. Ott (Susannah) w/ Marble City Opera; Carmen (Carmen) w/ Concert Opera Philadelphia; Madame de Croissy (Dialogues of the Carmelites), Zita (Gianni Schicchi) w/ Bronx Opera; Klytämnestra (Elektra), Schwertleite (Die Walküre), Erda (Siegfried & Das Rheingold) w/ TUNDI Production’s “Wagner in Vermont Festival”; Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus) w/ Hudson Opera Theatre & New Rochelle Opera; Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Annina (La Traviata), Siebel (Faust), Larina (Eugene Onegin), Alto Soloist (Handel’s Messiah) w/ Hudson Opera Theatre; Giovanna & Page + Maddalenda (c) (Rigoletto) w/ Druid City Opera;  Mrs. McLean (Susannah), Dritte Dame (Die Zauberflöte), Flora & Annina (La Traviata) w/ The Lighthouse Opera Co.; Mamma Lucia (Cavalleria Rusticana) w/ MidAtlantic Orchestra; Alto Soloist in Dvorak’s Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s Mass in Time of War & Lord Nelson Mass, Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion  w/ Central Jersey Choral Society; Soloist in Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 Lobgesang w/ New England Repertory Orchestra & Keene Chorale.

Ms. Mitrović is a proud first-generation Croatian-American, born and raised in New Jersey.

Roberta Prada – Vocal Director IBOC 

Roberta Prada, contralto, has sung in Europe, the UK, South and North America in leading roles in opera, concerts, and recitals. Roberta Prada graduated from Wellesley College, trained in Neurolinguistic Programming and the work of Dr. Tomatis, Audio-Psycho-Phonology (APP). Prada lives in New York and is president of Vocalimages, Inc., a 501 C (3) entity. She is the author, with Francis Keeping and Pierre Sollier, of the English adaptation of The Ear and The Voice by Alfred A. Tomatis, Scarecrow Press, 2004, and translator, with Francis Keeping, of the expanded English version of J. Faure’s The Voice and Singing. In 2008, she co-authored the first volume of Opera and its Characters, published by Vox Mentor. In 2009, launched the iMozart™. In 2010, an Audio/Visual training CD-ROM was launched in conjunction with Jozef Vervoort, director of the Atlantis Center in Belgium. She now teaches an amalgam with bel canto technique geared towards speakers, actors, and singers.  Her Tomatis practice is organized for gifted adults and includes accelerated foreign language study and excellence training. Roberta Prada is a member of NATS – The National Association of Teachers of Singing, AGMA – The American Guild of Musical Artists, and a board member of Icarus – The International Center for American Music.

We are bringing selected works from our composition courses to the IBOC Opera Nova Festival.

November 15 &16 – Saint John in the Village.

Videos from 2023 Opera Composition – The Soprano:

Course Plan

Actual discussion and deadlines may be adjusted depending on group needs and interests.

Wed September 11
Session 1:Discussion of the proposed workshop composition. Texture, Instrumentation, and Text.
Panorama of Contemporary Composition.
Multiculturalism. Expanding vocabulary.
A universe of possibilities, embracing classical, popular, and contemporary techniques.
Wed September 18
Session 2:The Mezzo Voice: Guest Speakers
Text choices: syllabic vocalese, original lyrics, adaptation of public domain, collaboration.
Composer as Poet. Composer and Librettist: the challenges of collaboration
Texture and timbre
Notation issues
Wed September 25
Session 3:Preparing a track: Tempo Map
Materials: Poly-Harmony
The cycle of alternating thirds, overlapping triads, chords generating scales. Mega Modes.
Scales of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 notes. Pitch Session, octave equivalence, or non-equivalence,
Tuning systems. Primordial consonances and practical levels of complexity and structuring.
Wed October 2
Session 4:Preparing a track: Instrumentation
Examine options: Digital orchestration, electronic textures, or live musicians in the studio recording.
Communication and Intelligibility: Accompaniment and Vocal Support
Anticipation and Surprise. Simplicity and Complexity, Repetition and Variation. The familiar and the unusual.
Monoculture, Polyculture, Transcultural.
Structuring long-lasting works: Planning and execution.
Creative freedom and coherent and integrated musical discourse.
Wed October 9
Session 5:Reading and discussion of the compositions. Score First Draft Delivery.
Form: From simple to complex.
Circular Modal, Binary, Ternary, Free (fantasy), Quaternary, Song forms, Stanza and Chorus, Rondo, Sonata.
Extending time: “From the string of pearls to the great arched structures”, the Matrioska-Sonata.
Structuring long-term works: Planning and execution, creative freedom, and related musical discourse.
Strategies from Mozart to Ligeti: From 2 to 12 voices.
Wed October 16
Session 6:Evaluation of instrumental tracks to be delivered to Mezzo
Studio Strategies
organization of musicians, microphone alignment
Excellence in creating the score and optimizing the time available with the musicians.
Wed October 23
Session 7:Final Review of Sheet Music for Mezzo
Reading and discussion of the compositions of the participants.
Evaluation of elements of notation and practicality of execution.
Evaluation of instrumental tracks
The Video Score: Optimization and production strategies
Wed October 30
Session 8:Feedback of Mezzo: last revisions and feedback on the process toward the recording
Chords are from Venus. Modes are from Mars
Pentachords, Polychords. Overlays, layers, and registers: tension and resolution.
Modal structures based on I Ching’s trigrams and hexagrams
Wed November 6
Session 9:Final score Delivered to Mezzo
The Elevator Pitch: why should I produce your opera?
Scene Structure
Discussion of Works from Students
Wed November 13
Session 10:Discussion of Works from Students
Scene Structures and Outlines.
Offline day: Live recording in the studio
Wed November 20
Session 11:Mixing of instrumental and vocal tracks
Video editing final feedback
The final discussion of results and evaluation
Wed November 27Thanksgiving Break
Wed December 4
Session 12:Online Release and Recital