Brazilian OperaBrazilian Symphonic MusicConcertcontemporary operaNew MusicNew SongsSongSongwriters

Opera Composition Workshop in Brazil

The International Brazilian Opera Institute is offering a contemporary opera composition course workshop in partnership with the Cultural Institute Casa Nobre at Guarda do Embaú, Santa Catarina.

Enjoy an immersive course with access to state-of-the-art grand pianos while waking up to the sound of whale songs—a unique experience in one of Brazil’s most beautiful natural environments. Join us in a tropical paradise and dive into your music.

IBOC-Nobre Ensemble: 

João MacDowell – professor 

Elen Ortiz – music director & conductor

Cristian Gonçalves – baritone & conductor

Sam Machado – piano

Paloma Pitaya – violin 

Bibiana Ferreira – violin

Alessandra Bassani – viola

Clara Lamônaca – cello

The new shapes of vocal music:

Composing for the contemporary opera scene.

You may still register for the Summer Workshop:

August 12-17, 2024 

Composition Immersion  – The Whale Songs

  • This is a special season in which whales come to mate in the Bay at Guarda do Embaú. This course is bolstered by a community of musicians eager to interact and experience new voices in composition. Composers will interact with local talent and develop new compositions. Selected composers will be included in the closing concert.

The classes will focus on:

  • Structural planning in opera and other long-form styles.
  • Characteristics of the voices in contemporary opera setting.
  • Polyharmonic and polycultural 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.

Fee:   U$ 2100.00 

Housing and breakfast included.

(Not included: Other meals and transport to and from Guarda do Embaú – Santa Catarina, Brazil)

Application Form

Application Deadline:  July 05, 2024

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.


International Applications are welcome.

Brazil Visa for short-term stays can be obtained online:

You will need to fly to Florianopolis Airport: FLN. From there, you will need a car (Uber at U$20 average) or a bus to Guarda do Embau.

Classes will be held in English and Portuguese. 

The course is for adults. Exceptional students aged ten and up will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Students under 18 must have parent or guardian authorization and be dropped off and picked up to class by a responsible adult.


(*Estudantes brasileiros e locais podem qualificar para bolsas.)


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



MacDowell, João: Polyharmony and Consonance – An Architectural Approach to Contemporary Large-scale Composition – WORK IN PROGRESS

Persichetti, Vincent: Twentieth-Century Harmony, Creative Aspects and Practice. W. W. Norton & Company INC. New York © 1961.

Partch, Harry. The Genesis of Music. 2nd edition. Da Capo press. New York, 1974

Ulehla, Ludmila. Contemporary Harmony. Advance Music. New York. 1995.

Tymoczko, Dmitri. A Geometry of Music: Harmony and Counterpoint in the Extended Common Practice (Oxford studies in music theory).  Oxford University Press, Inc. © 2011

João MacDowell – IBOC Artistic Director – I will be teaching the course.

“a new thinker in the genre” (Johanna Paulsson, Dagens Nyheter)

The Brazilian composer has a career that spans from punk to opera. Performances include programs with the Metropolitan Opera NY and the  New York Opera Alliance. João MacDowell grew up under the military dictatorship in Brazil in a family of artists and educators. As a child, he was in close contact with groundbreaking theater thinkers, such as Augusto Boal and José Celso Martinez Corrêa; this exposure culminated in the practice that he calls “Opera of the Oppressed.” João had his first Symphony premiered by the National Orchestra of Brasilia and is the author of five operas, including Tamanduá (Boston Metropolitan Opera Award), Plastic Flowers, and The Seventh Seal with libretto by Ingmar Bergman. Awarded twice with Ingmar Bergman Estate residencies, the closing act for the opening ceremony for the Bergman Centennial, Fårö 2018. The Seventh Seal opera concert premiered in Stockholm’s Modern Art Museum (Moderna) and Sao Paulo, with the Tatuí Conservatory. Since 2013, MacDowell has served as Artistic Director for the International Brazilian Opera Company. Other works include chamber, electronic, choral, soundtrack, and song.

Elen Ortiz – Casa Nobre music director and conductor.

With over a decade of experience in social projects, Ele Ortiz is a music educator and conductor. Under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Cláudio Antonio Esteves at UFSM, she served as assistant conductor from 2019 to 2022 in the UFSM Chamber Choir and also sang as an alto. She was the Choirs and Orchestras Coordinator at the Orquestrando Arte Association from 2015 to 2019. She has participated in numerous intensive conducting courses with conductors from different countries, including Roberto Tubaro (Spain), Linus Lerner (Brazil), Márcio Buzzato (Brazil), Lígia Amadio (Brazil), Hanz Petter (Germany), Vladimir Silva (Brazil), and Erick Starck (USA). She is part of the International Women Conductors Movement and currently leads the Orchestra at the Casa Nobre Institute.

Sam Machado – Pianist

Sam Machado, born in Aracaju-SE, commenced his musical journey at 8. He honed piano skills at the Sergipe Music Conservatory under Clese Noemia Mangueira (UFBA). Further, he enriched his expertise through Masterclasses with renowned professors like Carlos Yansen (UNICAMP), Simone Leitão, and Tadeu Duarte. As a special student at UFS in 2015, he studied under Prof. Dr. Eduardo Garcia (The University Of Arizona-USA). Later, Sam pursued a bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance at UDESC in 2017, mentored by Prof. Dr. Maria Bernardete Castelan Póvoas and Prof. Dr. Maurício Zamith, among others. Noteworthy for his chamber music and solo performances, Sam collaborates widely across genres, excelling as an accompanist and co-repeater. Currently, under the tutelage of Prof. Dr. Thaís Nicolau Lopes, he continues to refine his piano skills.

Cristian Gonçalves – Baritone & Conductor

Cristian Gonçalves, a versatile musician, has excelled as a conductor, singer, composer, and arranger. Notable achievements include conducting the IFSC symphony orchestra at the 2019 Young Soloists Concert and leading Polyphonia Khoros in the 2019 “Christmas of All Peoples” concert. He premiered Vinicius Lole’s “Christus Lux” oratorio in 2018, serving multiple roles. As a soloist, he’s shone in operas like “The Magic Flute” and “La Traviata” and participated in various concerts, notably with Father Ney Brasil and Camerata Antíqua de Curitiba. He conducts multiple choirs, educates through the Viva Música project, assists Polyphonia Khoros, and teaches vocal technique. Additionally, he directs rehearsals for “Não Precisa ser Forte” and has conducted several choirs. His training includes studying under renowned conductors like Gilberto Bittencourt and Mara Campos.

Paloma Pitaya – string quartet, violin

Brazilian violinist and composer Paloma Pitaya gained recognition for her musical achievements. She completed her technical course at the Osesp Music Academy (SP|2021-23), touring the United States with Osesp and performing at Carnegie Hall. Specializing in performance and chamber music, she attended the Galamian International Academy (ES|2018-19). Pitaya holds a bachelor’s degree in violin from the Federal University of Santa Maria (RS|2012-16). As a resident composer at the Fundación Antonio Gala para Jóvenes Creadores (ES|2020-21), she authored a book of 13 Brazilian caprices for solo violin titled “Caprichoso Brasil.” In 2023, she won the Professionals of Music Award for Best Instrumental Author and was a finalist for the TOCA Composer’s Award. Professionally, she has played in orchestras and chamber groups in Brazil and Germany. Currently residing in São Paulo, she is one of the 12 composers selected for Gabriela Ortiz’s Composition Studio at the OAcademy Conservatory.

2021 First Composition Workshop at Casa Nobre, Guarda do Embau, Brazil.
Casa Nobre Ensemble
Pousada da Guarda – This is where you will stay, across the street from the Casa Nobre Institute.

Check this playlist with works from previous IBOC Composition Workshops:

Sam Machado plays João MacDowell’s “Preludes and Fugues” at Casa Nobre, Guarda do Embau, Brazil: