Nicolás Lell Benavides


Nicolás Lell Benavides’ (Ben-ah-VEE-des) music has been praised for finding “…a way to sketch complete characters in swift sure lines…” (Anne Midgette, Washington Post) and cooking up a “jaunty score [with] touches of cabaret, musical theater and Latin dance.” (Tim Smith, Opera News). He has received commissions from groups like The New York Philharmonic/The Juilliard School, Eighth Blackbird, New Century Chamber Orchestra with Daniel Hope, SFCM Orchestra with Edwin Outwater, West Edge Opera, Washington National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Music of Remembrance, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Fry Street Quartet, Friction Quartet and Khemia Ensemble. His music has received support from organizations such as the American Composers Forum, The Barlow Foundation, New Music USA, the Alice M. Ditson Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts.

He was a fellow at the Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab and the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, where he was part of the Composing Earth initiative. Benavides was the first ever Young Artist Composer in Residence at The Glimmerglass Festival and has been a fellow at the Del Mar International Composers Symposium. His music has been heard all over the United States, including as part of the California Festival with New Century Chamber Orchestra and The San Francisco Girls Chorus.

He premiered a new opera for Washington National Opera called Pepito with librettist Marella Martin Koch. He and Koch also premiered a new opera, Tres minutos, with Music of Remembrance in 2022 with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Benavides and Koch were selected as the recipients of West Edge Opera’s Aperture commission to develop an evening length opera about civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, which will premiere by WEO, San Diego Opera, The BroadStage and Opera Southwest in 2025. He is also developing an opera called Caravana de mujeres with librettist Laura Barati as part of MassOpera’s New Opera Workshop, which was a featured performance at Opera America’s New Works Forum.

Other recent projects include an upcoming album on Innova with Friction Quartet and mezzo-soprano Melinda Martinez Becker, a new dance piece called “On Trac|<” for The Glimmerglass Festival in collaboration with choreographer Amanda Castro, “Little Cloud” for Khemia Ensemble’s album Intersections, “Lek” for Fry Street Quartet and electronics, and “Cuates” for Lucia Lin and Shaw Pong Liu as part of the In Tandem series. 

Benavides has studied at Santa Clara University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

Academic degrees