Photo by Karen Pearson

Daron Hagen (b. 1961) was recognized in 2014 by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with an Academy Award citing his "outstanding artistic achievement and acknowledging the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice"—an extraordinary statement, as his effusively eclectic works blend with subversive fluency Renaissance polyphony and extended vocal techniques, 40s Americana and electro-acoustic soundscapes, ambient sound installations and opulent multi-media verismo operas, 60s folk rock and Weimar agitprop, sprawling Modernist sound mass works and exquisitely-wrought chamber works and concertos for traditional Japanese instruments. The citation goes on to characterize him as "a multi-faceted composer who does a first-rate job on anything concerning music—its creation, its performance, and its communicability. His remarkable and diverse music compositions include operas, choral works, symphonies, and chamber music. In addition, he is celebrated for his work as a conductor, artistic and stage director, and librettist.”

Hagen is currently developing the "post-genre multi-media performance happening" ORSON for the Fifth House Ensemble at the Chicago College of Performing Arts,  Afterwards, an evening-long cycle of songs for four singers and piano for the Brooklyn Art Song Society and Philadelphia's Lyric Fest, and 9/10, a site-specific encounter for six singers and pre-recorded electro-acoustic sounds supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship melding improvisation and pre-notated arias that unfolds over dinner in a restaurant in Little Italy the night before the destruction of the Twin Towers.

The mid-career recipient of commissions from the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, and over a dozen other major orchestras and opera companies, he has written more than 350 works for the concert stage, including 9 operas (A Woman in Morocco, Shining Brow, Amelia, Bandanna, Vera of Las Vegas), and the forthcoming Orson, which he will also design and direct; 14 concertos (for Gary Graffman, Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson), 5 symphonies (Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Oakland, Albany, Phoenix), 22 song cycles (Paul Sperry, Kings Singers, Ashley Putnam); and dozens of chamber, band, and choral works. Hagen is a frequent conductor, collaborative pianist, librettist, and stage director of his own theatrical works who has worked with Leonard Bernstein, Ken Cazan, Michael Christie, Lara Downes, JoAnn Falletta, Nathan Gunn, Kate Lindsey, Michael Morgan, Robert Orth, Gerard Schwarz, Leonard Slatkin, and Stephen Wadsworth, among others.

A Lifetime Member of the Corporation of Yaddo, a Trustee of the Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera, and Chair of Composition for the Wintergreen Festival Music Academy, he serves as a Distinguished Mentor for Composers Now, and has served as artistic director of the Seasons Music Festival, and as president of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation. Hagen made his debut as a stage director with Kentucky Opera and has directed productions at Symphony Space in New York City, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the McCarter Theater in Princeton (New York Stories, The Antient Concert, A Woman in Morocco). He writes regularly for the Huffington Post and other online journals.

Born in Wisconsin, Hagen studied composition with Ned Rorem at the Curtis Institute and David Diamond at the Juilliard School, then worked extensively as a copyist and editor for numerous concert composers and Broadway shows, including Elliot Carter, Virgil Thomson, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Disney. He taught for a decade at Bard College, and served on the faculties of the Curtis Institute, the Chicago College of Performing Arts, New York University, and the Princeton Atelier, among others, before turning his attention solely to teaching privately and creating. His music is recorded on Naxos, Albany, CRI, and Bridge. A Manhattanite for 28 years, he and his wife, composer Gilda Lyons, moved Upstate in 2011 to raise their sons. (April 2017)

  • Read a year-by-year chronology here,
  • Read and an in-depth biography here.
  • Download high-res headshots here.
Hagen’s music is dazzling ... exuberant, unsettling, and heroic.
— The New Yorker
Mr. Hagen’s music is highly original and gripping. ... restless, questioning music that never loses its heart.
— Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal
The ending of “Bandanna” is as devastating as anything in the history of opera.
— Henry Fogel, Fanfare Magazine
Hagen blends idioms ... with soaring melodies that send the characters looping off in arias of self-revelation.
— Times of London
Earnest and original (“Amelia,” Tommasini) ... you cannot deny the theatrical audacity of Hagen’s opera, which elicited many cheers from the packed house (“Vera of Las Vegas,” Tommasini) ... Mr. Hagen has a gift for the big tune, and he serves up some beauties ... (“Shining Brow,” Oestreich)
— New York Times
Daron Hagen is a composer born to write operas.
— John Von Rhein, Chicago Tribune