Critically-acclaimed composer, operatic polymath, and writer Daron Hagen (b. 1961, Milwaukee, WI) is the creator of five symphonies, a dozen concertos, 13 operas, reams of chamber music and more than 350 art songs. Described as a “composer born to write operas” (Chicago Tribune) whose music is “dazzling, unsettling, exuberant, and heroic” (The New Yorker), “Hagen’s music represents a considerable artistic achievement of uncompromising seriousness” (Times Literary Supplement). His “theatrical audacity,” and “gift for big, sweeping tunes” (New York Times) underpin work that that “is both highly original and gripping; restless, questioning music that never loses its heart.” (Opera Now Magazine). Opera News describes his opera Amelia as “one of the 20 best operas of the 21st century;” NATS Journal of Singing describes Hagen as “the finest American composer of vocal music in his generation.” “To say that Daron Hagen is a remarkable musician is to underrate him. Daron is music,” wrote Ned Rorem in Opera News. His “ruthlessly honest and beautifully written” memoir, Duet With the Past (McFarland, spring 2019) “takes him from his haunted childhood in Wisconsin to the upper echelons of musical life in New York and Europe” (Tim Page).
In fall 2018 Hagen wrote the score, story, libretto, filmed and edited three ninety-minute, simultaneously projected films, and directed the premiere of his Orson Welles-inspired multi-media opera Orson Rehearsed at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago featuring his own New Mercury Collective and the Fifth House Ensemble, produced by the Chicago College of the Performing Arts as part of a multi-year project that will include Hagen-directed premieres of several new operas—9/10 (April 2020), The Deputy (April 2021) and a third opera TBD (April 2022). Other recent highlights include his own productions of A Woman in Morocco for Kentucky Opera, and I Hear America Singing for the Skylight Music Theater, as well as the premiere of his Symphony No. 5 for the Phoenix Symphony and new piano trios for the Horszowski and Prometheus Trios, among others.
Hagen is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Academy Award (2015) and the Charles Ives Fellowship (1983) from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the Guggenheim Prize; the Kennedy Center Friedheim Prize; the Columbia University Bearns Prize; the ASCAP-Nissim Prize, and both the ASCAP Samuel Barber and Irving Berlin Scholarships; two Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Residencies; the Camargo Foundation Residency; the Barlow Endowment Prize & Commission: the Gelin Tanglewood Fellowship; and development awards from ASCAP, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mellon Foundation, the Readers Digest Fund, and Opera America.
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 13 operas (Seattle Opera, Princeton Atelier, Madison Opera, Sarasota Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Festival of Pittsburgh, Skylight Music Theater); 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, and a former Trustee of the Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera, 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 Studebaker Theater in Chicago, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the McCarter Theater in Princeton (New York Stories, The Antient Concert, A Woman in Morocco).
Born in Wisconsin, Hagen studied composition with Ned Rorem at the Curtis Institute and David Diamond at the Juilliard School, worked privately with Lukas Foss and Leonard Bernstein, and 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, New York University, and the Princeton Atelier, among others. He is currently chair of the composition program at the Wintergreen Music Festival and a member of the Artist Faculty at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. His music is recorded on Sony Classical, 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.
He is managed by Scott Levine as a stage director; and his music is published and / or licensed by Peermusic Classical, Burning Sled, Carl Fischer, and E.C. Schirmer.