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. “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 “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 calls him “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, April 2019) “takes him from his haunted childhood 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 an ongoing commitment to develop and produce Hagen-directed premieres of his operas—9/10 (April 2020), The Deputy (April 2021) and beyond. Other recent highlights include his own productions of A Woman in Morocco for Kentucky Opera, and his musical 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.
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. He served as artistic director and chair of faculty for the Seasons Music Festival (2005-13), 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, and then worked privately with Lukas Foss and Leonard Bernstein. During the 90s, he worked as a copyist and editor for numerous concert composers and Broadway shows, including Elliot Carter, Virgil Thomson, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Disney; he also 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 now divides his time between composing, directing, and writing, co-chairs the composition program at the Wintergreen Music Festival, and serves as a member of the Artist Faculty at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.
Hagen’s music is recorded on Sony Classical, Naxos, Albany, CRI, Arsis, Klavier, Affetto, Sierra Classical, Bridge, and other labels. Scott Levine represents him as a stage director; and his music is published and / or licensed by Peermusic Classical, Burning Sled, Carl Fischer, Schott, and E.C. Schirmer. A Manhattanite for 28 years, he and his wife, composer Gilda Lyons, moved Upstate in 2011 to raise their sons.