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Daron Hagen
Daron Aric Hagen has written works of an extremely wide stylistic scope for an array of established and emerging soloists, ensembles, and organizations including pianists Gary Graffman and Joel Fan, mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, baritones Nathan Gunn and Robert Orth, violinists Jaime Laredo and Michael Ludwig, cellists Sharon Robinson and Sara Sant’Ambrogio, the Kings Singers, Seattle Opera, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Swan (UK), Opera Theater of Ireland, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing), and Royal Albert Hall.

Because of the broad audience appeal and practicality of his nine operas, new productions and revivals occur frequently with international companies (Seattle Opera, Opera Ireland), regionals (Sarasota Opera, Kentucky Opera, Madison Opera, Tulsa Opera, Skylight Music Theater), independents (Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, West Edge Opera, Center for Contemporary Opera, Opera Vista), colleges (UK Opera, Moores Opera Center, Roosevelt University, Butler Opera Center, La Sierra College, USC), and high schools (Pittsburgh HS for the Performing Arts).

Hagen’s operas, symphonic works, choral, and chamber works are widely recorded on various labels, including Shining Brow and Complete Piano Trios (Naxos), Double Concerto (Bridge), Bandanna, Qualities of Light (Albany), Vera of Las Vegas (CRI / New World), Silent Night, Songs, Night Again, Songs of Madness & Sorrow (Arsis), Violin Concerto (Belle Fleur), Koto Concerto (MSR), Wedding Dances (Klavier).

He has recorded dozens of his over 250 published art songs as a collaborative pianist, conducted recordings of his operas, served as artistic director (Seasons Music Festival), and as chair of composition studies (Wintergreen Summer Music Academy) for music festivals, and served on academic faculties (Bard College, the Curtis Institute, Princeton Atelier). He has served as president of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, as a board member (CRI, Joy in Singing), as a trustee (Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera), as composer in residence (Long Beach Symphony, CA), artist in residence (University of Pittsburgh, UNLV, Roosevelt University, Baylor University, Miami University), and is one of two Lifetime Members of the Corporation of Yaddo.

He made his debut as a stage director with Kentucky Opera (New York Stories) and will direct his latest opera for the company (A Woman in Morocco) this spring. He has co-written the libretti for two of his operas, and his articles are published regularly in the Huffington Post.

Hagen is the recipient of a 2014 American Academy of Arts and Letters award that recognizes "outstanding artistic achievement and acknowledges the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice." In 2012, he was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship. His work has also received the Kennedy Center Friedheim Prize, the Camargo Residency, two Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowships, Barlow, Bearns, ASCAP and BMI prizes, and the Seattle Opera Chairman's Award.

Born in Wisconsin in 1961, Hagen graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Curtis Institute of Music and of the Juilliard School. He lives in Upstate New York with his wife (composer / vocalist) Gilda Lyons and their two sons, Atticus and Seamus.

Entries by Daron Hagen

Too Late to Take the Fifth

(4) Comments | Posted October 6, 2015 | 3:09 PM

I'm guilty. I freely admit it. I still believe in orchestras and composing symphonies. As I write this, I'm flying to Phoenix to hear Michael Christie conduct a young soprano named Victoria Vargas and the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra in the debut of my Symphony No. 5.

What in the world...

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What Became of Rosebud?

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2015 | 12:36 PM

2015-09-14-1442253172-6352851-ScreenShot20150914at1.51.03PM.pngDespite the fact that three act structures are out of fashion these days, my second act--my current career as a composer and my life as a man and father--clearly represents my mother's third, and final act.

The morning in 1976 after she dumped...

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My Rosebud

(0) Comments | Posted September 1, 2015 | 10:24 AM


I'm writing a libretto about Orson Welles right now. Searching, as so many have, for Welles' Rosebud has made me think about my own. So I wrote to a trusted friend and asked him what he thinks has inspired my life's work. "Loss,"...

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Stands a Boxer

(1) Comments | Posted August 6, 2015 | 4:48 PM

2015-08-06-1438874763-8147373-LauraJacksonDaronHagen.pngAs conductor Laura Jackson conducted the Wintergreen Music Festival Orchestra the other night in the "Three Sky Interludes" from Amelia, my 2010 opera for the Seattle Opera, there were several times when she cued the players with what shall have been for a boxer...

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Against Two-Tap Opera

(0) Comments | Posted May 14, 2015 | 2:39 PM


The dazzling young opera singer portraying Lizzy, the eponymous writer in my opera "A Woman in Morocco," which I am in Louisville at the Actors' Theatre directing for Kentucky Opera, sat down at the portable Remington, fed paper between the rollers, looked up,...

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That High G

(0) Comments | Posted May 8, 2015 | 4:43 PM

The other night in Louisville, in rehearsal at Kentucky Opera, staging my new verismo opera, "A Woman in Morocco," (the opera opens May 15th at the Victor Jory Theater in Louisville) just before the running of the Kentucky Derby, I realized just how much opera singers and thoroughbred racehorses have...

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Bernstein's Seemingly Simple Song

(2) Comments | Posted March 17, 2015 | 12:52 PM

In 1971, the year he became the first music critic to receive the Pulitzer Prize, Harold Schoenberg wrote of the premiere of Leonard Bernstein's MASS: "So this MASS is with it -- this week? But what about next year?" Bernstein, though lavishly honored during his lifetime by those who admired...

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Nicaragua: Barb of Sorrow

(0) Comments | Posted March 9, 2015 | 1:45 PM

Exactly ten years ago, clinging to a rope in the belfry of the Basílica Menor de San Sebastián, Diriamba, Nicaragua, I looked down to see the Christ hanging above the altar, hands and feet nailed with barbs of sorrow to the Holy Rood. Flying...
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Fourteen Questions, Answered Off the Cuff

(0) Comments | Posted March 5, 2015 | 1:13 PM

I had fifteen minutes to check email before waking, dressing, feeding, brushing, hugging, and sending the children off, to school. I poured a cup of coffee and fired up a browser. One email caught my eye: a young singer from Juilliard had been tasked with asking a living composer "fourteen...

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Torke in Tahiti

(0) Comments | Posted November 14, 2014 | 2:31 PM

"Maybe music is a refuge for me: it's not for me to say, but people might find more of a generosity of spirit in the music, than they say they are missing in my person. Who knows? The music is like, 'Here's a phrase. You know what? I'm not ashamed;...

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Confessions of a Teamster Monk

(0) Comments | Posted November 13, 2014 | 9:49 AM

The Gospels were copied by hand. Every scroll in the Library of Alexandria was. The knowledge that survived the Dark Ages did so in manuscripts that were hand copied, mainly by monks. Came the revolution in the 1450s: moveable type (placed by hand) and the printing press. Gutenberg's Bible changed...

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Shut up and Sing

(0) Comments | Posted November 7, 2014 | 4:00 PM

A singer singing is naked. The singer is the matador to the listener's bull. A pianist can still depress the keys, a violinist still stop the strings, even a wind player can still count on the instrument to respond if they are ill. But a singer's body is her instrument...

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Farewell to Little Pete's

(0) Comments | Posted October 31, 2014 | 10:55 AM

A wrecking ball is set to fly through Little Pete's. Progress commands that a 300-room hotel must take the place of the parking ramp at 219 South 17th Street in whose corner nestles one of Center City Philadelphia's treasures. We're not talking Bookbinder's, chock full of tourists and overpriced, or...

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Don't Miss the Opera in the Pit

(1) Comments | Posted September 3, 2014 | 12:04 PM

I am occasionally asked, on panels, and in master classes, why it is important for an opera composer to write well for the orchestra, do their own orchestrations, and use it for more than mere accompaniment to what's going on twelve feet above.

I reply that an understanding of the...

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Saluting Speight Through Opera

(0) Comments | Posted August 7, 2014 | 1:14 PM

The curtain is falling on Speight Jenkins' 30-year tenure as General Director of the Seattle Opera. He is not just one of the giants of the opera world -- Evans Mirages, artistic director of Cincinnati Opera, has called him "one of the finest opera impresarios on the planet,"...

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Onegin: The Perfect Libretto

(0) Comments | Posted July 30, 2014 | 4:13 PM

"Dear Maestro," dazzled, seven-year-old-Daron wrote to conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn, then music director of the Milwaukee Symphony. I bit the end of my pencil, wracked my brain for the perfect word: "Your performance last week was simply superfluous!" Decades later, over lunch, I asked Kenneth if he remembered the boy who...

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The Great Dream: An American Opera

(0) Comments | Posted July 18, 2014 | 12:26 PM

"If you live long enough you can write four operas," wrote composer and music commentator Virgil Thomson.

Philip Glass has penned at least 17; the fecund imagination of John Adams has so far brought forth two operas, a numbers musical, and an oratorio. Dominick Argento's 14 operas are a model...

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The Milwaukee Symphony and Me

(0) Comments | Posted December 22, 2013 | 10:59 PM

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, according to its recent press release, is "in danger of running out of money and faces possible extinction if additional pledges cannot be secured to fund the MSO's much more modest, prudent budget and business plan for the future." In fact, nearing the end of 2013,...

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Proust's Popcorn: The Oriental Landmark Theater

(0) Comments | Posted December 6, 2013 | 5:54 PM

2013-12-06-oriental_interior.jpgLast week I was in Milwaukee to attend production meetings at the Skylight Music Theater for my latest show. It was my first visit to my hometown in nearly a decade. A late night stroll down memory lane took me...

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Yaddo: Transforming Sorrow into Joy

(0) Comments | Posted June 5, 2012 | 1:35 PM

Yaddo, in Saratoga Springs, New York, is more than America's most prestigious artist retreat: it is a testament to one couple's determination to transubstantiate loss into works of art.

When I was born, still mourning a brother who survived but a few days, my parents gave me...

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