Adam Donen works in modern orchestral music, libretto and drama.
Recent major works include the The Bernhard Suite for string orchestra and piano, the song cycle Poems After Lorca, and Dorian (a libretto commissioned for Russian State Ballet). He has also released three albums of songs, performed across Europe, written and directed a sellout site specific puppet opera and lectured at venues including Tate Britain and Puppentheatrium Bremen.
After graduating from UCL with a first in English Literature, Donen spent a year touring the UK fronting an overly earnest and underly musical rock band until he was ‘discovered’ by Grammy-nominated producer Robert Harder (Brian Eno, Herbie Hancock), with whom he worked on three albums of songs – Immortality, Vampires and False Bay Echoes. Like Elgar and Schoenberg, an autodidact, Donen had studied classical orchestration obsessively since his teens, largely through the manuals of the Russian romantics. He developed this on his albums, writing his own ever-more-ornate accompaniments to his songs.
By his own description, he ‘graduated’ to serious music in 2010, with Requiem for Christopher Hitchens and Russell Hoban (co-written with The Cure’s Roger O’Donnell, who described him as ‘a unique and exceptional talent’). More recently, his work has been performed by major soloists including Russian piano virtuoso Anna Zassimova (who has added his Ballade to her repertoire) and legendary 4-octave singer Ernesto Tomasini, as well as by the world renowned Wurttemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn.
Donen’s next major work, Symphony to a Lost Generation, which premieres in London next Spring, is a modern gesamtkunstwerk fusing symphony orchestra, choir, drama, butoh dance and 3D holographics to create a new form of high art appropriate to our time: work that can be experienced and understood by a large audience, that addresses the weight of the past in the present and that pushes the boundaries of what music and visuals can do together. Three years in the making, it will be performed by the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic Choir, the New London Children’s Choir and soprano Yana Ivanilova as well as a cast of 250 actors and dancers.
Donen was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1985, and delivered his first poetry performance in Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison to ANC freedom fighters in 1990. He is currently Bloomsbury Composer-in-Residence, and divides his time between London and Berlin.