Now best known for his monumental holographic drama Symphony to a Lost Generation, multidisciplinary artist Adam Donen works with visuals, sound, words and technology.
He was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and delivered his first poetry performance in Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison to ANC freedom fighters in 1990. He moved to the United Kingdom at 18 and a day, reading English Literature at UCL, during which time he fronted an assortment of rock bands and directed and acted in works by Beckett, Jarry and Ionesco. He released the EP ‘The Daydreams of Youth’ with Alexandria Quartet before forming ‘Adam Donen and the Drought’, with whom he recorded the album ‘As Our Parents Slowly Turn to Clay’, his first collaboration with producer Robert Harder (Brian Eno, David Byrne) with whom he has worked to this day.
Encouraged by Harder to pursue orchestration, he wrote, arranged and recorded the solo albums “Immortality” and “Vampires”, classically tinged works in the traditions of Leonard Cohen and Scott Walker, released on the Songs & Whispers / Cargo labels. He moved to Berlin and toured extensively.
In the years that followed, he wrote, directed and staged the site-specific opera Jokasta (in the chapel ruins of London’s Abney Park Cemetery) and the farce Europa (in London’s Bedford Square) while also writing libretti for ballet and opera. He began a series of classical collaborations with The Cure’s Roger O’ Donnell at this time, the first of which, Requiem, premiered in London’s Shoreditch Church St. Leonards.
The Bernhard Suite, his first major classical work (for string orchestra and piano, inspired by Austrian novelist and playwright Thomas Bernhard), was performed by the Wurttemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn in 2013, conducted by Ruben Gazarian. Other major works from this period include his Ballade No. 1 and the song cycle Poems After Lorca, both of which premiered at London’s Cadogan Hall, performed respectively by Russian soloist Anna Zassimova and Italian stage legend Ernesto Tomasini (who would later play a large dramatic role in Symphony to a Lost Generation).
His Symphony to a Lost Generation is the world’s first touring stage performance without a single live element, using holograms to fuse dance, drama, symphony and modern technology to create a 3-dimensional experience and storytelling form which draws on the technical possibilities of projection and film, but roots itself in the artistic tradition of the symphony and of classical stage forms. The work features an 80-minute symphonic work composed by Donen and performed by the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic Choir, New London Children Choir and soprano Yana Ivanilova, conducted by Martynas Staskus. Holographic performers include ballet superstars Sergei Polunin and Natalia Osipova and butoh legend Minako Seki.
Donen lectures regularly on the intersections between artforms, between politics and art and between art and technology. He has given talks / appeared on panels at the Tate Britain, Tate Modern, RADA, Hamburger Bahnhof gallery (Berlin) and Theatrium Bremen among a litany of others.
His next announced work is a holographic drama set in the last day before Richard Nixon’s impeachment, produced by 12th Battalion Productions.
He divides his time between Germany, the United Kingdom and South Africa.