Jonathan Dove

Born 1959

Jonathan Dove



Flight was Dove’s first opera. It was commissioned and premiered by the Glyndebourne Opera in 1998, with follow-up performances in 1999 and 2005.Flight was Dove’s answer to General Director Anthony Whitworth-Jones’ request for ‘a Marriage of Figarofor the 1990s’. Dove nailed his first opera, securing worldwide performances and appreciation. To date, Flight has been performed nearly 100 times.

The critic Richard Morrison from The Times wrote, ‘It [Flight] can be summed up in one word: charm. Dove writes music that is tuneful, tonal and tangy. And it is sensationally orchestrated. In short. It’s instantly beguiling’. More praise came from critic Tom Sutcliffe ofThe Evening Standard, who wrote, ‘Flight is that rarest thing, a popular new comic opera…Dove’s music flies, the opera is fun and people are going to love it’.

Following the success of Flight came the community opera in one act, Tobias and the Angel(1999). This 75-minute masterpiece was commissioned by the Almeida Opera and the St Matthew’s Church in Perry Beeches, Birmingham. The premiere was given at Christ Church in London in July 1999. Unique in this opera is the collaboration required by the community. The opera brings together not only community choirs and professional singers, but also children and musicians. Tobias and the Angelretells the Book of Tobit.

Later works that also involve the community include Life is a Dream (2012) and The Monster in the Maze (2015).The former was written for the Birmingham Opera Company and performed in a disused chemical works warehouse in Birmingham by professionals and amateurs alike. Fiona Maddocks from The Observer described the music as ‘burblingly melodic, with some impassioned arias and big-hearted, music theatre-style lusty choruses’. The latter was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker and the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Three separate productions were made, all conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

Dove’s other operas include Un Vecchio Modo di Pagare I Nuovi Debiti (2006), Racconti di Speranza e Desiderio (2006), Swanhunter (2009), Mansfield Park (2011), L’Altra Euridice (2001), La Dama ed il Pulitore di Damasco (2003), The Adventures of Pinocchio (2007) and The Day After (2015).

The British composer Jonathan Dove is a rarity among composers today.  Dove has written more than 20 operas and has been described as the most successful British opera composer since Benjamin Britten. His music has been performed to enthusiastic audiences on all five continents.

Jonathan Dove was born on 18 July 1959 in London, United Kingdom to architect parents. His love for music developed early and included the piano, organ and viola. He studied composition at the University of Cambridge with Robin Holloway. After graduation, Dove was able to support himself by working as a freelance accompanist, repetiteur, animateur and arranger. These early professional experiences helped him gain much insight into the wonderous world of opera. He became fascinated by the voice and the opera house during his work. Additionally, he came to understand these elements in depth. As such, much of Dove’s output is vocal.

Dove’s earliest stage works include Pig for solo voices and ensemble (1992) Greedfor solo voices, piano and strings (1993), L’Augellino Belverde for solo voices and orchestra (1994),Siren Song for solo voices and ensemble (1994) and the three-act operaFlight (1998).

The story behind Greed is quite interesting, as it is one of seven works written for the ENO Contemporary Opera Studio as part of a programme based on the seven deadly sins. The first performance was given in the summer of 1993 in the Great Hall of Lincoln’s Inn in London.

Especially noteworthy in this list of operas is The Adventures of Pinocchio, w hich was premiered by Opera North at Christmas 2007. This is one of few contemporary opera to be successful as a ‘full-length symphonically-conceived entertainment for a family audience’.

Gramophone magazine wrote, ‘Not since Benjamin Britten has a British composer succeeded in writing operas which communicate with such clarity and coherence to their audience as those by Jonathan Dove’.

Fiona Maddocks of The Observer muses about the reason behind Dove’s success, writing, ‘he understands the marriage of theatre and music. He knows how to rouse passions and raise smiles. Tunes flow in abundance, and for him, creating a mood, capturing a feeling for an instant, are second nature’.

Outside of the theatre, Dove has also had much success as a choral and song composer. The carolThe Three Kings was commissioned for the renowned Nine Lessons and Carol Service at King’s College, in Cambridge. Dove’sSongs of Joys for chorus and orchestra (2010) also reached a large audience as it was used during the opening for the Last Night of the Proms. Other prominent choral works that have become a part of the standard choral repertory worldwide include hisMissa Brevis, Wells Canticles and The Passing of the Year.

Dove has also written instrumental works, though these are greatly informed by the drama of opera. His trombone concerto,Stargazer, was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, which premiered the work together with Michael Tilson Thomas and trombonist Ian Bousfield. His flute concerto,The Magic Flute Dances, ‘imagines the life of Mozart’s eponymous instrument once the opera has ended’.

Dove has earned a number of prestigious awards throughout his career including the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music in 2008.