Jonathan Dove’s music has filled opera houses with delighted audiences of all ages on five continents. He is one of the most performed living opera composers and few, if any, contemporary composers have so successfully or consistently explored the potential of opera to communicate, to create wonder and to enrich people’s lives.
Born in 1959 to architect parents, Dove’s early musical experience came from playing the piano, organ and viola. Later he studied composition with Robin Holloway at Cambridge and, after graduation, worked as a freelance accompanist, repetiteur, animateur and arranger. His early professional experience gave him a deep understanding of singers and the complex mechanics of the opera house. Opera and the voice have been the central priorities in Dove’s outputthroughout his subsequent career.
Starting with his breakthrough opera Flight, commissioned by Glyndebourne in 1998, Dove has gone on to write more than thirty operatic works including The Adventures of Pinocchio (2007), Mansfield Park(2011) and Marx in London (2018). Flight, the most successful modern comic opera, has had over thirty productions to date in Europe, the USA and Australia.His television opera When She Died… (2002) was seen by 2.5 million people worldwide. Dove’s innate understanding of the individual voice is exemplified in his large and varied choral and song output, and his confident optimism has made him the natural choice as the composer for big occasions. In 2010 A Song of Joys for chorus and orchestra opened the festivities at the Last Night of the Proms, and in 2016 an expanded version of Our Revels Now Are Ended premiered at the same occasion. In 2018 They will Rise commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey was premiered to commemorate the centenary of the Royal Air Force. Throughout his career Dove has made a serious commitment to community development through innovative musical projects. Tobias and the Angel, a 75-minute opera written in 1999, brings together children, community choirs, and professional singers and musicians in a vivid and moving retelling of the Book of Tobit. His 2012 opera Life is a Dream, written for Birmingham Opera Company, was performed by professionals and community choruses in a disused Birmingham warehouse.2015 brought the World Premiere of The Monster in the Maze, a community opera co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker and Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, premiered under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle in three separate translations and productions. The Monster in the Maze has since been performed around the world, translated further into Taiwanese, Portuguese, Swedish and Catalan, and received a BASCA British Composer Award in 2016’s ‘Amateur and Young Performers’ category.
Dove’s work for orchestra has included a Proms commission for the BBC Symphony Orchestra Gaia Theory (2014)which takes its inspiration from the ground-breaking writings of scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock. His work for children and family audiences Gaspard’s Foxtrot, based on the book by Zeb Soanes with illustrations by James Mayhew, was co-commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Three Choirs Festival Association, Docklands Sinfonia, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Royal Scottish National Orchestra and premiered in 2019. A film of the work, featuring the RSNO with Zeb Soanes alongside moving illustrations from the book, had already been seen by 104,000 children in 2022. A second Musical Tale, Gaspard’s Christmas, commissioned by the RSNO, premieres in 2022.In Exile (2021) for solo baritone, solo cello and orchestra, depicts a day in the life of an involuntary exile. Written for Simon Keenlyside and Raphael Wallfisch, it was commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as part of its centenary commission series.
Jonathan Dove won the 2008 Ivor Novello Award for classical music and was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen's 2019 Birthday Honours for services to music.