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Venables, Philip

Philip Venables has been described as a “composer of ferocious dramatic instincts” and “an arrestingly original musical personality” by Alex Ross in The New Yorker and as “one of the finest composers around” by the Guardian. His output covers opera, music theatre, multimedia concert works, chamber music and song, an eclectic range of styles and influences, and themes often concerning social politics, violence, gender and storytelling.

Philip's most recent opera Denis & Katya (Opera Philadelphia, Music Theatre Wales, Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier), with director/dramatist Ted Huffman, won the 2019 Fedora Generali Prize for Opera. Critics have called it “an intimate, haunting triumph” (New York Times), “a monumental, dramatically shattering event” (Parterre Box), and “the most brilliantly original operatic work I’ve seen in a decade…a sensitive, subtle and deeply questioning meditation on youth, voyeurism, and the age of social media” (Musical America).

Philip's first opera, 4.48 Psychosis (Royal Opera, London), was the first ever permitted adaptation of any of british playwright Sarah Kane's work. The opera won the 2016 UK Theatre Award for Opera, the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Large-scale Composition and the 2017 British Composer Award for Stage Work, and was nominated for an Olivier Award and Sky Arts South Bank Award. The original production (dir. Ted Huffman) and subsequent ones in London (Royal Opera), New York City (Prototype Festival), Strasbourg (Opéra National du Rhin) and Dresden (Semperoper) received overwhelming praise: “A new brand of opera” (The Times) “rawly powerful and laceratingly honest” (The Telegraph); “A Gesamtkunstwerk of unbelievable intensity” (Klassikfavori); “he ambushes and refreshes an old art form.” (The Observer); “4.48 Psychosis is a remarkable achievement” (The Guardian); “sledgehammer power” (The New Yorker); “opening our eyes to what musical theatre is capable of” (The Times Literary Supplement); “one of the most exhilarating operas in years” (The Spectator).

Philip collaborates extensively in cross-media work, including with artist Douglas Gordon on Bound to Hurt (HAU Theater Berlin, Kampnagel Hamburg, Theater Basel), with drag/performance artist David Hoyle on Illusions (London Sinfonietta, UK New Music Biennial), The Gender Agenda (London Sinfonietta, Remix Ensemble, Asko Schoenberg and Ensemble Modern) and sound installation Canal Street (Manchester International Festival/Manchester Camerata) and with violinist Pekka Kuusisto on Venables plays Bartók (BBC Proms/BBC Symphony Orchestra). His debut album Below the Belt was released on NMC in 2018: “unmissable... music of forensic clarity and visceral force – but also great tenderness and generosity” (BBC Music Magazine).

Philip was a MacDowell Fellow with director Ted Huffman in 2017 and in the Opera Creation Workshop at Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2019. He studied at Cambridge University and then with Philip Cashian and David Sawer at the Royal Academy of Music, which elected him Associate (ARAM) in 2016 for his significant contribution to composition. Philip completed his doctorate in 2016 while Doctoral Composer in Residence at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Royal Opera House with the Royal Opera House with Julian Philips and James Weeks. He is a director of the agency Bright Ivy Ltd. His work is published exclusively by Ricordi.

Photo: Harald Hoffmann