Seán Doran – Curator/Artistic Director
Seán Doran is a former Artistic Director & Chief Executive of the English National Opera (2003-2006). He was the first Irishman to lead one of England’s national arts companies. It was his idea to take opera to Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage with a 100 piece orchestra & 9 singers for Wagner’s Valkyrie (introduced by John Peel on live television) and also his idea to grass Trafalgar Square for its first opera. His executive leadership secured £5m in sponsorship for ENO from SKY and his artistic legacy resulted in securing all eight best opera nominations at the 2006 London Olivier Awards. At ENO he commissioned film director Anthony Minghella’s first opera (Madam Butterfly) and it was his idea to bring together the composer Philip Glass and director Phelim McDermott resulting in their Satyagraha, both operas subsequently staged at the Metropolitan Opera New York.
In the past decade, Seán Doran co-curated with his long time artistic partner, Liam Browne, Liverpool’s Sgt. Pepper at 50 Festival (2017) delivering thirteen stand-out world premiere events to the 13 iconic album tracks (The Times accorded his Mark Morris Pepperland dance commission as 2017 Show of the Year). In Ireland, he founded the world’s first multi-arts festivals celebrating Irish writers Nobel Laureate Samuel Beckett (Happy Days), Brian Friel (Lughnasa FrielFest) and Oscar Wilde (A Wilde Weekend by Lough Ernest).
As Artistic Director, Seán Doran curated both the largest and longest running multi-arts festivals in Ireland (Belfast, 1997 & 1998) and Australia (Perth, 2000-2003) and the largest ever literature festival staged in the world, the UK Year of Literature & Writing 1995. He opened his 1997 Belfast Festival with Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue and curated first ever visits to Ireland of the likes of Merce Cunningham, Robert Wilson, Wooster Group, Trisha Brown, Bill Viola, Laurie Anderson and Romeo Castellucci. He commissioned the largest ever landscape sculptural installation in Australia, Antony Gormley’s 51 statues Inside Australia, now Western Australia’s premier cultural tourism destination. In 1995 He invited former US President Jimmy Carter as Honorary Patron for the world’s largest literature festival alongside Patrons Paul Simon, Bono, Bjork, Nadine Gordimor, Jane Campion, Salman Rushdie, Saul Bellow, E L Doctorow and Seamus Heaney.
Seán Doran hails from Derry, Northern Ireland. He started out as an Irish traditional musician winning the Ulster Championship at age 14. He studied classical music in England at the University of East Anglia where his first conducting and curatorial experiences were Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale and Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. He co-founded a music theatre company in London, with the conductor Simon Rattle as its Patron. He co-authored the first Rough Guide to Ireland (1988), freelance reviewed for the Times and Independent but first began professional paid work straw-carting with a shepherd in Kent!
In 2001, the Australian Government awarded Seán Doran its Centenary Medal and in 2017 Ulster University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts. He now lives in London with his wife Ruby Philogene, an opera singer and Professor of Voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He has one son Lughan Doran who lives in Perth, Western Australia.