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Biography

Simon Wills is an award-winning, prolific composer with an  international reputation for opera, ballet, theatrical and symphonic music. He has had three full-scale operas produced in recent years and commissions from major orchestras and choirs across Europe. Though he often chooses contentious subjects for his theatrical work, he has received critical and popular acclaim for his distinctive blend of seriousness and accessibility.

He first attracted attention with A Day Close to Summer, a surrealist theatre piece produced at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden in 2003. It was followed the following year by a theatrical setting of Theodor Fontane's poem Die Brück am Tay written for the Balthasar-Neumann Chor and his first opera commission, a revolutionary and critically acclaimed adaptation of Conrad's novella The Secret Agent which was premiered at the 2006 Feldkirch Festival in Austria with the composer conducting. The theme was terrorism, the main character was a mime and the work ends the audience being suicide bombed. The same year A Song for Unseen Singer received its premiere at the Cheltenham International Festival and a chamber piece ...without words... was played for the first time in London.

He then produced two major works for large orchestra; The Island, a commission from the Tönhalleorchester Zürich, was premiered by them in 2009 and subsequently broadcast by Suisse Romande. In 2013 the Ulster Orchestra gave the piece its UK premiere. The following year his ambitious Dante Symphony, Malebolge, was toured by the Münchner Philharmoniker and broadcast by Bayerische Rundfunk. After completing his tone poem Corpus Christi and Caliban's Boogie for the St Magnus Festival in Orkney, Simon then embarked upon his largest operatic work to date, The Stolen Smells,a large-scale piece commissioned by Norddeutsche Rundfunk and jointly produced by them and the Luzerner Theater.  Simon conducted the premiere in Luzern in January 2012; after its Swiss run the work transferred to Kampnagel in Hamburg.  Du Bist Da, Du Bist Fort, an experimental chamber opera for children, was produced at Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus in November the same year and a year later won the Junge Öhren prize for music theatre in Leipzig.  

NDR opened its 2013 season at the Laiszshalle in Hamburg with  Simon's PG Wodehouse-inspired Empress of Blandings; a Charleston for Orchestra and repeated the piece at the Beethovenfest in Bonn.  The performance was televised - along with the composer's exposition of Wodehouse's virtues to a German audience and the BBC Symphony Orchestra subsequently gave the work its  first UK performance and broadcast.  In December 2013 the Balthasar-Neumann-Chor toured Hoping It Might be So, a secular meditation on Christmas; this was followed by a very different work, an orchestral tone poem Bolondrón whose first performance the composer conducted in Havana at the start of 2014.

Shortly after his return from Cuba Simon completed Concerto in Autumn for violin and orchestra and Katz!,a set of symphonic variations for actor and orchestra. Since then has been occupied with two large commissions. His narrative ballet for large orchestra, Anita Berber, will be performed for the first time by the Thüringer Ballet at the Gera theatre on 16 June 2016 and after a short run there will transfer to the Opera House in Altenburg, Earlier the same month, the composer will return to Düsseldorf for the opening of a music-theatre piece 1816, Das Jahre Ohne Sommer at the Schumannfest. 2016 will also see premieres of Nordlicht, a choral setting of verses by the German expressionist Theodor Däubler and a large-scale chamber work for mixed ensemble, A Man Who Suddenly Fell over.

In his twenties Simon was a trombone player in the London Symphony Orchestra and he occasionally lets off steam by writing what he calls a "brass diversion". These are mostly trivial but his Prelude and Fugue upon Quem Pastores Laudavere is a Christmas favourite in Germany - and last year it was played for the first time by the Berlin Philharmonic.

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