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Seán Doran (born 1960) is an artistic director working in the international arts world.
He was educated at St Columb's College and the University of East Anglia (BA, Music). After commencing a career as a clarinettist and conductor of a music theatre company in London, of which Sir Simon Rattle was Patron (1985–90), Doran was appointed to directorships of four major international arts festivals (1991–2003), including artistic director and chief executive of the UK Year of Literature 1995 (Wales), the world's largest ever literature festival; artistic director of the Belfast Festival at Queen's, Ireland's largest multi-arts festival (1997 & 1998); and festival director of the Perth International Arts Festival, Australia's largest multi-arts festival (2000–2003).
At the age of 42, Doran was appointed artistic director and chief executive of English National Opera (from 2003), the first Irishman ever to lead one of England's national arts companies. Today he leads his own company, Insideworld Imagine.
In 2002, Doran was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government for his directorship of the Perth Festival. In 2001, he became an Australian citizen alongside his Irish citizenship. He is married to the opera singer Ruby Philogene and lives in both London and Perth, Australia.
Doran commissioned 51 sculptures from Turner Prize-winning artist Antony Gormley for a salt lake in the Australian outback. He staged the Merce Cunningham Dance Company on an Australian beach to an audience of 4,000 and he invited the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to be figurehead of the world's largest literature festival in Wales.
At English National Opera, he commissioned the film director Anthony Minghella's opera debut, Madam Butterfly. The Sunday Telegraph described Madam Butterfly as "The most beautiful show of the year in operatic London". It subsequently opened the 2006/7 New York Metropolitan Opera season, the first time that the company opened a season with another company's work.
Two of Doran's final inspirations at ENO were to pair Deborah Warner and Ian Bostridge in Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice and to invite Improbable theatre to make their opera debut with the composer Philip Glass (Satyagraha, 2007). Death in Venice became the second most popular Britten production in ENO's history. Satyagraha is the most popular contemporary work in ENO's history, selling over 17,000 tickets. Both productions were outstanding artistic and critical successes.
In more popular mode, Doran presented Bono of U2 in his first live on stage Conversation (with The Guardian's Robin Denselow in 1995) and opened the literature component of his inaugural Belfast Festival with the Australian icons Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue (1997).
It was Doran's idea to grass London's Trafalgar Square, Glyndebourne-style, in preparation for its first ever opera staging in 2004. His most daring and successful audience development idea of all may be taking English National Opera to the Glastonbury Festival in June 2004 when over 50,000 popular music fans responded with glee to Act 3 of Richard Wagner's opera The Valkyrie.