OffWestEnd talks to Philip Hagemann, producer of two operas for Pegasus Opera Co, presented at Royal Academy of Music 10-12 Sept

Composer Philip Hagemann’s most recent production in association with Pegasus Opera Company was the successful double bill Shaw Goes Wilde at the Susie Sainsbury Theatre, Royal Academy of Music in 2019. And Ruth and The Dark Lady of The Sonnets at the Actors Church, Covent Garden in 2018. Hagemann has published 75 choral compositions including a delightful Christmas novelty, Fruitcake, written with Penny Leka Knapp, which has sold over 200,000 copies and featured in the USA television series Nip/Tuck.  Hagemann has composed ten one-act and two full-length operas, two of which have won competitions from the National Opera Association in the USA. Hagemann is only the second composer to transform Shaw plays into operas. Hagemann Rosenthal Associates have produced a number of plays on Broadway and in the West End, most recently the Broadway production of Network starring Bryan Cranston.

What first attracted you to the opera/theatre/performing arts?

As a child, I was attracted to movies and the performing arts.  I think I got the theatre bug  at the age of seven when  I was cast as Humpty Dumpty in a school play.  I went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, which is just north of Chicago, where I would see as much as I could afford as a student. One of my highlights was Bernard Shaw ‘s Don Juan in Hell with Agnes Moorehead, Charles Boyer, Charles Laughton, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. I think this was the beginning of my love for the works of Shaw.

If you could pick any one person or opera company to work with on your next project, who/which would it be?

Pegasus Opera, of course!

What is your opinion of Off West End theatre, in general?

As I’m based in the USA, when I’m in London I mostly attend West End theatre but now things have opened up I’d like to see new shows. Any recommendations?

What was the most inspiring performance you have ever seen? Why?

Die Frau Ohne Schatten by Richard Strauss with the San Francisco Opera Company in 1980.  The cast principals were three of the greatest opera singers to grace the stage — Birgit Nilsson; Leonie Rysanek; and James King.  It was total perfection.

What piece of work are you the most proud of?

I cannot really answer this as there too many that I love.  That is like asking a parent which child they love the most.

What makes a really good character?

A richly complex person with both good and flawed attributes. To me, one of the greatest characters in opera is The Marschallin in the opera Der Rosenkavalier as she has both attributes.

Are there any performers you would like to work with?
My favorite — Alison Buchanan. Alison has sung with me several times when I was the conductor of the Rockland County Choral Society and now she has taken part in each of the last two performances of my operas  with the Pegasus Opera Company and will be singing in The Prodigal September  Don’t miss her.

What Opera do you wish you’d composed?

The Magic Flute by Mozart. It has rich characters, fabulous arias, and a powerful universal story.

Can you tell our readers about what you’re doing now/next?

I have in mind another opera that I hope to begin working on soon and staging in London, maybe off West End!


Passion, Poison and Petrification and The Prodigal Son will be staged at Susie Sainsbury Theatre, Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Road, London NW1 5HT on Friday 10 September at 7:30pm, Saturday 11 September, 7:30pm & Sunday 12 September 2021, 2.30pm Tickets are £35, £25, Concessions £15