The Creation of Hamlet

ca. 1600
William Shakespeare writes The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The precise date of the play’s first performance is unknown but has been estimated to fall between 1599 and 1601. The play will be published for the first time in 1603.

Brett Dean is born in Brisbane, Australia. He begins studying the violin at age eight before switching to the viola. He graduates from the Queensland Conservatorium in 1982.

Dean joins the viola section of the Berlin Philharmonic, where he performs for 15 years under the direction of conductors Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle. Rattle will also be an important champion of his work as a composer.

Dean begins composing. Much of his early work is in experimental film and radio projects and improvisatory works, although he also writes orchestral compositions and chamber music. Political, literary, and visual sources all provide frequent inspiration for his compositions.

The Australian director Neil Armfield stages a production of Hamlet at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre. Richard Roxburg plays Hamlet, Geoffrey Rush plays Horatio, and Cate Blanchett later joins the production as Ophelia. Brett Dean sees the production.

Dean’s concerto for clarinet and orchestra, Ariel’s Music, wins an award from the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers, helping him gain international recognition.

Deciding to pursue a career as a freelance artist and composer, Dean returns to Australia.

Dean’s orchestral piece Moments of Bliss wins Best Composition by an Australian Composer at the APRA Music Awards in Australia. Its performance by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is nominated for Best Performance of an Australian Composition.

Dean wins the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing.

Dean composes his first opera, Bliss. Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Carey, the opera premieres on March 12 at the Sydney Opera House in a production directed by Neil Armfield.

Dean’s second opera, Hamlet, premieres at the Glyndebourne Festival in East Sussex, England, on June 11.