As a boy, he studied piano and pursued extensive studies in classical and jazz saxophone at the Conservatoire du Québec. As a teenager, he composed original music for the avant-garde bands with which he performed. He then went on to pursue vocal studies at McGill University, followed by graduate studies in Opera at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich, Germany, with legendary mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender. Donovan was also a student of renowned Baritone Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, who is acknowledged as the 20th century’s greatest master of lieder. As Fischer-Dieskau’s hand-picked private student at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, Donovan was immersed in the historic continuum of Romantic art song interpretation.
Donovan has enjoyed a successful career as a performer of opera, oratorio, art song, chamber music, and new music in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, France and the U.S. He has appeared in leading roles with the Bern State Opera, Stuttgart State Opera, Munich State Opera Studio Ensemble, Opera Vancouver and the Edmonton Opera. He has been a soloist with the Quebec Symphony, the Winnipeg Symphony and Symphony Nova-Scotia as well as with many concert and new music presenters, including Numus (Waterloo), Queen of Puddings (Toronto), BradyWorks (Montreal), Array Music (Toronto), New Music Concerts (Toronto) and the Nouvel Ensemble Modern in Montreal.
Donovan is also in demand as an educator—he is currently on faculty at Acadia University and the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts, and has also been on the voice faculties of Dalhousie University, Wilfrid-Laurier University, York University and Randolph Academy. He has given master classes at York University, Brandon University, the Glenn Gould School, Chadron State College (Nebraska) and Concordia University. He is also an active adjudicator and consultant for music schools and festivals.
Donovan’s PhD in musicology, which was nominated for the York University Thesis Award, is an inquiry into the deep-ecological significance of the poetic settings of Franz Schubert. Donovan is also co-founder, co artistic director of Long Reach Opera Workshop, a Toronto-based opera training program for singer-actors.
In 2016 Donovan premiered his compositional project Schubertnow: The Journey Outward, a re-visitation of Franz Schubert’s seminal song cycle Winterreise. Donovan’s composition Ode to a Nightingale, a song cycle for voice, piano, flute and bassoon was premiered in 2018. In 2020, Donovan composed a trio for flute, cello and piano, which will be premiered in 2021/22. In 2020/21 Donovan is currently working on a chamber opera titled Memories Beyond the Grave, based on the memoirs and poetry of François-René de Chateaubriand.
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