Joby Talbot


Composing Myself: Joby Talbot


Joby Talbot was born in London in 1971. He studied composition privately with Brian Elias and at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, before completing a Master of Music (Composition) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under Simon Bainbridge.

Highlights from among Talbot’s diverse catalogue include the narrative ballets Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (2011) and The Winter's Tale (2014), both collaborations with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon for The Royal Ballet and National Ballet of Canada that have since entered the repertory of companies worldwide; the choral Path of Miracles (2005), a 60-minute a cappella journey along the Camino de Santiago commissioned by Nigel Short’s Tenebrae and performed regularly by international ensembles; arrangements of songs by Detroit rock duo The White Stripes alongside Talbot's original works for choreographer Wayne McGregor’s unparalleled Chroma (The Royal Ballet, 2006);  the trumpet concerto Desolation Wilderness (2006) for Alison Balsom and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra); Worlds, Stars, Systems, Infinity (2012) as an additional movement to Holst's The Planets for the Philharmonia Orchestra’s interactive digital installation, Universe of Sound under Esa-Pekka Salonen; Meniscus (2013) to mark World Environment Day at China's National Centre for the Performing Arts. 

Genus Quartet (2013) for Los Angeles' acclaimed Calder Quartet, premiered as part of the Barbican's weekend of new music curated by Nico Muhly; and the hugely popular animated feature Sing! and Sing2! (Garth Jennings, 2016, 2021) for Illumination Entertainment (Despicable MeMinions). For the BBC Proms, Talbot has written The Wishing Tree (The King's Singers, 2002); Sneaker Wave (BBC National Orchestra of Wales, 2004) and an arrangement of Purcell's Chacony in G Minor (BBC Symphony Orchestra, 2011) and Ink, Dark, Moon (Miloš Karadaglić and BBC Symphony Orchestra 2018).

Talbot's considerable experience writing for the screen includes BBC Two's cult classic comedy series The League of Gentlemen and feature films The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Son of Rambow (2007) Tracy Beaker for BBC, Sing! and Sing!2 with director Garth Jennings; Franklyn (Gerald McMorrow, 2008) and Hunky Dory (Marc Evans, 2011), for which he developed orchestral arrangements of pop songs with young musicians, alongside writing the largely electronic score; and Closed Circuit (John Crowley, 2013). Talbot has twice been commissioned by the British Film Institute to re-score silent films The Lodger (1999) and The Dying Swan (2002) and his score to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 Vampyr was presented in 2018 for LA Opera’s Off Grand season at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles.

No stranger to writing for the voice, Talbot has composed several small and large-scale choral and vocal works. The Wishing Tree for the King’s Singers (2002); Path of Miracles, for Tenebrae 2005; Ave Verum Corpus for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (2006) and A Sheen of Dew on Flowers, for Independent Opera (2019). Future choral projects an evening length work for the US based choir Conspirare (2024).  Everest, Talbot’s first foray into opera, was given its premiere in 2015 by The Dallas Opera. With a libretto by Gene Scheer (Moby DickCold Mountain) the opera relates the tragic events of the 1996 ascent in which several climbers died. Following its success, The Dallas Opera has commissioned a second opera, another collaboration with Gene Scheer and based on the true story The Diving Bell and the Butterfly which premiered in 2023.

Chroma with choreographer Wayne McGregor for the Royal Ballet was Talbot’s first major work for the genre.  It was followed by two further collaborations with McGregor, Genus (Paris Opera Ballet, 2007) and Entity (Random Dance, 2008).  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon was the first full-length narrative score commissioned by The Royal Ballet in 20 years, and the work has gone on to be universally hailed as a modern classic. Besides The Winter's Tale, for which he was awarded the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse for composition in 2015, Talbot's further collaborations with Christopher Wheeldon include Tide Harmonic (2009), a work for large ensemble that began life as the score for Eau by choreographer Carolyn Carlson and CCN Roubaix; and Fool's Paradise (2007), adapted from Talbot's 2002 score for silent film The Dying Swan and Like Water for Chocolate, for the Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre premiered in June 2022.

To finish 2023, Talbot composed the score for 'Wonka' alongside Neil Hannon who wrote the original songs. Based on the extraordinary, iconic character at the center of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, “Wonka” tells the wondrous story of how a young chocolate-maker, armed with nothing but a hatful of dreams, manages to change the world, one delectable bite at a time.

In 2024, the celebrated partnership between Joby Talbot and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has resulted in 5 contrasting and individual works for the stage. Fool’s ParadiseAlice’s Adventures in WonderlandThe Winter’s TaleTide Harmonic and Like Water for Chocolate. Three of which are full length ballets commissioned by The Royal Ballet Covent Garden in partnership with The National Ballet of Canada and American Ballet Theatre (Like Water for Chocolate).