Nguyen Thien DAO was born in Hanoï, Vietnam, in 1940.
He arrived in France in 1953, entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris in 1963. His decisive meeting with Olivier Messiaen in 1967, in whose class he received the 1st prize for composition, led him to discovering the path that would become his own. At first filled with images from his childhood and long meditations on nature, possessed by "celestial and wholly imaginary polyphony", and then Vietnamese and Chinese poetry, he sees himself as "heir to two civilizations; oriental and occidental". He tried to "work out a synthesis by constructing a music based on micro-intervals, sound colors, rhythmic structure and time duration.
He hopes to be seen as a creator of a "lyrical, passionate music of an epic character", constantly concerned with " demanding requirements of musical craft and form. " In 1969, he was discovered at the Festival de Royan with Tuyen Lua, for ensemble. His orchestral work, Koskom, was premiered at Radio-France in 1971, and in 1972, Ba Me Vietnam, for double-bass and twenty instruments, at the Festival de La Rochelle.
In 1974, he received the 1st Olivier Messiaen Prize in composition (Erasme Fondation of Holland). In 1978, his opera My Châu-Trong Thuy was premiered at the Opéra de Paris (Salle Favart). In 1984, he received the André Caplet Prize (Académie des Beaux-Arts) and his Concerto for piano and orchestra was premiered at the Rencontres de Metz.
In 1989, two works of his were premiered: his Symphonie pour pouvoir by the Orchestre National de France at the Thèâtre des Champs Elysèes, and his Concerto 1789 (for string sextet and orchestra), with the Orchestre National de Lille at the Palais des Congrès de Lille. In 1994, his opera-oratorio, Les enfants d’Izieu, was premiered at the Festival d’Avignon.
In 1995 et 1997, two works, with the composer conducting The National Orchestra of Vietnam, were premiered at the Hanoï Opera: Hoa Tâu and Khai Nhac respectively, as part of the gala evening of the 7th "Sommet de la Francophonie".
In 1998, Giao-Hoa Sinfonia was premiered at the Salle Olivier Messiaen of Radio France. The year 2000 saw the premiere of Song Hon at the Hanoï Opera in Vietnam with the Hanoï Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, and of Arco Vivo, for cello solo.
To welcome the XXIst century, his work, Kosmofonia (for full orchestra and choir), has been premiered in 2001 in Forbach. 2002 and 2003: premiere of Song Nhat Nguyen and of Song Nhac Truong Chi at the Hanoï Opera in Vietnam with the Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composerµ. Quatre Lyriques de ciel et de terre, a chamber opera is premiered in Paris in 2004. Suoi Lung May is premiered at the 1st Hue Music Festival (Vietnam) in 2006. 2007, premiere of Khoi Thap and So Day at the Hanoï Opera conducted by the composer. Premiere of Duo Vivo, tribute to Olivier Messiaen, at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 2008.