Composer-conductor Matthew Aucoin is tapped to join L.A. Opera as an artist in residence
At the ripe old age of 25, composer-conductor Matthew Aucoin has received accolades for his innovative operatic and orchestral compositions, inviting comparisons in some circles to a young Leonard Bernstein and even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Starting this fall, the New York-based Aucoin will be waving his baton in a westward direction when he takes on the newly created role of artist in residence at Los Angeles Opera. It is the first appointment of its kind for the company, which is expected to make the announcement on Thursday.
L.A. Opera said the three-year post, created specially for Aucoin, calls for him to conduct some L.A. Opera performances and write a full-scale opera for its main stage.
The new post is one of a few engagements that will bring Aucoin to Southern California in the months ahead. He is a Dudamel conducting fellow with the L.A. Philharmonic; he is composing a piece for the L.A. Chamber Orchestra set to debut this year; and he will hold an opera conducting residency this summer at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.
Speaking by phone from Bari, Italy, where he is in rehearsals for a production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” Aucoin downplayed his youth appeal, describing himself as just “a working composer in my 20s. I don’t feel particularly super young.”
“This fall, I composed nonstop,” he said. “And after four months of staying at home wrestling with a blank page, there is nothing more I want to do than conduct Mozart. It’s so different. It feels like it balances things.”
His appointment at L.A. Opera came after the company’s president and CEO, Christopher Koelsch, caught a performance last year of Aucoin’s “Crossing,” from American Repertory Theatre in Massachusetts. The piece is inspired by Walt Whitman’s experiences visiting wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
“What I’m attracted to is the force of his intellect, and depth and breadth of his interests,” said Koelsch in a separate interview. “I wanted to create an environment where he could make a leap forward in his craft.”
L.A. Opera hasn’t said if the artist in residence position will continue with another composer after Aucoin’s three years are up.
“We’ll see what happens,” Koelsch said.
Speaking from Paris, where he is conducting a series of concerts, music director James Conlon described L.A. Opera’s new artist in residence position as an “experiment,” and said that Aucoin is the “ideal person for the job.”
What I’m attracted to is the force of [Matthew Aucoin’s] intellect, and depth and breadth of his interests.
L.A. Opera CEO Christopher Koelsch
“A lot of companies have artists in residence and they’re required to do various things. Matthew can actually do those various things,” he said.
The composer is expected to collaborate with general director Placido Domingo, who is nearly five decades older than Aucoin, and Conlon during his appointment.
For the 2016-17 season, which has not yet been announced, Aucoin will conduct the company premiere of a 20th century opera by a major American composer. The following season, he is scheduled to lead two productions, including one of his own operas.
The new piece that he will write for L.A. Opera is set to debut in the 2018-19 season.
Aucoin grew up in suburban Boston and began his piano studies at age 6. “That’s not young for classical music,” he said.
His father is a longtime journalist at the Boston Globe, currently serving as a theater critic. His mother works in the technology field for Cisco.
“I didn’t have the child prodigy childhood,” Aucoin recalled. “My parents are very sane people — the opposite of stage or tiger parents.”
Los Angeles Times photographers document the year in arts and culture.(Los Angeles Times)
When the Mariinsky Ballet performed “Cinderella” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Oct. 8, even the wondrous Diana Vishneva as Cinderella couldn’t bring unity to the movement, but she danced with flawless, fearless authority. Read more >>(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins leaves a rehearsal of his play “Appropriate,” opening Oct. 4 at the Mark Taper Forum, to eat first with a reporter, then later with his agent and some unspecified Hollywood people, who presumably hope to lure him away from the field and city where he has experienced meteoric success in the last five years. Read more >>(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Kerstin Anderson takes charge of Maria von Trapp with a spirit so joyful, a physicality so lithe and coltish, and a soprano so flawlessly soaring that only Frau Schraeder, Capt. Von Trapp’s jilted fiancée (Teri Hansen), could possibly resist her charm. Read the Oct. 1 review >>(Los Angeles Times)
Soprano Abigail Fischer performs Oct. 7 in the opera “Songs from the Uproar” at REDCAT in Los Angeles.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Moisés Kaufman’s muscular revival of “Bent,” which played at the Mark Taper Forum, opening on July 26, renders what many had written off as a parochial drama about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany into a gripping tale of love, courage and identity. Read review >>(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Malaviki Sarukkai performing at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on July 19, 2015. Sarukkai is the best-known exponent of South Indian classical dance.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Bramwell Tovey conducts the L.A. Phil with pianist Garrick Ohlsson in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Hollywood Bowl on July 14, 2015.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Argentine dancer Herman Cornejo performs in the West Coast premiere of “Tango y Yo” as part of the Latin portion of BalletNow.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Jake Shears plays Greta in Martin Sherman’s play “Bent” at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles through Aug. 23, 2015.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dancers rehearse a one-night-only performance choregraphed by Raiford Rogers, one of L.A.'s most-noted choreographers. This year the dance will be to a new original score by Czech composer Zbynek Mateju.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley in Los Angeles on July 9, 2015.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Mia Sinclair Jenness, left, Mabel Tyler and Gabby Gutierrez alternate playing the title role in the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre. The three are shown during a day at Santa Monica Pier on June 16, 2015.(Christina House / For The Times)
American Contemporary Ballet Company members Zsolt Banki and Cleo Magill perform a dance routine originally done by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This performance was presented as part of “Music + Dance: L.A.” on Friday, June 19, 2015.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Miguel, a Grammy-winning guitarist, producer, singer and lyricist, is photographed in San Pedro on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. His new album “Wildheart,” explores L.A.'s “weird mix of hope and desperation.”(Christina House / For The Times)
Los Angeles-born artist Mark Bradford is photographed in front of “The Next Hot Line.” This piece is part of his show “Scorched Earth,” installed at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, June 11, 2015.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The Los Angeles Opera concluded its season with “The Marriage of Figaro,” with Roberto Tagliavini as Figaro and Pretty Yende as Susanna, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
“Trinket,” a monumental installation by Newark-born, Chicago-based artist William Pope.L, features an American flag that is 16 feet tall and 45 feet long. The work is on display at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA through June 28.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Alex Knox, from left, Carolyn Ratteray, Lynn Milgrim and Paige Lindsey White in “Pygmalion” in spring 2015 at the Pasadena Playhouse.(Mariah Tauger / For The Times)
On March 17, Google celebrated the addition of more than 5,000 images to its Google Street Art project with a launch party at the Container Yard in downtown Los Angeles.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Ric Salinas, left, Herbert Siguenza and Richard Montoya, of the three-man Latino theater group Culture Clash, brought their “Chavez Ravine: An L.A. Revival” to the Kirk Douglas Theatre to mark the group’s 30th anniversary. The play ran from Feb. 4 through March 1.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
He began composing around the same time he began studying music.
“I was fascinated with making pieces up,” he said. “I was the annoying composer kid for a couple of years, for sure.”
After an adolescent detour through jazz and rock music, Aucoin decided to focus his energy on opera. He studied at Harvard and the Juilliard School, and he quickly began landing commissions and conducting gigs. He lives in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York, near Columbia University.
He is writing a piece for the Metropolitan Opera, where he was once an assistant conductor. He has also written for Carnegie Hall and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
At Harvard, the musician studied literature and is one of the rare composers who writes his own librettos.
His appointment to L.A. Opera is the latest in the trend of young maestros landing artistic positions at major companies.
Conductors including Gustavo Dudamel, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Lionel Bringuier rose to international prominence in their early-to-mid 20s. Koelsch expressed hope that Aucoin will spur more interest in opera among young people.
Last year the L.A. Phil named Yuval Sharon to the post of artist-collaborator. Sharon, an opera director who heads the avant-garde group the Industry, had worked at L.A. Opera on its “Ring” cycle productions.
Aucoin said that he would jump at the opportunity to conduct operas as varied as Alban Berg’s “Lulu,” Beethoven’s “Fidelio” and the works of Thomas Ades.
He said he was attracted to L.A. Opera in part because of the relative youth of the company. It will mark its 30th anniversary this year.
“It doesn’t have a huge tradition of, ‘This is how we do things and we can’t change,’” said Aucoin.
“My dream has always been to be to create new music and perform it alongside music from across history.”
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.