Dominican conductor and composer Darwin Aquino continues to raise international attention and to inspire audiences and artists all around the world with his charismatic energy. For the 2021-22 season, Darwin has been appointed as the new Music Director of the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra, selected as conductor finalist for the Music Director position with the Ashland Symphony Orchestra, in Ohio, and as Assistant Conductor for Opera Theater of St. Louis.
As guest conductor and composer, he has been invited to join the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, the Juilliard School in NYC, the Caribbean Lyric Festival, the Missouri River Arts Festival, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Heredia in Costa Rica, the Illinois Modern Ensemble, Chamber Project St. Louis, and the Latin American Music Festival in Venezuela.
Recently, Florida Grand Opera commissioned Darwin to translate into Spanish the Italian comic opera Il Matrimonio Segreto by Domenico Cimarosa, for their upcoming 2022-23 premier. Having recently conducted Vincenzo Bellini’s monumental opera Norma with Winter Opera STL, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch remarked: “Darwin had the orchestra sounding great from the first measures of the overture and maintained a good balance between stage and pit. He has a fine feel for the nuances of the bel canto style and knows to breathe with the singers”.
A sought-after conductor known for his “moving, absorbing and robust performances”, Darwin has enjoyed regular engagements around the world, including the Philharmonishes Staatsorchester Mainz, Saarländisches Staatsorchester in Germany, National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, ADCA Symphony Orchestra in New York, Filarmónica Boca del Rio in Mexico, Palm Beach Symphony Orchestra, Alfredo Saint Malo Festival Orchestra in Panama, FIU Symphony Orchestra in Miami, and the Orchestra of the Americas (OA), among others.
An opera conductor regarded for his “passionate and precise baton”, Darwin has received outstanding reviews and public praise for his interpretations of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Bizet’s Carmen, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, Donizetti’s Elisir D’Amore, Bizet’s Pearl Fishers, Menotti’s The Medium, Chabrier’s L’Etoile, among many others. He has served as the first Latin Music Director for Winter Opera St. Louis, Masterclass Coach for the Chicago Summer Opera and Guest Conductor for The Cleveland Opera. Early in his career Darwin was appointed Assistant Conductor at the Florida Grand Opera (Don Pasquale, Carmen, Norma, Barber of Seville) and Opera Naples (La Boheme).
As a composer, Darwin’s most celebrated orchestral composition, Espacio Ritual, had its European premiere by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France during the Festival Presences, resulting in glowing praise from La Musique au Jour le Jour: “Aquino has very well listened to the French composers, Boulez or Varese, developing in this piece a deeply personal language and an inventive mastery for writing to the orchestra”.
The Latin American Collegium of Composers invited Aquino as their youngest member for his outstanding achievements in composition. In the last couple of years, his new music has had exceptional recognition alongside many commissions and world premieres by: the Florida International University (Concerto for violin, strings & percussion), Ashland Symphony Orchestra (Lunga Pandemia), Chamber Project St. Louis (Redescubrimiento for 6 instruments), University of Michigan’s percussion studio (Aee Mama Si Ee), Women Hope Chorale (La Vida es Bella for female chorus, piano, violoncello and percussion), and the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra (Riccardo Variations).
As a passionate advocate of social change through classical music, Darwin worked closely for many years with Gustavo Dudamel in Venezuela and previously held posts as Artistic Director of El Sistema, Director of the National Conservatory of Music and Music Director of the National Youth Symphony Orchestra, in his homeland the Dominican Republic. Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu, founder of the world-known Venezuelan Sistema, referred to Darwin as “a great conductor, excellent composer and eminent violinist. A pioneer for classical music”.
Currently, he also serves as Conductor-in-Residence at Washington University and Music Director of the Gateway Festival Orchestra. In his home country, he has been the Music Director for the Música Sacra concert series since 2011. Recently, he was selected by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as Cover Conductor for maestro Leonard Slatkin.
Darwin’s principal conducting teachers were Grzegorz Nowak and Ramon Tebar, with additional studies and masterclasses from Benjamin Zander, Colin Metters, Jose Serebrier, Carlos Miguel Prieto, and James Judd. Aquino holds a Master’s in Music in Orchestral Conducting from the Florida International University, where he was the winner of the Graduate Music Award for his conducting of E. Chabrier’s opera L’Etoile.