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. Darwin’s constant presence in multiples stages is seen as a bright light for diversity and inclusion in classical music.
For the 2021-22 season, Darwin has been appointed as Music Director of the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra, Assistant & Cover Conductor for Opera Theater of St. Louis’s Festival Season (The Magic Flute, Harvey Milk, Awakenings, Center Stage); and will have his conducting debut at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in July 2022. At the same time, he has been selected as conductor finalist for the Music Director position with both the Ashland Symphony Orchestra in Ohio and the Missouri Symphony (MOSY) in Columbia.
As guest conductor and composer, Darwin has been recently invited to join the Caribbean Lyric Festival, the Illinois Modern Ensemble at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the Juilliard School in NYC, the Missouri River Arts Festival, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Heredia in Costa Rica, Chamber Project St. Louis, and the Latin American Music Festival in Venezuela.
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.
In the opera field, 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”.
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, Guest Lecturer 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 few 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), and Women Hope Chorale (La Vida es Bella for female chorus, piano, violoncello, and percussion).
Currently, he also serves as Conductor-in-Residence at Washington University and Music Director of the Gateway Festival Orchestra. Lately, he has been selected by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Youth Orchestra as cover conductor for Leonard Slatkin, Patrick Summers, Gemma New and Stephanie Childress.
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”.