articles / pop culture

What “Rigoletto” Says About Verdi’s Career Evolution

LA Opera’s “Rigoletto” | Photos by Ken Howard/LA Opera

Hit play below to listen to our Arts Alive feature on LA Opera artist in residence, Matthew Aucoin.
What “Rigoletto” Says About Verdi’s Career Evolution

Verdi’s opera Rigoletto has opened to raves at LA Opera. On the podium in the pit for this production is the young conductor and composer who is LA Opera’s artist in residence, Matthew Aucoin. Aucoin is just 28 years old, but he’s been composing since he was four and conducting for almost as long. He says Giuseppe Verdi was not only a master composer, but also really good at understanding his audience and knowing what they’d like while also growing the art form of opera.

“Verdi was very canny. He was very smart. He said this scandalous thing about the box office receipts being the only true measure of artistic quality. So, he wasn’t a provocateur to the most extreme degree. He didn’t want to lose his audience. He wasn’t saying, ‘Screw you.’”

Some composers do say that while scoffing at anyone who manages to sell tickets.

Aucoin says, “The course of Verdi’s career is evolution, not revolution. He knows how far he can push the envelope without losing the audience. Rigoletto is a thunderbolt: it’s a new and more dynamic form. But, he didn’t throw his lineage out the window. There are half-a-dozen unforgettable arias, there’s memorable choral writing, there’s the kind of punchy, dark-hued orchestral coloring that he’d already been known for. So, Rigoletto felt fresh [to audiences in 1851] but it is part of a long trajectory.”

Aucoin says his favorite thing about Verdi is that each of his operas builds on the previous one.

“He’s one of the only artists in any genre that I can think of who just gets better and better until he’s in his early 80s. You know, those early operas? I love them, but they are crude! He’s painting with a hammer—and it’s a sledgehammer. But he just gets more and more refined and more and more sophisticated and more daring. Some composers get stodgy as they get older. Verdi just kept pushing.”

LA Opera artist in residence Matthew Aucoin is conducting LA Opera’s current run of Rigoletto, on stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through June 3rd. For tickets and information, visit laopera.org

Written by:
Brian Lauritzen
Brian Lauritzen
Published on 10.01.2018

MORE LIKE THIS

What Happens When You Mix Beethoven and Kanye West?

What Happens When You Mix Beethoven and Kanye West?

"Yeethoven II, a unique concert blending Beethoven's classical music with Kanye West's hip-hop, is set to premiere on December 14. The project is led by composer Johan and conductor Yuga Cohler."

pop culture
12/12/2017
What If, Instead of Playing an Instrument, You Wore Your Instrument?

What If, Instead of Playing an Instrument, You Wore Your Instrument?

Claire Chase and Pauchi Sasaki perform in Speaker Dresses, self-contained audio systems with over 100 speakers, at LA Phil Green Umbrella concert.

pop culture
10/01/2018
Elizabeth Blumenstock on What Makes the Baroque Music Festival Corona Del Mar Different

Elizabeth Blumenstock on What Makes the Baroque Music Festival Corona Del Mar Different

The 39th Baroque Music Festival Corona Del Mar, led by violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, offers a unique blend of music, beautiful locations, and community spirit.

pop culture
06/21/2019
Inside Dillon Chitto’s New Play About a Teenaged Bingo Caller

Inside Dillon Chitto’s New Play About a Teenaged Bingo Caller

"Bingo Hall," a new play by Dillon Chitto, explores the dilemma of a teen bingo caller deciding between staying in his community or going to college. Opens March 9th at The Autry.

pop culture
10/01/2018
A Movie About the Plight of Afghani Women… For Kids

A Movie About the Plight of Afghani Women… For Kids

Explore the making of "The Breadwinner," a unique family film about a girl in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Director Nora Twomey discusses the film's themes and animation style.

pop culture
10/01/2018
What’s the Great American Opera?

What’s the Great American Opera?

LA Opera's production of "Candide" by Leonard Bernstein is discussed by music director James Conlon, highlighting Bernstein's unique universality and vision for American music.

pop culture
10/01/2018