A user's guide to opera—Matthew Aucoin, "the most promising operatic talent in a generation" (The New York Times Magazine), describes the creation of his groundbreaking new work, Eurydice, and shares his reflections on the past, present, and future of opera
From its beginning, opera has been an impossible art. Its first practitioners, in seventeenth-century Florence, set themselves the unreachable goal of reproducing the glory of ancient Greek drama, which no one can be sure was sung in the first place. Its greatest artists have strived to capture more-than-human ideas and emotions in their compositions. Matthew Aucoin, a rising star of the opera world, posits that it is this impossibility, at the very core of the form, that gives opera its exceptional power. The strength required to sing and play its parts, the spectacle of the production, the creation of a whole new world—in pursuit of impossible goals, opera’s greatness comes into being.
The Impossible Art tells the story of Aucoin’s new opera, Eurydice, from its inception to its premiere on the Metropolitan Opera’s iconic stage. Aucoin has crafted an artist’s notebook that traces the creation and development of the production, and he punctuates his entries with reflections on the art of opera—its history, its miracles, and its enduring relevance. The Impossible Art opens the theater door and invites the reader into the extraordinary, synesthetic world of opera.
About the Author
Matthew Aucoin is an American composer, conductor, writer, and pianist, and a MacArthur Fellow. He has worked as a composer and conductor with the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, American Repertory Theater, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Music Academy of the West. He was the Los Angeles Opera’s Artist in Residence from 2016 to 2020, and is a cofounder of the American Modern Opera Company.
"Triple threat Matthew Aucoin: conductor, librettist, and composer, and now writer and thought leader. The Impossible Art sheds new light on the musicology, history, and personalities that bring opera to life, with a poet’s appreciation of the importance of the libretto, often overlooked. Personal, witty, and well-researched, it will have you rushing to recordings of works you know well, and ones you have never heard, to listen with Aucoin’s provocative insights in mind." —Renée Fleming
"Matthew Aucoin's The Impossible Art shines with unforced generosity; his generation’s perceptiveness, honesty, and frank address; and the personally felt urgency of moving history forward. Writing with uncanny wisdom and a modesty that is equal parts nerdy and heroic, here is a musician who is as insightful about Auden as about Stravinsky and who blows your mind with psychedelic and synesthetic descriptions of Birtwistle. This is a book infused with first love, and first vows of clear-eyed, lifelong devotion." —Peter Sellars
"I could not put this book down. To read such cogent insights from such an important composer is pure joy from beginning to end. I thought I knew a fair amount about opera, but I learned a lot. If you are new to opera, this book will draw you in—if you are already among the converted, this book will open your eyes to new vistas about this greatest of arts." —Patrick Summers, Artistic & Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera