The Kennedy Center
Francesca Zambello

Francesca Zambello
Artistic Director

Internationally recognized director of opera and theater Francesca Zambello is the Artistic Director of Washington National Opera, a post she has held since 2012. She has directed many WNO productions, including Of Mice and Men (debut in 2001), Fidelio, Billy Budd, Porgy and Bess, Salome, Show Boat, The Force of Destiny, the world premiere children's opera The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me, Florencia in the Amazon, The Little Prince, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Dead Man Walking, Aida, and Candide. In the spring of 2016, she also directed WNO's first-ever complete Ring cycles, and brought the production to San Francisco Opera in 2018, both to great critical and public acclaim.

Since September 2010 she has also been the Artistic and General Director of The Glimmerglass Festival in Central New York. She served as the Artistic Advisor to the San Francisco Opera from 2005 to 2011 and as the Artistic Director of the Skylight Theater from 1987 to 1992, and as an adjunct professor at Yale University. Zambello’s American directing debut took place at the Houston Grand Opera with a production of Fidelio in 1984, and her European debut took place at Teatro la Fenice in Venice with Beatrice di Tenda in 1987.

A hallmark of Zambello’s creative leadership is collaborating with outstanding artists and designers and promoting emerging talent, while championing women and diversity among her artistic and production personnel. She takes a special interest in new music-theater works, innovative productions, and producing theater and opera for wider audiences. She has staged many new productions at major theaters, festivals, and opera houses in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

Inducted in 2018 as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Zambello’s honors and awards also include the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, the Russian Federation's medal for Service to Culture, the Palme d'Or in Germany, the Golden Mask in Russia, two Helpmann Awards in Australia, and the Medallion Society Award from San Francisco Opera for 30 years of artistic service. In London, she has also won three Olivier Awards from the Society of Theaters and two Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical and Best Opera.

An American who grew up in Europe, Zambello speaks French, Italian, German, and Russian. She attended Moscow University and Colgate University and began her career as an Assistant Director to the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.