The Kennedy Center

Timothy O'Leary


Timothy O'Leary began his tenure as General Director of Washington National Opera in July 2018. In his role, Mr. O'Leary is responsible for leading the WNO staff and collaborating with WNO's acclaimed Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, and the company's Board of Trustees to achieve Washington National Opera's goals for artistic excellence, community impact, and financial strength.

The WNO is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Mr. O'Leary's role also includes an active collaboration with Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter and the Center's senior leadership team to fulfill the Center's mission to engage and expand local and national audiences, specifically the greater Washington, D.C. community, and to serve the international arts community. Mr. O'Leary also currently serves as Chairman of the Board of OPERA America, the national service organization for opera. He joined the board of OPERA America in 2011 and was previously its Treasurer. 

Prior to joining WNO, Mr. O'Leary served for 10 years as General Director for Opera Theater of Saint Louis. Under his direction, OTSL earned acclaim for innovative programming, sustained growth in new and diverse audiences, wide-ranging community engagement projects, and financial growth. During Mr. O'Leary's tenure, the OTSL endowment increased by 111%, from $16.5 million to nearly $35 million, while the company also achieved new records for annual fundraising, event fundraising, corporate sponsorship, and acquisition of new donors.

During the same period, OTSL created an Innovation Capital Fund to support the launch of its New Works, Bold Voices commissioning program, a cycle of world-premiere American operas that embrace diverse influences and tell stories of the modern era. Creators commissioned through New Works, Bold Voices have included Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer, Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek, Jack Perla and Rajiv Joseph, and Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang.

Mr. O'Leary's tenure in St. Louis also brought recognition for growth in diverse Generation X and Millennial audiences through the creation of OTSL's Engagement and Inclusion Task Force and a Young Friends program, which quadrupled in subscribership during his leadership. OTSL's community engagement work ranged from a collaboration with civic leaders to establish an annual interfaith September 11th concert to a multi-partner concert to raise scholarship funds for students in North St. Louis following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. For its work in building new audiences, serving the St. Louis community, and expanding the operatic repertoire, OTSL was recognized through major grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Wallace Foundation, and Mr. O'Leary received the St. Louis Business Journal "Innovation Award," the Norman A. Stack Community Relations Award from the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council, an honorary doctorate from Eden Theological Seminary, as well as a designation as a "St. Louis Superhero" by Metro Theater Company.

Mr. O'Leary's training includes an apprenticeship with San Francisco Opera's Merola Program, graduate studies in Theater Management at Columbia University, a degree in English from Dartmouth College, and an internship with Lincoln Center Festival at the start of his career. Prior to his appointment as OTSL General Director, O'Leary was part of the management team at New York City Opera under General and Artistic Director Paul Kellogg. As an assistant stage director, he worked for the New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Florida Grand Opera, and others. He has also completed National Arts Strategies' "Chief Executive Program," which included training at the business schools of the University of Michigan and Harvard University. Mr. O'Leary lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Kara, a clinical psychologist, and their three children.

Timothy O'Leary