WNO Welcomes Francesca Zambello, Artistic Advisor

Francesca Zambello
Francesca Zambello

The momentous recent times of change at the Washington National Opera just saw another one or two big changes about to materialize.

First Mark Weinstein, the Executive Director of the WNO, left during the 2009-2010 season. Then Placido Domingo, the bread-and-butter star power of the WNO, announced his resignation, effective at the end of this season (but not, it should be added, without delivering an assured star turn in the spring production of “Iphigenie en Tauride”).

Then the WNO announced that the company would become an affiliate of the Kennedy Center, where it has performed almost always at the Opera House, barring periods of renovation.

Now the WNO announced that the dynamic and gifted opera and theater director Francesca Zambello would become its Artistic Advisor. That’s a few steps short of actually being the Artistic Director. For now she will be working with others, including the KC President Michael Kaiser, as well as WNO officials, including Michael L. Mael who was appointed Executive Director in May. He was previously the WNO’s Chief Operating Officer.

That might mean that there will be a bit of the old breath of fresh air and more contemporary and cutting edge works on the horizon with Zambello placed in a critical role.

Zambello, a very busy woman these days already, has always had eclectic and diverse ambitions and tastes—and she’s not shy about trying new things. These days, she is currently the Artistic and General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival, and she holds an Artistic Advisor role at the San Francisco Opera, where she is directing the “Ring Cycle” next month.

Doubtless, Wagner and the cycle may get a new life in the future, after plans had to be abandoned at the WNO in recent years.

Zambello, by her track record, is always seeking new challenges, and in fact provided some of the more contemporary work seen at the WNO, where she’s been a familiar figure ever since she directed “Of Mice and Men” in 2001. She’s tackled Wagner before here with “Das Reingold,” “Die Walkure” and “Siegfried,” as well as material as different as “Porgy and Bess,” “Billy Budd,” “Fidelio” and last year’s scintillating “Salome.”

Zambello has staged plays on Broadway, including the musical “The Littlest Mermaid,” and directed in venues as varied as the Sydney Festival, the Bregenz Festival, Disneyland, Berlin’s Theater des Westens, and Vienna’s Raimund Theater. She has also staged opera and theater productions at the Met, Teatro alla Scala, the Bolshoi, Covent Garden, the Munich Staatsoper, the Paris Opera, the New York City Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the English National Opera.

By the awards she’s received, you can get a pretty good picture of her eclecticism: she’s been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government as well as the Russian Federation’s Medal for Service to Culture. She has received three Olivier Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, two French Grand Prix des Critiques, the Helpmann Award and the Palme d’Or in Germany.

She was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that her role at the WNO would include: “Addressing how to make opera more a part of the city at large.”

Welcome, Zambello.

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Sun, 21 Sep 2014 14:08:35 -0400

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