An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Francesca Zambello has served as Artistic Director of Washington National Opera since 2012. She has directed many WNO productions, including Of Mice and Men (debut in 2001), Fidelio (2003), Die Walküre (2003 and 2007), Billy Budd (2004), Porgy and Bess (2005 and 2010), Das Rheingold (2006), Siegfried (2009), Salome (2010), Show Boat (2013), The Force of Destiny (2013), the world premiere children's opera The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me (2013), Florencia in the Amazon (2014), The Little Prince (2014), and Dialogues of the Carmelites (2015). In the spring of 2016 she directed WNO's first-ever complete Ring Cycles. Since September 2010 she has also been the Artistic and General Director of The Glimmerglass Festival in Central New York.
In the 2016–2017 season, Zambello directs new productions of Aida at San Francisco Opera (a co-production with Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, and Minnesota Opera), Candide at Opéra National de Bordeaux and Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, Dead Man Walking at Washington National Opera, Cyrano de Bergerac at the Metropolitan Opera, and Porgy and Bess and The Siege of Calais for The Glimmerglass Festival.
Her 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. Collaborating with outstanding artists and designers and promoting emerging talent, 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 most major theaters, festivals, and opera houses in Europe, Asia, and the United States.
Her awards include the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, the Russian Federation's medal for Service to Culture, 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 to the company. 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. 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. An American who grew up in Europe, she 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. She is married to Faith Gay, asenior managing partner at Quinn Emanuel and is stepmother to Jackson.