The Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, NY, announced Wednesday that it has named Robert Ainsley as its next Artistic and General Director, giving the festival a new leader as it heads into its 50th season, in 2025.
Ainsley most recently served as director of the Cafritz Young Artists program at the Washington National Opera and of the American Opera Initiative, where he commissioned, developed and premiered more than 30 new operas and other works over a six-year period. He has also held leadership positions at the Portland Opera, Minnesota Opera, and Opera Theater of Saint Louis and worked at other summer music festivals.
He succeeds Francesca Zambello, who for over ten years directed Glimmerglass, a summer festival of opera and theatre. In an interview, Ainsley said he was determined to build on Zambello’s efforts to “make this an art form for everyone — telling everyone’s story and trying to make sure everyone has choice in how those stories are told.”
“She really built something that is inclusive and representative of the diversity of America today,” Ainsley said. “And that is something I really want to continue and put at the heart of our mission.”
He also said he was committed to ensuring the festival has a balance of everything from 17th century opera to musical theater to the kinds of new works and formats he has championed in previous jobs.
Glimmerglass has been offering new productions and other performances of opera and music theater in Cooperstown every summer since 1975.
“The intense experience of bringing together so many people from across the country and around the world is what makes a festival very special,” said Ainsley. “But what Glimmerglass has are the best bits of all the summer programs.”
In a press release, Zambello called Ainsley “an amazing artist” who will bring “outstanding vision and leadership” in a time of transition for the company. Robert Nelson, the chairman of the Glimmerglass Festival’s board of trustees, said Ainsley is “perfectly poised to take the Glimmerglass Festival into its next era.”
Ainsley said he wanted to go to Cooperstown to be part of the community.
“If one institution gets me, they all get me,” he said. “Bringing people from all backgrounds together and creating something beautiful is what made Glimmerglass so special, and that is definitely what I want to do with it.”