The Glimmerglass Festival, the summer opera and theater company in Central New York, has announced the appointment of Robert Ainsley as the company’s next Artistic & General Director. Ainsley succeeds Francesca Zambello, who has served in the position since late 2010 and recently announced the 2022 summer season would be her last with the company.

Ainsley has served as the Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists Program and the American Opera Initiative, where he commissioned, developed, and premiered more than 30 new operas, songs, and more by leading artists including Jerre Dye, A.M. Homes, David Henry Hwang, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Missy Mazzoli, Royce Vavrek, Huang Ruo, Kamala Sankaram, Carlos Simon, Sandra Seaton, and others. Ainsley was Associate Music Director at Portland Opera, Head of Music Staff and Chorus Master at Minnesota Opera and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, a guest Chorus Master at English National Opera, and Co-Founder and Principal Conductor of the Greenwich Music Festival. He is an alumnus of the University of Cambridge, Mannes College of Music, and the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera.

He has appeared as a pianist, administrator and speaker with a variety of prominent institutions, including the White House, Supreme Court, Smithsonian Museums, National Gallery, Kennedy Center Honors, Wolf Trap National Park, Met Stars Live in Concert, embassies and diplomatic residences. 

“With an impressive, decades-long career in opera as a leader, administrator, and performing artist, Robert Ainsley is perfectly poised to lead The Glimmerglass Festival into its next era,” said Robert Nelson, Chair of the Glimmerglass Festival Board of Trustees. “Rob has a deep appreciation and understanding of Glimmerglass, and very much looks forward to becoming a part of the Cooperstown community. We are all excited to welcome Rob to The Glimmerglass Festival family.”

The Glimmerglass Festival offers new productions and events of opera and musical theater every summer in Cooperstown, New York. Founded in 1975, the Festival produces both familiar and world premiere operas and provides professional training and performance opportunities for emerging artists and apprentices. Under Zambello’s leadership, the company has expanded its already extensive  offerings and incorporated a Youth Opera Series, as well as many community programs including an annual initiative with Attica Correctional Facility. 

“I am honored to be leading this great institution into its 50th season and beyond,” Ainsley said. “Glimmerglass, with its idyllic location and wide-ranging artistic output of the highest quality, has always been a dream company for me. I have long admired its deep commitments to community, the next generation, and inclusive programming representing the diversity of today’s America. The stories we tell bind us together, spread joy, and foster understanding. I want Glimmerglass to continue making unforgettable memories for everyone it touches in an environment where all feel empowered to do their best work.”

“This is an exciting time of transition for the company,” Zambello said. “Rob is a wonderful artist and is extremely passionate about identifying the voice and talent of opera’s future. I look forward to witnessing the excellent vision and leadership I know he will provide Glimmerglass.”

The 2022 Glimmerglass Festival runs July 8 through August 21 and features new productions of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, Bizet’s Carmen, and Tenor Overboard, which weaves some of Rossini’s most spectacular music in a new comic opera with a book by playwright Ken Ludwig. The next installment of Common Ground, the Festival’s multi-year initiative of new works, is a double bill of Kamala Sankaram and Jerre Dye’s Taking Up Serpents, paired with the world premiere one-act Holy Ground by Damien Geter and Lila Palmer.  Kamala Sankaram and Kelley Rourke’s youth opera The Jungle Book will have its world premiere, and The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson, the play by Sandra Seaton with contributed music by Carlos Simon, will be seen in a newly extended version in August. For more information, visit


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Brittany Lesavoy
Director of Communications
The Glimmerglass Festival


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