Robert Ainsley Is Named Glimmerglass Festival Director

The Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, N.Y., announced on Wednesday that it has named Robert Ainsley as it next artistic and general director, giving the festival a new leader as it moves toward its 50th season, in 2025.

Ainsley most recently served as the director of the Cafritz Young Artists program at the Washington National Opera and of the American Opera Initiative where, over a span of six years, he commissioned, developed and premiered more than 30 new operas and other works. He has also held leadership positions at the Portland Opera, Minnesota Opera and Opera Theater of Saint Louis and has worked at other summer music festivals.

He succeeds Francesca Zambello, who led Glimmerglass, a summer festival of opera and theater, for more than a decade. In an interview, Ainsley said he was committed to building on Zambello’s efforts to “make this an art form for everyone — telling everyone’s story and trying to ensure everyone has agency in how those stories are told.”

“She’s really built something that is inclusive and representative of the diversity of America today,” Ainsley said. “And that’s something I really want to carry on and make a central part of our mission.”

Robert Ainsley, the new artistic and general director of the Glimmerglass Festival.Credit…Arielle Doneson

He also said he was dedicated to ensuring that 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 offered new productions and other stagings of opera and musical theater in Cooperstown every summer since 1975.

“The intense experience of drawing so many people together from all over the country and all over the world is what makes a festival very special,” Ainsley said. “But what Glimmerglass has is the best bits of all of the summer programs.”

In a news release, Zambello called Ainsley “a wonderful artist” who will bring “excellent vision and leadership” to a time of transition for the company. Robert Nelson, the chair of the Glimmerglass Festival board of trustees, said Ainsley “is perfectly poised to lead the Glimmerglass Festival into its next era.”

Ainsley said he was eager to get to Cooperstown to become part of the community there.

“When an institution gets me, they get all of me,” he said. “Bringing people together of all backgrounds and creating something wonderful is what has made Glimmerglass special, and that’s definitely what I want to do with it.”