Executive Director, Washington National Opera


Applicants for the position of Executive Director are asked to submit a letter that describes specific interest in the Washington National Opera and outlines experience and qualifications for the position.

Please send with a resume, salary history or requirements, and contact information for at least three professional references. Electronic submissions are requested. All applications will be treated as confidential and references will not be contacted without the candidate's knowledge.

The Search Committee will begin to review credentials and schedule interviews in early to mid-July. The Committee expects to identify the successful candidate by late summer.

Please send materials to:

Washington National Opera – Executive Director

c/o Catherine French Group

2500 Q Street NW, Suite 623

Washington, DC 20007

[email protected]

Washington National Opera (WNO) invites applications and nominations for the position of Executive Director.

Washington National Opera


Now completing its 62nd Season, WNO is firmly established among the leading opera companies in North America. As a flagship of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, WNO enriches the greater Washington community with performances at the highest artistic level.

WNO concluded the 2016/17 main stage season to critical acclaim for its repertoire and the high quality of productions and performances. The season included Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, Terence Blanchard's Champion, Puccini's Madam Butterfly, and Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment. In the 2017/18 season, WNO will offer Verdi's Aida; Handel's Alcina; Verdi's Don Carlo; Rossini's The Barber of Seville; and Bernstein's Candide.

The 2017/18 season also features performances that are part of WNO's American Opera Initiative: Proving Up, a new hour-long opera, and three new 20-minute operas. WNO's Holiday Family Opera for 2017 is The Little Prince. And WNO's 10th annual M&M's Opera in the Outfield will be a live transmission from the Kennedy Center of Aida displayed on the jumbo screen at Nationals Park.

WNO maintains one of the most highly acclaimed young artists programs in the country, the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists ("DCYA") Program. In addition, WNO offers a broad range of community and education programming both at the Kennedy Center and in venues across the city. Partner organizations have included DC Public Libraries, Washington National Cathedral, the Anacostia Community Museum (part of the Smithsonian Institution), the National Postal Museum, and area embassies, churches, and schools.

An affiliate of the Kennedy Center since 2011, Washington National Opera is a not-for-profit corporation with an operating budget of $24 million. WNO is governed by a 35-member Board of Trustees. Francesca Zambello, internationally recognized stage director of opera and theater, was appointed Artistic Director in 2012. The Executive Director of WNO is, with the Artistic Director, its co-leader and has responsibility for administration and financial matters.

The Position

The Executive Director, with the Artistic Director, leads and manages WNO in a highly matrixed organization. The Executive Director works closely with WNO's Board and, under the terms of the affiliation agreement with the Kennedy Center, with the Kennedy Center President and Kennedy Center Vice Presidents. The Executive Director and the Artistic Director are charged by the Board with implementing WNO's mission, which is to mount the highest quality artistic performances. The Executive Director, along with the Artistic Director, is a visible representative, spokesperson, and advocate for WNO at the Kennedy Center, throughout the Washington, D.C. community, and to a broader national and international public.

With the Chairman and President of the WNO Board, the Executive Director plays a central role in facilitating and leading in the governance of the organization. The Executive Director provides impetus to and support for the work of the Board and its committees. S/he takes a leadership role in fundraising.

The Executive Director manages the 35-member full-time staff employed by WNO. S/he shares management of the Kennedy Center staff who are specifically assigned to WNO in areas of marketing, communications, development, finance, and education with the Vice Presidents of those Kennedy Center operating departments. The Kennedy Center also provides shared services for WNO in the areas of finance, facilities management and operations, general counsel, media, information technology, and human resources. In this way, WNO is able to call upon resources and a level of expertise far beyond what would otherwise be available to it on a stand–alone basis.

Principal responsibility for negotiating the collective bargaining agreements with musicians of the WNO Orchestra and WNO Chorus rests with the Kennedy Center; however, the Executive Director provides essential support and is a key member of the negotiating team, and has broader responsibility for ensuring compliance with those agreements.

The Executive Director works in close partnership with the Artistic Director, the Board, and the Board's leadership to galvanize WNO around the implementation of its mission through clearly articulated strategic goals. S/he works closely with the Artistic Director and other members of WNO's artistic leadership to develop programming that is both artistically balanced and financially viable. S/he fosters an environment that allows singers, conductors, stage directors, designers, and orchestra musicians to do their best work. S/he guides and supports WNO artists in their education and other activities throughout the community. Through marketing initiatives and based on WNO programming, s/he works closely with other members of the WNO and Kennedy Center teams to build audience size, diversity, and demand. S/he provides guidance and support to those who serve WNO as volunteers.

Working with the President of the Kennedy Center, the Executive Director is a key player in shaping the breadth and depth of WNO's programming and interdepartmental artistic collaborations throughout the Kennedy Center.

The Opportunity

As a member of the senior executive leadership team of the Kennedy Center President, and under the affiliation agreement, the Executive Director has access to the significant financial, human, and operational resources. S/he will have the opportunity to connect WNO to Center-wide interdisciplinary artistic initiatives that will enrich WNO's programming and expand WNO's audience, reach, and impact locally, nationally, and internationally.

The Kennedy Center offers financial and operating support for WNO that is unprecedented in the relationships between American opera companies and their performance venues. With the assurance of on-going support from the Kennedy Center, the Executive Director will have the opportunity to innovate, push boundaries, take artistic risks, and explore broad creative possibilities for the 21st century opera company.

Candidate Profile

The successful candidate for the position of Executive Director will be a creative and dynamic leader with the demonstrated ability to innovate, collaborate, and inspire both internal and external constituencies. S/he will be a passionate advocate and articulate public spokesperson for the value and importance of opera in general and WNO in particular. S/he will have senior executive management experience, preferably in the not-for-profit performing arts, and will have a thorough working knowledge of and a demonstrable passion for opera. Experience working in a matrixed organization is an asset; enthusiasm for collaborating in a matrixed organization is essential.

The successful candidate will have substantial experience in financial management and administration in the not-for-profit sector. S/he will have a track record of success in audience development, fundraising, and community engagement. S/he will have a demonstrated talent for working with artistic leaders to develop creative programming to serve multiple audiences. S/he will have ideas for developing WNO's audience base and developing patron loyalty. S/he will have the courage to experiment and explore opportunities for creative programming, new formats, venues, and enhancements that will draw audiences to WNO.

The successful candidate will have the proven ability to work effectively with creative artists in a collective bargaining environment. S/he will welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the Artistic Director and artistic personnel of WNO in the design of programs that build audience appreciation and excitement for their work at the Kennedy Center and in venues throughout the greater Washington, DC area.

The successful candidate will be creative, curious, persistent, and imaginative. S/he will be a problem solver with a management style that is detail-oriented, organized, and collaborative with a focus on accomplishment and success. S/he will have excellent communication skills and the ability to align differing points of view. The successful candidate will be effective in balancing the dual roles of deciding or facilitating, leading or following, taking risks or observing protocols. S/he will be a person of integrity and high ethical standards with a strong personal commitment to transparency.

The Executive Director will have the grace and gravitas to work effectively in the complex social and political environment of Washington, DC and its local neighborhoods. S/he will welcome the opportunity to become an active participant in the richly diverse international cultural life of the greater Washington community.


Compensation, including a generous benefit package, is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a world premier performing arts organization and our nation's cultural center. Diversity is a critical component of our mission, vision, and values. Our staff exhibits a wide variety of perspectives and experiences which enable us to foster and strengthen an environment of diversity and inclusion.

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