Francesca Zambello Appointed Artistic Advisor for Washington National Opera

Francesca Zambello

Michael L. Mael Named Company’s Executive Director(WASHINGTON, D.C.)

Washington National Opera (WNO) today announced that American director Francesca Zambello has been appointed the company’s Artistic Advisor. Simultaneously, Chief Operating Officer Michael L. Mael has been named Executive Director. With these appointments, WNO enters into its affiliation with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (effective July 1, 2011) with a complete roster of artistic and administrative executives. As Artistic Advisor, Ms. Zambello will offer advice and expertise related to opera repertoire, casting and creative teams, working in close collaboration with Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser, WNO Director of Artistic Operations Christina C. Scheppelmann, WNO Music Director Philippe Auguin and newly appointed Executive Director Michael L. Mael. The Artistic Advisor position is designed to further develop WNO’s artistic profile.

“Francesca Zambello is a highly respected, creative artist, known for her forward-thinking, innovative style. Her deep experience in the international opera community, coupled with her intimate knowledge of Washington audiences, make her an ideal advisor as we work to extend the range of artistic opportunities for WNO,” stated Mr. Kaiser.

Ms. Zambello responded, “I am proud to join the team led by Michael Kaiser of such a world famous cultural center in our nation’s capital. This is a city I love; I love the architecture, the diversity, the atmosphere, the drama. For me, this is the right job at the right time, and I will work to present a rich range of international and national programming and use all of the various venues to produce the finest standards in opera and musical theater. I look forward to working with Michael Kaiser, and the Kennedy Center and WNO staff, to carry on and further the tradition of quality established by Martin Feinstein and continued by Plácido Domingo.”

Ms. Zambello has directed ten WNO productions since her company debut in 2001 with Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men.

Mr. Mael, a key administrator who led WNO through the Kennedy Center affiliation process, stated, “Francesca Zambello’s appointment is another important step forward for WNO. She brings both continuity and an eye towards the future. I look forward to working with Francesca, as well as with Michael Kaiser, Christina Scheppelmann and Philippe Auguin, to expand upon WNO’s legacy of high artistic quality.”  
As Executive Director, Mr. Mael will manage all WNO activities, working closely with WNO staff and Board, as well as with Kennedy Center leadership, to meet the organization’s artistic and financial goals. Commenting on the appointments, Kenneth R. Feinberg, President of WNO’s Board of Trustees, said, “Washington National Opera’s Board has great confidence in Francesca Zambello and Michael Mael, and in their ability to keep the Opera moving in a positive direction.”

About Francesca Zambello
Newly appointed Washington National Opera Artistic Advisor Francesca Zambello made her company debut with Of Mice and Men in 2001, and has returned to direct Das Rheingold, DieWalküre, Siegfried, Porgy and Bess, Billy Budd, Fidelio and mostly recently, Salome. An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Ms. Zambello’s work has been seen at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, the Bolshoi, Covent Garden, Munich Staatsoper, Paris Opera, New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and English National Opera. She has staged plays and musicals on Broadway, at the Royal National Theatre, BAM, the Guthrie Theater, Vienna’s Raimund Theater, the Bregenz Festival, the Sydney Festival, Disneyland, Berlin’s Theaterdes Westens and the Kennedy Center. She is currently in her first season as Artistic & General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival, as well as the Artistic Advisor to San Francisco Opera, where she is directing a new production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in June 2011.Ms. Zambello has been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her contribution to French culture, and the Russian Federation’s medal for Service to Culture. Her theatrical honors include three Olivier Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, two French Grand Prix des Critiques, the Helpmann Award, the Green Room Award, a Palme d’Or in Germany and the Golden Mask in Russia. She began her career as the Artistic Director of the Skylight Opera Theatre and as an assistant director to the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. She has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Juilliard and Yale. An American who grew up in Europe, she speaks French, Italian, German and Russian. She is a graduate of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. Ms. Zambello’s complete biography is available at

About Michael L. Mael
Michael L. Mael joined Washington National Opera in April 2008 and was appointed Executive Director in May 2011. Formerly the Opera’s Chief Operating Officer, he was responsible for all financial and day-to-day operations of the company, and under his leadership, the organization returned to financial stability with four consecutive balanced budgets. He led the effort to affiliate with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, ensuring the long-term stability of the Opera. Previously, Mr. Mael was the Vice President of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) at Strathmore, where he was responsible for launching and managing all activities related to the BSO’s second home at the new Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md. In addition to overseeing the BSO at Strathmore’s Development, Marketing, Public Relations, and Community Outreach, Mr. Mael was the orchestra’s main liaison to Montgomery County and key to introducing the BSO at Strathmore’s new brand to the Greater Washington, D.C. region. He has consulted for symphony orchestras and was involved in assessment and planning projects for the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic, and was the Director of Government Affairs for the American Symphony Orchestra League. Prior to his career in arts management, Mr. Mael held senior executive positions with several technology companies, including Focal Communications, PSINet and MCI Communications. Mr. Mael is a 2005 graduate of Leadership Montgomery and is currently President of its Board of Directors. He also serves on the board of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington and is a member of the Finance Committee of the Washington Chorus. Mr. Mael received his A.B. from Brown University and his M.B.A. from Stanford University.

About Washington National Opera
Founded in 1956, Washington National Opera is recognized as one of America’s leading opera companies. WNO continues to build on its rich history by offering operas of a high artistic quality, balancing popular grand opera with new or infrequently performed works. In addition, WNO fulfills its mission by serving as a vital resource throughout the Washington metro area, bringing opera to a broad and diverse public through its award-winning education and community programs. On July 1, 2011, WNO will affiliate with the Kennedy Center, uniting the two organizations’ administrative and business functions. The previously-announced 2011-12 season will include full productions of Tosca, Lucia di Lammermoor, Così Fan Tutte, Nabucco, and Werther, as well as concerts featuring Angela Gheorghiu and Deborah Voigt.