MDLO Goudy Old Style Logo .png

Joan Sullivan-Genthe

Resident Lighting Designer


Joan Sullivan-Genthe has designed lighting in major theaters throughout the United States and in Europe. As a specialist in opera design she has regularly collaborated with many of the world’s foremost opera directors and designers. Her North American credits include lighting for San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, New York City Opera, Dallas Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Portland Opera, Cleveland Opera, Tulsa Opera and Chicago Opera Theater, in addition to her work as resident lighting designer for Washington National Opera, in Washington, DC.

European credits include the Zeffirelli production of Pagliacci for Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Turandot for Seville’s Teatro de la Maestranza and Finnish National Opera/Helsinki (Frisell/Ponnelle); Il Trovatore in Göteborg, Sweden (Lawless/Dugardyn); Dialogues des Carmélites for the Grand Théâtre de Genève (Rochaix/Dahlstrom); The Medium/The Telephone double bill, directed by composer Gian Carlo Menotti, at the Spoleto Festival; and the Carl Sternheim play Bürger Schippel, seen at Den Nationale Scene in Bergen, Norway. Several of her Washington National Opera designs have been seen on tour in Japan; and productions televised nationally by PBS have included Pagliacci, Le Cid, and the world premiere of Menotti’s Goya, all with Placido Domingo; La Rondine, and Die Fledermaus.

Ms. Sullivan-Genthe joined Washington National Opera (then known as The Washington Opera) in 1984. Her work for that company included designing more than 125 productions produced at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. These have included high profile world premieres of Menotti’s Goya and Argento’s The Dream of Valentino as well as the U.S. premieres of Wolf-Ferrari’s Sly with José Carreras, Krasa’s Betrothal in a Dream, and Chinese composer Jin’s Savage Land. During her time in Washington, she presented numerous lectures and demonstrations about stage lighting both for the Opera and the Kennedy Center Education Department; lit educational programs presented by the Opera for elementary and high school students; and worked with college student interns interested in getting practical experience in opera.

After discovering opera at Indiana University School of Music, Ms. Sullivan-Genthe began her professional career at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she assisted lighting designers Gil Wechsler, Duane Schuler, Gilbert Hemsley and Ken Billington and designed for the Opera’s young artists program and ballet school. During her tenure in Chicago she realized the original lighting design of the premiere production of Penderecki’s Paradise Lost for Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
A three-year stint as Associate Lighting Designer at San Francisco Opera followed, during which she originated the lighting for the US version of the John Cox/David Hockney production of Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress and a new production of Le nozze di Figaro(Frisell/Brown).
She began her full-time design career in 1984 dividing the majority of her time between Washington, DC and the Seattle Opera where she created over forty production in the ensuing eleven years. Notable productions in Seattle include two versions of the Wagner’s Ring Cycle— the final iteration of the original Seattle production and the initial Ring of the Speight Jenkins administration. Designed by Robert Israel with director, François Rochaix, the production became so successful it was produced four times in ten years.

Ballet credits include the original works Age of Anxiety (Bernstein) by choreographer John Neumaier for BalletWest in Salt Lake City and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; as well as Neumaier’s Now and Then (Ravel) for the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto. She designed lighting for numerous productions of the Ballet School of the Lyric Opera of Chicago when that company was headed by former prima ballerina Maria Tallchief.

Ms. Sullivan-Genthe’s work has been featured in Theatre Crafts and Lighting Dimensions magazines as well as in J. Michael Gillette’s classic textbook Designing with Light.