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Video Published: 05 Feb 2024

NEA Opera Honors: An Oral History with Speight Jenkins

In 2011, arts administrator Speight Jenkins was awarded an NEA Opera Honors award and sat down for an interview about opera and their life.

This interview was originally posted by the NEA on November 4, 2011.
The Oral History Project is supported by the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation. 

Speight Jenkins, arts administrator

Speight Jenkins is recognized nationally as a leading authority on opera and one of the most influential former general directors in the United States. After working as an editor for Opera News (1967–1973) and as music critic for the New York Post (1973– 1981), Jenkins served as host for the Live From the Met broadcasts on public television from 1981 to 1983. He was appointed general director of Seattle Opera in 1983 and, with productions of Wagner's Ring cycle in 1986, 1987, and 1991, and ventures such as Prokofiev's War and Peace and Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites in 1990, he injected new life into the company's artistic standing and financial fortunes. Under Jenkins’ aegis, Seattle Opera went on to produce all 10 of Wagner’s major operas, and in 2006, Jenkins held Seattle Opera's first International Wagner Competition. From 1996 to 2000, Jenkins served on the National Council for the Arts.

Jenkins was a 2011 recipient of the NEA Opera Honors, a program administered by the National Endowment for the Arts from 2008 to 2011. The NEA Opera Honors recipients are now recognized in OPERA America’s Opera Hall of Fame.

Oral History Project

Discover the full collection of oral histories at the link below.