Acclaimed as a director of “particular ingenuity,” Jennifer Williams has created innovative productions worldwide. Praise for her multi-media approach to opera has been effusive, and her extraordinary vision yields indelible results. The first female American stage director to work at the Bayreuther Festspiele, Williams’s international career has brought her to celebrated houses in Europe, Asia, and North and South America.
Site-specific and immersive productions have been a recent hallmark of her work, making Williams particularly sought-after for her impressive multimedia skills. Where others have been unwilling or unable to work without customary theatrical infrastructure, Williams thrives on the unexpected. Her unique presentations have taken her to prestigious venues in New York, Berlin, Hong Kong, Houston, Miami, Detroit, Austin, and Washington, DC, with recent and upcoming engagements at the Bayreuther Festspiele, Nederlandse Reisopera, Rice University Shepherd School of Music, and Manhattan School of Music.
With an eye toward enlarging the scope of vocal performance, Williams has been awarded OPERA America’s Toulmin Discovery Grant for Women Composers as well as coveted grants from New York State Council on the Arts and the Brooklyn Arts Council for her visionary work creating devised opera. With the partnership of the International Contemporary Ensemble, she devised GROUNDS, an immersive environmental installation that challenged the very concept of opera and our perception of it.
Traditional repertoire such as Rigoletto, La bohème and Les contes d’Hoffmann have figured prominently in her career at theaters such as Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Theatro Municipal de São Paulo, among others, but Williams is also a passionate advocate of contemporary opera. Her direction of such works as Ainadamar, Dark Sisters, Sumeida’s Song, and Backwards from Winter have been described as “extraordinarily beautiful” and “consistently imaginative.” In addition, she has created installations for concert repertoire including Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder, and Schubert’s Goethe-Lieder.
Williams has served as a drama coach for the Houston Grand Opera Studio as well as the young artist programs of the San Francisco, Glimmerglass, Cincinnati, and Wolf Trap Operas. Her apprenticeship as a Regiehospitantin at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Komische Oper Berlin, Oper Frankfurt, and Staatsoper Stuttgart forged the foundation of her unusually broad operatic and theatrical experience.
As intellectually outstanding as she is original, Williams is a Fulbright Scholar and holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and an A.B. with honors from the University of Chicago. Her book, Theater and Opera in East Berlin: Archaeology of the Political Unconscious, will be published by Routledge in 2024. She is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and American Guild of Musical Artists. A champion of cultural diplomacy and a leader of integrity, she was recently appointed an Arts Envoy by the U.S. Department of State. She lives in Berlin.