Speight Jenkins

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Speight Jenkins
Born (1937-01-31) January 31, 1937 (age 82)
OccupationMusic critic,
opera general director
Spouse(s)Linda Sands (2 children)

Speight Jenkins Jr. (born January 31, 1937) is a classical music critic and music administrator. He was the general director of Seattle Opera from 1983 to 2014.

Early life and education[edit]

Jenkins, a native of Dallas, Texas, is the son of Speight Jenkins Sr. and Sara Baird Jenkins.[1][2] His B.A. degree is from the University of Texas at Austin, and he graduated in 1961 from Columbia Law School.


Jenkins served in the U.S. Army, and afterwards became a music critic and journalist. He worked for seven years at Opera News as its news and reports editor, and later at the New York Post from 1973 to 1981 as music critic.[3] He has been a host for U.S. television's Live from the Metropolitan Opera[4] and a guest speaker on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts.

Tenure at Seattle Opera[edit]

In the early 1980s, Jenkins was a guest lecturer at Seattle Opera for the company's production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. His knowledge impressed the Seattle Opera board of trustees, such that they offered him the post of general director of the company[5] and he began his tenure in that post with the company in 1983. His contract was extended for another ten years, and in 2003, he signed another 10-year extension to his contract.[6]

At Seattle Opera he has produced two complete cycles of Wagner's Ring and new productions of the other six frequently produced Wagner operas, as well as new productions of Prokofiev's War and Peace, Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Dvorak's Rusalka, Bellini's Norma, Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and Iphigénie en Tauride, four Strauss operas, many by Verdi and Puccini, plus several contemporary works. In 2010 Seattle Opera gave the world premiere of Amelia, by Daron Hagen.

Jenkins has stepped down as General Director of Seattle Opera, and has been replaced by Aidan Lang, as of August 2014.[7]

Other work[edit]

Jenkins has written an art book, Pelleas + Melisande + Chihuly, and narrated a 4-CD commentary called Enjoying Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung with Speight Jenkins.

In 2011 he won an Opera Honor from the National Endowment for the Arts.[8] In the same year he received an honorary doctorate from the New England Conservatory.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Jenkins and his wife, the former Linda Sands, have two children, Linda Leonie Jenkins and Speight Jenkins III.[6]



  1. ^ Melinda Bargreen (20 October 1991). "Sara Jenkins: A Life Of Music". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  2. ^ Melinda Bargreen (15 July 1996). "Sara Baird Jenkins, Activist, Grande Dame Of Seattle Opera". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  3. ^ "Speight Jenkins Named Seattle Opera Director". New York Times. 21 December 1982. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  4. ^ Speight Jenkins (1 September 2002). "Speight Jenkins: My ultimate summer concert..." Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  5. ^ Melinda Bargreen (30 December 1996). "Seattle Opera's Jenkins' Personal Tour Of The 'Ring'". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  6. ^ a b Melinda Bargreen (15 August 2003). "Speight Jenkins: Champion of the opera". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  7. ^ "Aidan Lang To Become Seattle Opera's Third General Director" (Press release). Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  8. ^ "NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman Announces Recipients of the 2011 NEA Opera Honors". National Endowment for the Arts. 2011-06-24. Archived from the original on 2011-10-25.
  9. ^ https://necmusic.edu/honorary-doctor-music. Missing or empty |title= (help)

Other sources