Born in Hartford, Connecticut, on June 22, 1937, John Conklin is admired around the world for his career as a highly acclaimed stage designer. His style is conceptual rather than literal, and through its open approach to design possibilities has had an enormous influence. He is one of the principal figures in American stage design, both for opera and for theater, and his set and costume designs are seen in opera houses, theaters, and ballet companies across the world.
In the U.S., he has designed for the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Kennedy Center, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of St Louis, Glimmerglass Opera, Seattle Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, and Washington National Opera, among others. In Europe, he has designed for the English National Opera, London; Royal Opera, Stockholm; Bastille Opera, Paris; and the opera companies of Munich, Amsterdam, and Bologna. He designed the costumes for Robert Wilson's production of Die Zauberflöte at the Bastille Opera in Paris in 1991. He also has designed sets on and off-Broadway as well as for regional theaters, including the American Repertory Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, the Long Wharf Theatre, Hartford Stage, Arena Stage, the Guthrie Theatre, Center Stage in Baltimore, and Actors Theatre of Louisville.
Conklin's credits at the Metropolitan Opera include costumes for Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, sets and costumes for John Corigliano's Ghosts of Versailles, and sets for Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. For Glimmerglass Opera, where he served as associate artistic director for 18 years, he designed sets for Puccini's Fanciulla del West and Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio, and costumes for Richard Rodney Bennett's Mines of Sulfur, among others. For San Francisco, he designed sets for Wagner's Ring cycle. At Seattle Opera, he designed sets for Prokofiev's War and Peace, Puccini's La Bohème, and Verdi's La Traviata, and both sets and costumes for Verdi's Il Trovatore, Bellini's Norma, and Britten's Turn of the Screw.
Conklin has designed extensively on Broadway, receiving a Tony award nomination (1974) for set design of The Au Pair Man. He received the Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design from the Theatre Development Fund (2008). He earned his B.A. and his M.F.A from Yale University. Conklin is the artistic advisor for Boston Lyric Opera where his recent work has included Lucie de Lammermoor (2005) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (2011). At BLO he also works to develop new supplemental performances, lecture series, and community events. Conklin is on the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where he teaches courses in design for stage and film.