Born in Dallas on January 31, 1937, Speight Jenkins is recognized nationally as a leading authority on opera and one of the most influential and accomplished general directors in the United States.
He was educated at the University of Texas (B.A., 1957) and Columbia University (Law, 1961). After working as an editor for Opera News (1967-73) and as music critic for the New York Post (1973-81), from 1981 to 1983, he was host for the Live From the Met broadcasts on public television. He has written reviews and articles for a number of publications. He was appointed general director of the 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.
Jenkins' knowledge of opera is reflected in the Seattle Opera's many innovative productions, substantial publications, and comprehensive education programs and services. He has strengthened and extended Seattle Opera's reputation as a "Wagner center" by producing all 10 of Wagner's major operas - including two very different Ring productions. In 2006, Jenkins held Seattle Opera's first International Wagner Competition, developed to discover and promote outstanding young singers who show promise of major careers in Wagner operas. Because of his passion for the arts and energetic leadership style, the Seattle Times named Jenkins one of the 150 most influential people who have shaped the character of Seattle and King County, ArtsFund presented him with its Outstanding Achievement in the Arts award, and Opera News cited Jenkins as one of the 25 "most powerful" names in opera in America.
In 2008-09, Jenkins celebrated his 25th anniversary season at Seattle Opera. In honor of his "immeasurable contributions to the city's cultural arts and civic life," Mayor Nickels proclaimed April 25, 2009, as Speight Jenkins Day in Seattle; he received a Mayor's Arts Award in September 2009. For more than three decades, Jenkins has been an annual guest on the Metropolitan Opera Quiz. His opera previews of every Seattle Opera production are broadcast on 98.1 Classical KING FM, and his CD lectures on Wagner's Ring have become a mainstay in opera libraries.
He served four years in the United States Army as a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He has received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Seattle University, an honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, and an honorary Doctorate from the New England Conservatory. He also served on the National Council on the Arts from 1996-2000. Jenkins is married and has two children and three granddaughters.