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David Finn

Set & Lighting Design

David Finn’s professional career as a lighting designer began at the age of 16, working for the puppeteer Burr Tillstrom and Kukla, Fran & Ollie.

For five years, David assisted lighting designer Jennifer Tipton – beginning in 1988 with Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. David assisted Ms. Tipton on works by, among others: Mike Nichols, Robert Wilson, Agnes de Mille, Paul Taylor and Dan Wagoner. He recreated Ms. Tipton’s lighting for Jerome Robbins’ and Twyla Tharp’s ballets for major companies in London, Paris, Munich, Boston, Sydney, Stockholm, and Buenos Aires. David toured as the lighting director for Twyla Tharp & Dancers and designed the lighting for Grand Pas, Sextet, The Men’s Piece, and Octet for Ms. Tharp.  As resident lighting designer for Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project from 1993-2000, David designed works by acclaimed choreographers including:  Merce Cunningham, Hanya Holm, Jose Limon, Sara Rudner, Dana Reitz, Tamasaburo Bando, Karole Armitage, Kevin O’Day, Neil Greenberg, Lucy Guerin, & Kraig Patterson.

David’s first lighting design for dance, however, was for The Birmingham Royal Ballet of Birmingham, England in 1989 – Sir Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker designed by John Macfarlane, which is now in its 19th season in Birmingham and London and has become a permanent addition to the repertoire of The Australian Ballet and the Tokyo Star Dancers Ballet. David also designed Swan Lake, Frankenstein, and Sweet Violets with Mr. MacFarlane for The Royal Ballet, Cinderella for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and Swan Lake for The Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich. Recent full-lengths also include The Queen of Spades for The Royal Danish Ballet, The Nutcracker for The Atlanta Ballet, The Seagull for The Bolshoi Ballet,  The Crucible for Scottish Ballet, and Anna Karenina for The Joffrey Ballet/Australian Ballet.

Other designs for dance, including works by Paul Taylor, Jose Limon, Helgi Tomasson, Liam Scarlett, Yuri Possokhov, Alonzo King and James Kudelka have been seen with:  The Australian Ballet; The Ballet of Monte Carlo; The Houston Ballet; Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; The Lyons Opera Ballet; The National Ballet of Canada; The Joffrey Ballet, The Atlanta Ballet, The Paul Taylor Dance Company; The Oberlin Dance Collective and The San Francisco Ballet. In 2007, David collaborated with Sasha Waltz on her Romeo & Juliette for the Paris Opera Ballet.

Since 1997, David has been designing for opera, including such works as:  the Ring Cycle for The Canadian Opera Company from 2004-2006 with designer/director Michael Levine and director’s Atom Egoyan, Francois Girard & Tim Albery (two Dora Mavor Moore awards); six productions, including Ariadne Aug Naxos, Opernwelt’s 2001 Production of the year, for the famed Salzburg Festival; Tosca, Parsifal, and The Flying Dutchman for The Metropolitan Opera; Boris Goudonov, Lucia Silla, and the Daponte trilogy of Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutti and The Marriage of Figaro for Het Musiktheater  (Amsterdam); The Flying Dutchman, Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, Tannhauser, and Peter Grimes for The Royal Opera; for The Paris Opera – Ariane et Barbe-Bleu for director/designer Anna Viebrock; for The Stuttgart Opera – Wagner’s Rheingold, The Tales of Hoffman, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo; Otello for Opera de la Monnaie (Brussels); Falstaff for Maggio Musicale (Florence); The Massacre of Paris, a world premiere for the Vienna Festwochen; Lost Highway, an operatic transposition of David Lynch’s film for Steirischerherbst (Graz); and Alcina, Doktor Faust, Arabella, Rusalaka, Antony & Cleopatra & Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk for The San Francisco Opera.

Lighting design for the theater includes: Waiting for Godot for Theatre Nouvelle du Monde in Montreal;  The Hunting Gun for Usine C in Montreal, the Barishnikov Arts Center in New York, and The Parco Theater in Tokyo (Yomiuri Award); Atomic off-Broadway at The Acorn Theater;  A Doll’s House for Carey Perloff at ACT – San Francisco; Elektra & the Nerve Meter for the Burgtheater – Vienna; Fit for Life for Stadttheater Köln; The National Theater of Czechoslovakia’s production of King Lear, directed by The Royal Shakespeare’s Barry Kyle; The Pirates of Penzance for Teater des Westens in Berlin; performance pieces Wege und Machierungen Projects I & II for Theater Basel, Switzerland; A Century of Lust for the Archa Theater in Prague;  GypsyCinderella, Oliver and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for Robert Redford’s Sundance Theater Institute; and two world premieres for The Children’s Theater of Minneapolis.  David has also designed several off-Broadway premieres in New York.

Much of David’s current work as a designer is for ground-breaking inter-disciplinary work including: the dance-operas Les L’Armes du Ciel for the Luzerner Theater (Switzerland); La Guerra D’Amore (Lausanne, San Francisco & Braunshweig); & dance-theater works Senza Fine and the day I Go to the Body  – by Joachim Schlömer for The Salzburg Festival. David and director/choreographer Joachim Schlömer started the inter-disciplinary project the fischhouse in 2001 in the Bay Area.  In 2003, the fischhouse produced four one-hour long salons and a workshop of the new bluegrass dance-theater musical – Cindy & Alice.

As an architectural lighting designer, David collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron from Basel, Switzerland on concepts for a case-study glass house – the Kramlich Residence.  He designed the lighting for the entire sitescape of World Expo ’88 in Brisbane, Australia for Artistic Director Sir John Truscott.  In New York, David worked on dozens of commercial restaurants, retail and theater spaces including: Le Bernardin, The Hudson River Club, Polo Ralph Lauren and the studio performance space at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.  In 2001, he designed a permanent installation entitled Steps in Time in the Hyperion Theater for Walt Disney’s California Adventureland. David continues to consult for many architects throughout the world, including Ron Pompei of Pompei A.D. (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie), Architecture & Light, and Gensler (QVC).  Permanent productions for Cirque du Soleil ZED (Tokyo), Michael Jackson One and R.U.N. (Las Vegas). Exhibits and installations include The Hunger Games Exhibit for VGE/Lionsgate at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas; the launch of “R.E.M.,” a new make-up line from Ariana Grande; and Creative Direction/Lighting Design for The Crystal Lobby, produced by The Hettema Group, a crystal and LED installation in a lobby of the Galaxy Casino in Macau.

Film work includes the lighting design for stage scenes in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. David directed a documentary film, The Green Monster, which premiered for POV on PBS in 1999.  The film was inducted into the Museum of Television and Radio in New York as one of the ten best documentary films in 1999.

Slated projects for 2023 and beyond include: Brokeback Mountain at Soho Place / West End / London; Dita Las Vegas – a new residency for Dita Von Teese at The Jubilee Theater / Horseshoe Casino / Las Vegas; Cinderella for The Royal Ballet; Jane Eyre for The Hamburg Ballet; Summer & Smoke for The Houston Ballet / American Ballet Theater; Lohengrin for The Metropolitan Opera; The Ring for La Scala Milan; The Hunting Gun for The Baryshnikov Arts Center; Antony & Cleopatra, a world premiere by composer John Adams, for The San Francisco Opera / Liceu Barcelona / Metropolitan Opera; and a new installation for the top of Rockefeller Center in New York designed by The Hettema Group.

After Zed opened on October 1, 2008 at Tokyo Disneyland for Cirque du Soleil, Variety reviewed the production:   “Just when you think that Cirque du Soleil has taken its own unique form of entertainment just about as far as it can go, they manage to astonish us once again.  Zed, which opened at the Disney Resort here on Wednesday night, is one of the major works in the company’s history and a piece of theatrical magic it is truly worth travelling halfway around the world to see… One soon realizes that what the legendary Cirque show “O” did for water, Zed does for air… The lighting of David Finn is sheer legerdemain, offering kaleidoscopic fantasies in dazzling hues and textures that provide Girard’s images with a tantalizing depth and complexity.”