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John B. Read is generally considered to be one of the most outstanding lighting designers working internationally in dance, opera, theater, and music stage. He was born in Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex and trained at the Rose Bruford Training College in Sidcup, Kent.
Before being appointed consultant lighting designer to The Royal Ballet in 1981, Read worked widely as a freelance designer. He has worked with every major choreographer in London. Notable collaborations have been with Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Antony Tudor, Glen Tetley, Jerome Robbins, Rudolf Nureyev, Anthony Dowell, David Bintley, Ronald Hynd, Wayne Eagling, Ulysses Dove, and Ashley Page. Works for Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet/Birmingham Royal Ballet include Papillon, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Median, The Snow Queen, Allegri diversi, and One by Nine. For The Royal Ballet, his works include Field Figures, Laborintus, Voluntaries, Isadora, Requiem, Valley of Shadows, The Tempest, Varii Capricci, Fleeting Figures, Galanteries, The Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast, Pursuit, The Prince of the Pagodas, Illuminations, and the televised ballet tribute to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Fanfare for Elizabeth.
Abroad, Read has worked with the ballet companies of Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin, Paris, Lyon, Nancy, Copenhagen, Oslo, Gulbenkian in Portugal, Netherlands, two Israeli companies, the National Ballet of Canada, New York City Ballet, Houston, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Recently, his work for The Royal Ballet has been seen in Korea and Australia.
In the area of contemporary dance, Read works regularly with London Contemporary Dance, and designed the Royal Gala and a new Cohan work in 1985-1986. He worked with Dance Advance in the Summer of 1989.
For other British ballet companies – Rambert Dance Company, London City Ballet, English National Ballet, and the Scottish Ballet in particular – Read’s designs have been seen both in Britain and abroad, as well as at the Sadler’s Wells and the Coliseum and Dominion theatre seasons in London. Much of his work has been televised or is available on video, including Manon, The Nutcracker, Galanteries, Still Life at the Penguin Cafe, Hobson’s Choice, La Bayadère, and The Prince of the Pagodas.
In London’s West End, Read designed the lighting for On Your Toes with Natalia Makarova, The Nerd, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Who Plays Wins. In 1990, he designed the lighting for the second West End and Manchester runs of Song and Dance. In 1991, he did his first lighting assignment, Stephen Berkoff’s adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial, for the Royal National Theatre.
His many opera credits include Goetz Freiderich’s Ring of the Niebelungen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Anna Bolena, Tosca, and Die Meistersinger and La Cenerentola for The Royal Opera, Aida for the English National Opera, and many productions for the English Music Theatre and Opera groups.
Other companies who have used Read’s lighting designs include the Prospect Theatre Company, the Greenwich Theatre, the Buxton Opera House, and the Young Vic.
His lighting for Glen Tetley’s Gemini (1975) and Le Sacre du Printemps (1976), Kenneth MacMillan’s Anastasia (1999), and Frederick Ashton’s The Dream (2002) and A Month in the Country have all entered American Ballet Theatre’s repertoire.