David Finn's professional career as a lighting designer began at the age of 16, working for the puppeteer Burr Tillstrom and Kukla, Fran and Ollie. For five years, David assisted lighting designer Jennifer Tipton - beginning in 1988 with Jerome Robbins' Broadway. David assisted Ms. Tipton on works by: 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 and 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 Merce Cunningham, Hanya Holm, Jose Limon, Sara Rudner, Dana Reitz, Tamasaburo Bando, Karole Armitage, Kevin O’Day, Neil Greenberg, Lucy Guerin and 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 21st season in Birmingham and London and has become a permanent addition to the repetoire of The Australian Ballet and the Tokyo Star Dancers Ballet. David also designed Swan Lake for The Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich and returned to Birmingham in 2010 for Cinderella - both collaborations with Mr. MacFarlane
Other designs for dance, including works by Paul Taylor, Jose Limon, Helgi Tomasson 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 Paul Taylor Dance Company; The Oberlin Dance Collective and The San Francisco Ballet. In 2007, David collaborated with Sasha Waltz on her Romeo and Juliette for the Paris Opera Ballet.
Since 1997, David's career has shifted to the world of opera, where he has designed such works as: the Ring Cycle for The Canadian Opera Company with designer/director Michael Levine and director’s Atom Egoyan, Francois Girard and Tim Albery; six productions for the famed Salzburg Festival, including Ariadne auf Naxos, Opernwelt’s 2001 Production of the year; Boris Goudonov, Lucia Silla, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutti and The Marriage of Figaro for Het Musiktheater (Amsterdam); Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, Tannhäuser, The Flying Dutchman, and Peter Grimes for The Royal Opera; ; Ariane et Barbe-Bleu for director/designer Anna Viebrock and The Paris Opera; Rheingold, The Tales of Hoffmann, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo for The Stuttgart Opera; Otello for Opera de la Monnaie (Brussels); Falstaff for Maggio Musicale (Florence); MASSACRE, a world première for the Vienna Festwochen; Lost Highway, an operatic transposition of David Lynch’s film for Steirischerherbst (Graz); and Alcina, Doktor Faust and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk for The San Francisco Opera.
Lighting design for the theatre includes: A Hunting Gun for Usine C in Montreal and the Parco Theater, Tokyo; Angst for the Salzburg Festival; A Doll’s House for Carey Perloff at ACT – San Francisco; Elektra and 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 and II for Theater Basel, Switzerland; A Century of Lust for the Archa Theater in Prague; Gypsy, Cinderella, Oliver and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for Robert Redford’s Sundance Theater Institute; and two world premières 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); and 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 theatre 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).
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 premièred for POV on PBS in June 1999. The film received induction into the Museum of Television and Radio in New York as one of the ten best documentary films of that year.
Recent awards include the 2011 Yomiuri Award for Outstanding Lighting Design for The Hunting Gun at the Parco Theater, Tokyo, and the 2012 Knight of Illumination Award for Best Dance Lighting Design for Sweet Violets at the Royal Ballet.
Slated projects for 2013 and beyond include: Sasha Waltz’s Romeo & Juliette for La Scala - Milan; Parsifal for The Metropolitan Opera - 2013; Rusalka for director David McVicar at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 2014; and a new permanent production for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas in 2013.
David designed the Cirque de Soleil production ZED, in Tokyo, for director Francois Girard. Variety reviewed the production, which opened on October 1, 2008:
“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 traveling 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.”