Damir Ismagilov graduated from the Theatre Arts and Technical School and joined the Moscow Arts Theatre, where he was in charge of lighting effects. He went on to head the lighting department of the Small Stage, where he began his career as a lighting designer, working on productions of The Road, Father and Son, The Carriage, Eucus and The Tattooed Rose.
From 1982–1987 he was involved in the reconstruction of the theatre on Kamergrersky Lane, starting with a project to design technical lighting equipment for the stage. He supervised the quality control of installation and initialisation works for the technical lighting department of the Main Stage. He was subsequently involved in the construction of the Bolshoi Theatre’s New Stage and the reconstruction of its historic home.
In 1987 he graduated from the production faculty of the Studio School of the MKhAT and was appointed Principal Lighting Designer of the Chekhov MKhAT. He has designed almost one hundred productions there including Boris Godunov, The Cherry Orchard, Grief from Mind, The Storm, The Marriage, Masquerade, Moscow Chorus, Misha’s Anniversary, A Lesson for Wives, A Lesson for Husbands, Mother-of-Pearl Zinaida, The Three Sisters, Cyrano de Bergerac, Yu, Antigone, Sacred Fire, Retro, Crime and Punishment, Noughts, Copenhagen, The Siege, The Petty Bourgeois, The White Guard, Playing the Victim, King Lear, The Forest, The Messrs Golovlev, Prima Donnas, Pillowman and The Pickwick Club.
He has worked with leading Russian and international stage directors such as Oleg Yefremov, Oleg Tabakov, Lev Dodin, Valery Fokine, Sergei Zhenovach, Leonid Kheifets, Roman Viktyuk, Mark Rozovsky, Kama Ginkas, Vladimir Andreyev, Galina Volchek, Roman Kozak, Kirill Serebrennikov, Elena Nevezhina, Tadashi Suzuki, Vladimir Petrov, Timur Chkheidze, Nikolai Sheiko, Mindaugas Karbauskis, Grigory Kozlov, Vladimir Petrov, Yevgeny Pisarev and Konstantin Bogomolov.
He has brought to life concepts by set designers including David Borovsky, Valery Levental, Sergei Barkhin, Mart Kitayev, Oleg Sheintsis, Eduard Kochergin, Alexander Borovsky, Tatiana Selvinskaya, Vyacheslav Okunev, Boris Messerer, Alla Kozhenkova, Igor Popov, Georgy Alexi-Meskheshvili, Yuri Kharikov, Yuri Ustinov, Nikolai Semonov and Zinovy Margolin.
Since 1996 he has worked with the Bolshoi Theatre (since 2002 he has been Principal Lighting Designer). Over his years of work at the theatre he has worked with stage directors and choreographers including Vladimir Vasiliev, Boris Pokrovsky, Peter Ustinov, Alexander Titel, Boris Eifman, Peter Konvichny, Alexei Ratmansky, Sergei Vikharev, Eimuntas Nekrošius, Alla Sigalova, Irkin Gabitov, Yuri Burlaka, David Pountney and Dmitry Bertman. As a lighting designer he has worked on productions of the ballets Swan Lake, Insomnia, Russian Hamlet, Ward 6, Paquita, Class Concert, Flames of Paris and Cinderella and the operas Aida, Iolanta, The Love for Three Oranges, Khovanshchina, Francesca da Rimini, Nabucco, The Gambler, The Snow Maiden, Macbeth, Mazepa, Der Fliegende Holländer, Rosenthal’s Children, War and Peace, Boris Godunov, Carmen and The Queen of Spades to name but a few.
Principal Lighting Designer of the Helikon Opera and the Studio of Theatre Art. He works with the Mariinsky Theatre, the Russian Academic Youth Theatre, Moscow’s Maly Theatre, the Yermolova Theatre, the Oleg Tabakov Theatre, the Russian Army Theatre, the Pushkin Theatre, the Mossoviet Theatre, the Moscow Operetta and renowned theatres in St Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, Norilsk, Kazan, Ufa, Oryol, Orienburg and Yekaterinburg. Over the course of his career he has designed over four hundred productions. Since 1987 he has taught a course on creative production lighting at the Moscow Arts and Technical School; since 2000 he has also taught theatre lighting at the Studio School of the MKhAT. He has also written the book Theatre Lighting (2005).