"James Robinson’s staging is timeless but wholehearted and handsome. If you’re going to stage Gershwin’s opera, this is how to do it."
"James Robinson’s brilliantly simple, evocative production, which uses vivid video projections and movable set pieces that evoke a house’s interiors."
New York Times
"The action moves fluidly and cinematically between the worlds of Old Emile, lost in anxious dementia, and Young Emile, as he rises in the world of boxing and then falls, the victim of arrogance…"
St Louis Today
"Opera Theatre St. Louis gives us an utterly flawless Regina…The master of this ship is stage director James Robinson. He does simply remarkable work--evoking such perfection from his singer/actors, his designers, everyone."
American stage director James Robinson is Artistic Director at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis where he has mounted productions including Blitzstein’s Regina, the world premieres of Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown, Blanchard’s Champion and Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer and Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath.
Elsewhere, Robinson has directed new productions for the Santa Fe Opera (Vanessa, Dr Sun Yat Sen, Cosi fan tutte, Capriccio, The Rake’s Progress), Houston Grand Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor, Nixon in China, Abduction from the Seraglio), San Francisco Opera (Dolores Clairborne,Il trittico, L’elisir d’amore, Norma), New York City Opera (La bohème, Hansel and Gretel and Il viaggio a Reims), the Wexford Festival (The Ghosts of Versailles) and Seattle Opera (Carmen). His work has also been seen at Opera Australia, Royal Swedish Opera, Washington National Opera and many others. He directed Bernstein’s Mass for the London Symphony Orchestra with Marin Alsop and Shaffer’s Amadeus with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.
In the 2020-21 season he directs Rigoletto for Tulsa Opera, and Pagliacci, La bohème and Die Zauberflöte for Palm Beach Opera. In 2021-22 he co-directs Fire Shut Up in My Bones with Camille A. Brown for the Metropolitan Opera.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
La bohème, Die Zauberflöte, Pagliacci
Palm Beach Opera, February 2021
La bohème: With just a few tables and chairs (in front of the orchestra) and minimal costuming, Robinson managed to suggest the strong connections, loves and feuds between the protagonists. Close-ups of individual singers on a screen above the stage aided the dramatic tension.
Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review, 20 February 2021
Die Zauberflöte: James Robinson’s skeletal staging, utilizing colorful platforms, managed to bring out the opera’s fantasy and drama without detracting from the concert format.
Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review, 22 February 2021
Pagliacci: masterful stage direction by James Robinson
Marcio Bezerra, Palm Beach Daily News, 1 March 2021
Porgy and Bess
Metropolitan Opera, September 2019
Credit the lead performers, but a substantial amount of the force of the performance came from the African-American chorus assembled by the Met for this production—not just their vibrant singing but the direction from James Robinson and the choreography for them and a small set of dancers, created by Camille A. Brown (both making their Met debuts). Catfish Row was full of life, from people going about their work and chores to gripping and visceral expression of charismatic Christianity at the moments of greatest sorrow and crisis. The village was not full of characters–it was full of genuine people.
George Grella, New York Classical Review, 24 September 2019
James Robinson’s production, which opened at English National Opera last year, embraced the period, presenting a stage thick with intertwined bodies in dingy clothes in tableaux reminiscent of American paintings of the 1920s and 1930s … But it was the vividness of the characterizations and the singing, through to the special chorus hired for the occasion, that made the evening. “Porgy and Bess” calls for a huge cast and an eye to detail, and a group of gifted singing artists brought the characters to life with dignity rather than shtick or condescension.
Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, 24 September 2019
The great success of James Robinson’s production is creating a sense of the community of Catfish Row, with singers and dancers busy and attentive on multiple levels of Michael Yeargan’s intricate unit set.
James Jorden, Observer, 24 September 2019
As directed by James Robinson and designed by Michael Yeargan, this production of “Porgy and Bess” features a rotating set that presents the Catfish Row tenement as a series of two story buildings with a central hub around which the people gather. The set up allows for the environment to be constantly populated and feel alive with people. As far as presentation goes, this production is probably everything a Met audience could ask for. It’s lively, colorful, literal, and features some strong choreography by Camille A. Brown throughout many choral numbers.
David Salazar, Operawire, 24 September 2019
Metropolitan Opera premieres James Robinson's lively production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess... Robinson's direction is brimming with life
David M Rice, Classical Source, 23 September 2019
The debate over whether it is a musical or an opera has surely been decided by now—but, if not, the sheer sonic grandeur of the Met’s new production (shared with the English National Opera and the Dutch National Opera), which opened the season on Monday, should do the trick. Additionally, the suggestion that the work traffics in racial stereotypes should be answered by the thoughtfulness of James Robinson’s staging, which portrays Catfish Row as a rich, complex community, bound together by common values and beset by struggles that can afflict any society. The splendid chorus inhabited the space as though its 60 members lived there. It sometimes felt a little crowded, but it was worth it for the opulence of their singing in the prayers, dirges and celebrations that are the tent poles of “Porgy.” Mr. Robinson’s detailed directing always made them seem like individuals rather than a mass.
Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal, 24 September 2019
Fire Shut Up in My Bones
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, June 2019
James Robinson’s brilliantly simple, evocative production, which uses vivid video projections and movable set pieces that evoke a house’s interiors.
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 16 June 2019
Relying on open spaces, dark lighting and movable set pieces, director James Robinson has allowed the ensemble to remain at the forefront throughout, giving viewers a heightened sense of urgency that enables them to fully convey the pain of Charles’ life while challenging gentrified notions of protection and family.
Rob Levy, ReviewSTL.com, 18 June 2019
The cast of all African-American performers is persuasively moving under the meticulous guidance of stage director James Robinson, whose pacing and cultivation of the ensemble’s strong voices keep this production both brisk and riveting as it compellingly tells Blow’s harrowing tale.
Mark Bretz, Ladue News, 20 June 2019
OTSL artistic director James Robinson shaped it brilliantly in his dual role as stage director and dramaturg.
Sarah Bryan Miller, St Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 June 2019
Porgy and Bess
English National Opera, October 2018
James Robinson’s staging is timeless but wholehearted and handsome. If you’re going to stage Gershwin’s opera, this is how to do it.
Erica Jeal, The Guardian, October 2018
The Met audience will undoubtedly love this spick-and-span Catfish Row and its (mostly) God-fearin’ dramatis personae, projected with loving detail by James Robinson, whose work we should see more often at the Coliseum. This is a slicker, more substantial spectacle than any of ENO’s semi-stagings of classic musicals, peopled by vivid actors who are also great singers. It’s just the kind of popular show to set tills a-ringing.
Hugh Canning, The Times, October 2018
James Robinson’s full-throttle production of Porgy and Bess steers the rocky boat of St Martin’s Lane home in splendid style... The folk of Catfish Row will never reach that promised land of which they sing so beautifully. But the Coliseum show carries us much closer to it than any of sawn-off, musical-style abridgement of Porgy and Bess ever could. Laden with vocal treasures, splendidly rigged out, and skippered on every deck with skill and dash, this is a boat that should not be missed.
Boyd Tonkin, The Arts Desk, October 2018
It’s traditional in the sense that director James Robinson and designer Michael Yeargan have not sought in any way to stylise the piece, or give it a political spin (after all, with its Grapes of Wrath undertones, it doesn’t need one); the pullulating waterfront tenements, the storms, the healing sun – everything has a vivid immediacy... The chorus comes together as a community in which every member has an allotted role, but Robinson’s direction has them playing together seamlessly, with even the children being without a shred of self-conscious stagyness... The fights, the murder, the funeral, the prayer-meetings – everything is hyper-real.
Michael Church, The Independent, October 2018
Opera Theatre of St Louis, May 2018
Opera Theatre St. Louis gives us an utterly flawless Regina…The master of this ship is stage director James Robinson. He does simply remarkable work--evoking such perfection from his singer/actors, his designers, everyone.
Steve Callahan, Broadway World, May 2018
'Regina’ may be a piece whose time has come, especially as presented here in James Robinson’s production, suggestive of the Southern locale and early-20th-century period, and performed by an exceptional cast
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, June 2018
Opera Theatre’s exhilarating first production of the opera, cogently directed by James Robinson and authoritatively conducted by Stephen Lord.
George Loomis, The Financial Times, June 2018 ★★★★★
Artistic director James Robinson brought out the family’s fraught dynamics effectively in ways both large and subtle.
Sarah Bryan Miller, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, May 2018