"Brimming with life": James Robinson's production of Porgy and Bess a success at the Metropolitan Opera

30 September 2019

On 23 September James Robinson's production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess opened at the Metropolitan Opera, following acclaimed performances last season at the English National Opera and Dutch National Opera. Critics in New York have praised the production:

… 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... 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

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 … “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

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

… 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

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

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... Mr. Robinson’s detailed directing always made them seem like individuals rather than a mass.

Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

Porgy and Bess runs until 16 October, then returns for performances from 8 January until 1 February 2020. The performance on 1 February will be streamed live to cinemas around the world with tickets available via the Metropolitan Opera website.

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