James Robinson

Stage director

"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."

The Guardian

"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."

Broadway World

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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, Terence Blanchard’s Champion and Fire Shut Up in My Bones, John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer and Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath.

In 2021-22 he co-directs Fire Shut Up in My Bones with Camille A. Brown for the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and directs the world premiere of Written in Stone, a quadruple bill of new works for Washington National Opera. He also revives his critically acclaimed production of Porgy and Bess for the Metropolitan Opera.

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New Works, Bold Voices

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, June 2021

...stage director James Robinson deserves high kudos.

Steve Callahan, Broadway World, 15 June 2021

James Robinson’s staging of New Works conveyed the essence of all three of them.

George Loomis, Opera Magazine, September 2021

...director James Robinson deserves high praise.

Amber Lamitie, Illinois News Today, 16 June 2021

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

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