Stage director James Robinson is regarded as one of America’s most inventive and sought after directors. He has won wide acclaim for productions that range from standard repertory, to world premieres, to seldom performed works and he is considered the most widely performed director of opera in North America.
American stage director James Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis where he has mounted such productions as Chin Alice in Wonderland (American premiere), Ash The Golden Ticket (world premiere), Corigliano The Ghosts of Versailles (also presented at the Wexford Festival), and Adams The Death of Klinghoffer and Nixon in China (a production seen throughout the United States and Canada).
Forthcoming projects include the world premiere of Picker Dolores Claiborne for San Francisco Opera, the American premiere of Huang Ruo Sun Yat Sen for Santa Fe Opera and the world premiere of Champion by jazz and film composer Terence Blachard for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
Robinson has directed new productions for Houston Grand Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor, Giulio Cesare and Abduction from the Seraglio), San Francisco Opera (Norma, Il Trittico and L’Elisir d’amore) and the Canadian Opera Company (Norma, Elektra and Nixon in China). For the Santa Fe Opera, he has directed new productions of Capriccio, Così fan tutte and The Rake’s Progress, and numerous productions for the New York City Opera (La bohème, Hansel and Gretel and Il viaggio a Reims). His work has also been seen at the Australian Opera, the Washington Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Seattle Opera, the Royal Swedish Opera, the Dallas Opera, the Minnesota Opera and Chicago Opera Theater. Additionally, he has created productions for the London Symphony Orchestra (Bernstein's Mass and Honegger Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher), the Hollywood Bowl (Amadeus), Carnegie Hall, and the Minnesota Orchestra.
James Robinson is represented by Intermusica.
September 2012 / 249 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
The Death of Klinghoffer / Long Beach Opera
Cond. Andreas Mitisek
“[Robinson’s] treatment of all narrative material is pitch perfect, giving each character their own nuance and elevating the drama of each of their stories appropriately.”
Jonathan Ross, Long Beach Post, March 2014
“Director James Robinson’s production is first rate.”
Jim Ruggirello, Gazettes, March 2014
“Helmed by James Robinson, who directed the work in St. Louis in 2011 in its first U.S. production in the 20 years since its debut, the visual spectacle in the felicitous Terrace Theater in Long Beach suggests a scale suitably both epochal and intimate…There is no question that The Death of Klinghoffer was meant above all to be experienced as a live stage work, and this penetrating production fulfills that truest realization of the nature of this significant epitome of musical theater.”
Myron Meisel, Hollywood Reporter, March 2014
Rusalka / Opera San Antonio
Cond. Sebastian Lang-Lessing
“The acting and stage movements, under stage director James Robinson, were well thought out, especially as characters moved into and out of the Majestic’s orchestra pit, which served as the lake.”
David Hendricks, My San Antonio, February 2014
Dolores Claiborne / San Francisco Opera
Cond. George Manahan
“The production made an impressive case for the work, James Robinson conjuring a gripping, fluid, time-travelling staging.”
Allan Ulrich, Opera magazine, January 2014
Champion / Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Dir. James Robinson
Stage director James Robinson keeps it relentlessly interesting to watch throughout.”
Denver Post, June 2013
“In OTSL artistic director James Robinson’s production, with Allan Moyer’s simple black sets and projections and video by Greg Emetaz, 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 and too many blows to the head.”
St Louis Today, June 2013
Donizetti Don Pasquale / Julliard Opera
“There were plenty of amusing touches in James Robinson’s effective staging, like the personal trainer who gives the Don a workout to get him into shape for his new bride. At one point the poor Don is ushered into a wheelchair, complete with attending nurse”.
Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times, February 2013
Puccini ll Trittico
SFO Productions / cond. Patrick Summers
“Equally gripping in dramatic terms was James Robinson’s staging of the three one-act operas that form Giacomo Puccini’s Il Trittico. Casting Patricia Racette in all three operas, “Il Tabarro,” “Suor Angelica,” and “Gianni Schicchi,” provided an integrated approach to the full production that is not always honored by the director.”
Stephen Smoliar, Examiner, September 2012
Unsuk Chin Alice in Wonderland
Opera Theatre of St. Louis / cond. Michael Christie
“The production by OTSL’s artistic director was magical. Huge pieces of people-dwarfing furniture turned miniature – and vice versa – in this energetic exploration of Wonderland. [...] Robinson kept the busy show moving with a tight directorial hand”.
John Allison, Opera, October 2012
“Alice is a nightmare journey that constantly throws both the heroine and the audience off balance. Like a super-G-force roller coaster, it's weirdly and perversely fun... James Robinson's imaginative directing [was] inspired in evoking this demented phantasmagoria...”
Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal, June 2012
“Everyone joined in lockstep praise for the brilliantly theatrical production of artistic director James Robinson.”
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, June 2012
“The production by OTSL’s artistic director James Robinson was fittingly magical... energetic exploration of Wonderland, and Robinson kept the busy show moving with the tight directorial hand.”
Daily Telegraph, July 2012
“Inventively staged.... huge pieces of furniture – cupboards, bookcases, armoires... move around the stage, sometimes divulging content, such as a Cheshire Cat, or yards of sand when a frustrated Alice concludes that the earth is barren, only to have her idealised garden spring to dazzling life.”
George Loomis, Financial Times, June 2012
“The production has brought out brilliant work from Opera Theatre's behind-the-scenes crew. In fact, Alice may be veteran OTSL stage director James Robinson's most spectacular achievement... All comes together to create a unique and dazzling dreamscape that takes full advantage of the Loretto-Hilton's intimate dimensions while exploding the limits of its modest stage... OTSL's Alice makes for an amazing night of theater, replete with great performances and fabulous visuals. By all means go; you're unlikely to experience anything like it ever again”
Lew Prince, Riverfront Times, June 2012
“Stunning to see ... imaginative direction”
Arthur Kaptainis, Montreal Gazette, June 2012
“James Robinson’s imaginative directing evoked a demented phantasmagoria.”
Heidi Waleson, Opera Now, September 2012
“Dazzling technical work trumps... Director James Robinson is responsible for overseeing the difficult task of managing a large ensemble amidst many brief scenes that require subsequent changes to other scenes.”
Mark Bretz, Ladue News, June 2012
“A brilliant production with performances to match... ‘Best of [the season]: the entire brilliant production team for “Alice”: director James Robinson... ”
Sarah Bryan Miller, STL Today, July 2012
“The staging was top-notch... James Robinson had a clear vision for the piece.”
Rosalind Early, Saint Louis Magazine, June 2012
“Alice in Wonderland received an inventive and beautiful production staged with bountiful wit by artistic director James Robinson...”
Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland.com, July 2012
“This Alice is as mesmerizing as a bizarre yet mysteriously believable dream... The opera’s video designs and sets were equally eye-popping.”
Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Classical Review, June 2012
“Congratulations are in order for the orchestra, chorus, and the wonderful cast of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis's Alice in Wonderland... truly spectacular work by the performers and designers.”
Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX, June 2012
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor
Minnesota Opera / cond. Leonardo Vordoni
“Robinson is a master of the telling detail. He introduces Lucia by having her make a snow angel (perfect for Minnesota). He gets enormous mileage from her wedding dress -- before, during and after the ceremony. He's unafraid of the eroticism of the mad scene. And he manages to sustain a modicum of tension in the work's post-climactic closing minutes.”
Larry Fuchsberg, Star Tribune, March 2012
Adams The Death of Klinghoffer
Opera Theatre of St. Louis / cond. Michael Christie
“…thoughtful and sensitive staging by James Robinson should go a long way toward opening minds about Klinghoffer."
Heidi Walesom, Wall Street Journal, June 2011
“Artistic director James Robinson shines in the contemporary repertoire; Klinghoffer
is one of the best things he's done here… Robinson uses the same symbols - stones, suitcases, a young boy - to express the colliding tragedies of the two peoples. The simplicity of every aspect of this production is much of what makes it so compelling.”STL Today
, June 2011
“The OTSL did the piece proud, surrounding it with a first rate performance and production, by James Robinson, the company’s artistic director, that I found more eloquent, more humane, more involving, than the Peter Sellers-Mark Morris original.”
John von Rhein, MENAFN.com, August 2011
Adams Nixon in China
Canadian Opera Company / cond. Pablo Heras-Casado
"The COC’s first-ever production, created by James Robinson for Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 2004, takes careful stock of the work in all its registers of meaning. It draws out themes that were less explicit in the realistic debut productionof 1987."
Robert Everett-Green, The Globe and Mail, Feb 2011
"Nixon in China has finally landed in Toronto. John Adams’ 1987 opera, after playing all over the world, had its Canadian premiere in James Robinson’s riveting production as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. Now that production has come to the Canadian Opera Company and demonstrates quite clearly why Adams’ work has been hailed as one of the most important 20th-century operas."
“The brilliance of Robinson’s production is to place that meeting within two contexts—one eastern, one western—that draw universal meaning from a particular event.”
Christopher Hoile, EyeWeekly, Feb 2011