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Commentary

Morris Robinson [Photo by Lisa Kohler]
01 Apr 2011

From the Field to the Stage

“All the world’s a stage” and for Morris Robinson the translation was literal. From the football field to the grand opera he managed to make few stage set changes along the way.

Morris Robinson commands Don Giovanni

By Liana Cole

Above: Morris Robinson [Photo by Lisa Kohler]

 

Robinson, nicknamed “Massive” during his run as a two-time All-American offensive lineman at The Citadel, has made a successful transition to an opera career; Robinson is now one of the most pursued bass performers of today.

"I don't think music and athletics are so far apart," Robinson said. "It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude, a certain resilience that you learn in sports and in life."

Currently, Robinson is performing in the Florida Grand Opera’s production of Don Giovanni, which opens April 16th in Miami.

Robinson plays the role of the Commendatore, the father of Donna Anna, who is killed by Don Giovanni in Act I but then returns in Act II as a ghost to drag Don Giovanni to hell.

Characterized by his commanding stage presence and a booming bass to match, Robinson is well suited for the part, serving as the first and only Commendatore to date in the John Pascoe production seen previously in the Washington National Opera and Dallas Opera. Robinson has conquered the difficult role both musically and physically.

In Act I the role calls for Robinson to underplay what he was naturally blessed with, a strong powerful voice. As the Commentador dies and is holding on to his last breath his voice is called to be performed chopping and monotonous, traits opera performers are trained not to do.

His masterful voice takes full charge of Act II. As the Commendatore’s spirit Robinson must transform into the most powerful and dominant voice on the stage, taking over the scene, which he does with a truly powerful finesse.

Don Giovanni is famous for its fight scenes, which also add a physical challenge, as the actors have to sing following tiring duels, such as that between the Commendatore and Don Giovanni himself. This is where Robinson draws his experience as an athlete, noting that training for both are one in the same.

“Being a former athlete, training for football involves certain exercises that require physical agility,” Robinson explains, comparing his former football practices to strenuous fight choreography and voice rehearsals.

When Robinson graduated from The Citadel, he had his sights set on the corporate world and moved to Boston to pursue his goals. However, upon arrival Robinson signed up for singing classes at the New England Conservatory and ended up diving head first into the opera scene. It didn’t take long for his bass voice to be heard by the director of Boston University’s music school. Captivated by his unique voice, she advised Robinson that he should definitely consider making opera his career.

Robinson immediately auditioned at the Boston University Opera Institute, won a full scholarship and has never looked back. He has gone on to complete the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and it was there that Robinson made his stage debut in Fidelio.

Robinson has since performed in numerous other productions at the Met, including The Magic Flute, Aida, Les Troyens and Salome. He has also worked with multiple opera companies, including the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Seattle Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and the Wolf Trap Opera.

Liana Cole

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