Twenty-five years ago, Morris Robinson was an All-American college football player; now he’s among the most respected and sought-after opera singers in the world. Robinson came to Trinity Wall Street to sing in the weekly series of concerts called Lamentatio.
How did you end up here in Trinity’s concert series?
I got an interesting call from my manager. I was up in Boston doing Rigoletto, and she says that they need a bass for the Shostakovich. She basically said, “We know that you’ve done it, and hardly anyone else has done it. And you did it like 12 years ago, but we’re wondering if you can dust it off and figure it out.”
Was music a part of your childhood?
I grew up in a musical household. My mom sang all the time. My dad was a really good singer. I always could carry a note, but I just never really sang because everyone else sang. I was the drummer.
You were thirty-years-old when you went to your first opera, and you were in it.
This is Aida, by Giuseppe Verde, and I’m doing rehearsals. I’m really not understanding the enormity of what this is. It wasn’t until opening night when my parents were out there, and my wife is out there and they started playing the trumpets for the king’s entrance. All of a sudden this is the real deal. The maestro has on a tuxedo. It was game time. It’s just an out of body experience almost. I was not privy to this art form. I had never participated in or even witnessed it. And I was in it.
You made the All-America team at The Citadel. Is college football good training for an opera singer?
If you’re just good enough to make the team, you already have the natural ingredients, I think, to be successful at anything. Because one cannot comprehend unless they’ve been through it, the amount of discipline, the amount of physical exertion, the amount of organizational skills one must have to be able to attend class, remember all the meetings, the aptitude that you must have to remember a playbook and remember what the blocking assignments are. You’re not just a talented person because you can run fast. Coming to the operatic world, I was blessed with a voice. To go from not having done this ever in my life to singing at the Metropolitan Opera in two years, I mean, it’s incomprehensible unless one has the discipline, the aptitude, the structure to put it all together. I learned a lot of this on the athletic field.
So what’s your life like?
I’m a classical music singer. I sing opera, I sing oratorio. I work with some of the greatest orchestras and conductors and opera companies. And what’s it like to be that? The moment I leave here on Monday morning and fly back home to Tyrone, Georgia, I’m probably going to pick up my kid up from school, go home, sit at the table, do homework, play some games with him, make sure he takes his bath, gets into bed. I’m going to sit on the couch, turn on the television and watch whatever game is on that night, grab a beer, and talk to my buddies. It’s a dichotomy. And you learn how to manage it because you can’t let those two worlds interfere with one another.
Click here to watch Morris Robinson perform Symphony 14 by Dmitri Shostakovich.