For Her Met Opera Debut, Lileana Blain-Cruz Directs ‘El Niño’

When Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manger, asked the director Lileana Blain-Cruz what she wanted to stage, she didn’t need any time to think about her answer: “El Niño.”

A couple of years ago, she had already been hired to direct Missy Mazzoli’s “Lincoln in the Bardo,” an adaptation of the George Saunders novel that will premiere in the 2026-27 season, but Gelb was curious about what else she might be interested in.

Long a fan of John Adams and his collaborations with the director-librettist Peter Sellars, Blain-Cruz particularly loved their 2000 oratorio “El Niño,” a blending of the Nativity story with ancient and modern texts, like poetry by Rosario Castellanos and Gabriela Mistral.

“It makes you weep, and you don’t expect it,” Blain-Cruz said of the piece. “It shook me and stayed in my imagination for a while after I heard it, but I didn’t know when I would have a chance to make it happen onstage myself.”

Gelb quickly said yes. Now, Blain-Cruz’s production of “El Niño” will premiere at the Met on Tuesday, bringing with it the return of the brilliant mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges and the long-awaited house debuts of Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines and the conductor Marin Alsop.

Davóne Tines, center, makes his Met debut in “El Niño. Costumes are by Montana Levi Blanco. Credit…Lila Barth for The New York Times

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