Opera: A Heavy Weight to Bear

A strange coincidence: one of my former teachers from New Orleans, Terence Blanchard, premiered his new opera about Caribbean-born boxer Emile Griffith in my former hometown of Saint Louis, MO.

Repeating Islands


Terence Blanchard’s first opera, “Champion,” is an ambitious work, both for its music and its contemporary theme—as Heidi Waleson writes in this review for The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Blanchard, renowned as a jazz trumpeter and a composer of movie and Broadway scores, teamed up with playwright and filmmaker Michael Cristofer to tell the story of Emile Griffith, the Caribbean-born champion boxer who, in a notorious 1962 televised fight, beat his opponent, Benny “Kid” Paret, into a coma; Paret died 10 days later. “Champion,” which was given its world premiere by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis earlier this month, uses jazz, opera and musical theater elements to explore the life of a man perpetually at odds with himself. A closeted homosexual and not naturally aggressive (he would rather make hats), the eager young immigrant is pushed into a world that is all about machismo, and becomes haunted by the…

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