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Terence Blanchard’s Champion Sees US West Coast Premiere

(February 2016)

BlanchardChampionSFnews.jpg Opera Parallèle will mount Terence Blanchard’s Champion this February in its US West Coast premiere.

Trumpeter, composer, and arranger Terence Blanchard — a five-time Grammy Award winner and Emmy and Golden Globe nominee — has traversed musical worlds from jazz to pop to classical. In addition to performing with some of the most acclaimed artists and ensembles around the world, he has scored musicals and dozens of films (collaborating with figures such as Spike Lee and George Lucas). His first opera, Champion, was a smash hit at its premiere in 2013. After receiving rave reviews, other companies have taken note; the San Francisco Bay Area’s Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ join forces to give the US West Coast premiere of Champion 19–28 February at San Francisco’s SFJAZZ Center.

Based on actual events, Champion recounts the story of world welterweight champion Emile Griffith and his 1962 bout with Benny "The Kid" Paret, which ended in Paret’s death. After Paret hurls a gay slur at Griffith (who is closeted), they find each other months later in the ring — face to face. The result of the fight plagues Griffith’s thoughts for decades as his misery and guilt build up into his later years. The irony of Griffith’s absolution after delivering fatal blows to Paret and ostracism after being outed as a gay man presents the psychological complexities that fueled Griffith’s emotional torture.

Putting its own stamp on this work, Opera Parallèle notes: "With a new orchestration, created by Terence Blanchard for this Opera Parallèle production, Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel is planning a production with a very physical theatricality. The opera will feature non-traditional dance and an innovative deployment of projections, which will include video capturing that allows actual images of the performers to be projected. The gospel chorus will serve as reporters, photographers, hat makers, men at the boxing gym, Caribbean paraders, and female impersonators."

, featuring a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer, was premiered in June 2013 at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in St. Louis, Missouri, a joint commission by Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Jazz St. Louis. Opera Parallèle’s cast comprises Arthur Woodley, Kenneth Kellogg, Moses Abrahamson, Evan Holloway, Karen Slack, Robert Orth, Michelle Rice, Victor Ryan Robertson, Andres Ramirez, Chabrelle Williams, Aisha Campbell, Mark Hernandez, and Bradley Kynard.

For more information on this production, click here.

In addition to Opera Parallèle's upcoming performances, Washington National Opera will also mount a production of Champion in March 2017.

>  Further information on Work: Champion

Photo: Nitin Vadukul

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