Libretto by Michael Cristofer (E)
Orchestra: 1.1.1.bcl.1-126.96.36.199-timp-perc(3-4):vib/fight bell/BD/parade whistle/hand claps/snare dr/susp.cym/crash cym/cowbell/shaker/congas/piatti-harp-strings
Jazz Trio/Quartet: pft-gtr-db-dr(trap set)
Loretto-Hilton Center, St. Louis, MO
Arthur Woodly, Aubrey Allicock, Denyce Graves-Montgomery, Robert Orth, Meredith Arwady, Victor Ryan Robertson, Brian Arreola
Conductor: George Manahan
Company: Opera Theatre of St. Louis
|Young Emile Griffith
|Emelda Griffith, Emile’s mother
|Howie Albert, Emile’s trainer
|Kathy Hagan, a bar owner
|Benny ‘Kid’ Paret/Benny Paret Jr., a boxer/his son
|Luis Rodrigo Griffith, Emile's adopted son and caretake
|Sadie Donastrog Griffith/Cousin Blanche
|Little Emile, Emile as a young boy
|A Chorus of Reporters, Photographers, Hat Makers, Men at the Boxing Gym, Caribbean Paraders, and Drag Queens
Time and Place
1940's in the Virgin Islands through early 2000's in New York City
In his apartment in Hempstead, Long Island, Emile Griffith is struggling to get dressed. Suffering from dementia, he is confused and haunted by his past. Luis, his adopted son and caretaker, reminds him to be ready for an important meeting with Benny Paret, Jr.
Emile is a young man again in St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands. He yearns to find his mother, Emelda, and make it big in America as a singer, a baseball player, a designer of hats.
Back in his bedroom in the present, Emile is haunted by the ghost of Kid Paret who still questions his old opponent.
Emile Griffith is enjoying a strong winning streak all over the world. Titles, trophies, and money roll in, but he remains disturbed by the death of Kid Paret. He tries living it up, and, denying his own identity, he takes a young bride, Sadie, although everyone including Emelda – who remembers her own childhood back in the Islands – warns him against it.
After the wedding, Emile’s luck seems to have changed. He’s now on a losing streak and starting to display signs of "boxer’s brain," or trauma-related dementia. Howie realized that Emile’s days are numbered and tried to console him, but Emile rejects Howie, as well as his wife and his mother. Instead, he looks for comfort back at Kathy’s bar. Outside in the street, he is taunted by a group of thugs. They beat him violently, exacerbating his brain injuries.
Back in the present, Emile relives the nightmare of the attack. Luis tried to comfort him. "That was long ago," says Luis. In a New York City park, Emile asks for forgiveness from Benny Jr. Luis tells Benny that since that terrible evening Emile has struggled to find peace with what he has done and who he truly is. Back at home, the voices and memories subside. Emile Griffith, the former welterweight champ, can now take life one day at a time.
"...a new work that deserves to be taken up by other opera producers far and wide... It's no mean feat to integrate hard bop, scat singing, driving Afro-Caribbean rhythms and lyrical arioso into a coherent and fluid musical unity, but Blanchard has done so brilliantly. The vocal writing is singable and appealing and nearly always supports and propels the dramatic action."
Ethics, Relationships, Society