Opera Paralléle and SFJazz to Co-Present CHAMPION, 2/19

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San Francisco's Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ will present their first collaboration: a new, fully staged production of Champion: An Opera in Jazz by Terence Blanchard, SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director, with eight performances to be given February 19-28, 2016 at SFJAZZ Center. Based on the life of African-American, bisexual boxing champion Emile Griffith (1938-2013), the production marks both Opera Parallèle's first foray into an operatic jazz idiom and SFJAZZ's first opera. Performances will be given at 7:30 pm Friday--Sunday, February 19, 20 and 21; Tuesday and Wednesday, February 23 and 24; Friday and Saturday, February 26 and 27; and at 4 pm Sunday, February 28 and tickets are priced $30-$185. For more information, visit www.operaparallele.org and www.sfjazz.org .

A groundbreaking work combining the disciplines of opera and jazz, Terence Blanchard's Champion: An Opera in Jazz (2013) tells the real-life story of world champion boxer Emile Griffith, a man haunted by memories of his past who struggled to reconcile his sexuality in a hyper-macho world. Co-produced by Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ, Champion 's visually stunning production will feature full staging and video elements with soloists, a jazz trio, orchestra and Gospel chorus, bringing out the full glory of Blanchard's soulful score as it illuminates Griffith's triumphs and struggles, which are still broadly and powerfully relevant today. Tormented by the death of opponent Benny Paret following their 1962 bout for the welterweight title, Griffith spent his life questioning himself and a society that would accept his accidental killing of a fellow athlete, but not his bisexuality. The opera features a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer and was premiered at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2013. Terence Blanchard will re-orchestrate the score especially for the Opera Parallè/SFJAZZ production.

The Creative Team and Cast

The production team includes Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director and conductor; Brian Staufenbiel, Creative Director & Resident Stage Director; Brian Staufenbiel, set and lobby installation designer; Matthew Antaky, lighting designer; David Murakami, media designer and Frédéric Boulay, projection designer; Christine Crook, costume designer; Jeanna Parham, wig and make-up designer.

The cast features baritone Arthur Woodley as Old Emile Griffith, soprano Karen Slack as Emelda Griffith, Emile's mother; baritone Robert Orth as Howie Albert, Emile's trainer; and bass-baritone Ken Kellogg as the young Emile Griffith; and other cast to be announced. A gospel chorus performs as reporters, photographers, hat makers, men at the boxing gym, Caribbean paraders, and female impersonators.

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