VIDEO: New TV Spot for Terence Blanchard's CHAMPION at the Metropolitan Opera in April

Champion will star Ryan Speedo Green, Eric Owens, Latonia Moore, and Stephanie Blythe.

Terence Blanchard's opera Champion, based on the true story of the troubled former middleweight boxing champion Emile Griffith, will have its highly anticipated Metropolitan Opera premiere on April 10, with nine performances running through May 13. The work, with a libretto by Michael Cristofer, arrives at the Met a season after Blanchard's Fire Shut Up in My Bones made history as the first opera by a Black composer to be presented at the Met. The company's recording of Fire recently won the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording, garnering Blanchard his seventh Grammy.

A superstar cast led by conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met's Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director, brings to life the story of the bi-sexual boxer Emile Griffith, a New York hat-factory worker who rose to become a world champion while attempting to keep his sexual identity secret. Griffith killed his archrival Benny "Kid" Paret in the ring after being outed by him at the weigh in of their final title fight, an event that haunted Griffith for the rest of his life.

Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green portrays Emile as a young boxer, and bass-baritone Eric Owens plays Griffith's tormented and punch-drunk older self. The cast also stars soprano Latonia Moore as Emelda Griffith, the boxer's estranged mother; mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as the gay bar owner Kathy Hagen; tenor Paul Groves as Howie Albert, the factory owner who discovered Emile's boxing talent; and baritone Eric Greene as Benny "Kid" Paret, the fighter that Griffith killed with a barrage of blows in a 1962 title fight. Contralto Meredith Arwady sings the role of Kathy Hagen on May 8, and Kensho Watanabe will conduct the May 13 performance.

Director James Robinson-whose productions of Fire and Porgy and Bess at the Met scored major successes-directs Champion, as he did when the work had its world premiere in St. Louis a decade ago. Camille A. Brown, who electrified audiences with her choreography in Porgy and Fire, the latter which she co-directed, also returns as choreographer.


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MY FIRST HUNDRED YEARS to be Presented at Edmonton Opera This Month Photo
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Review: THE FLYING DUTCHMAN at Metropolitan Opera Photo
Review: THE FLYING DUTCHMAN at Metropolitan Opera

Thomas Guggeis, the young German conductor making his Met debut, is Kapellmeister at the Staatsoper Berlin and the designated Generalmusikdirektor of the Oper Frankfurt; pretty impressive for one who has yet to hit his 30th birthday!   His Met debut was justly anticipated, as across Europe he is known as something of a Wagner and Strauss specialist.   His performance was well-paced and well-colored and energetic.  The score provides for enormous surges of energy and power, and the orchestra was certainly up to the task, but Guggeis’ rendition while quite good, was perhaps a tad lacking in thrills – the magnificent Wagner bombast was a little timid and the quieter passages were lovely but just a bit bland.   With time and more experience with this orchestra, one can safely expect some exceptional performances in the future.