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“Champion,” Terence Blanchard’s Opera, Named Finalist for Award

The story of boxer Emile Griffith will vie for “World Premiere” of the year

Terence Blanchard

Composer Terence Blanchard and librettist Michael Cristofer’s opera, Champion, has been named one of five finalists for “World Premiere” of the year in the 2014 International Opera Awards. The winning opera will be announced on April 7 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Champion, which was co-commissioned with Jazz St. Louis and premiered at premiere at Opera Theatre of St. Louis last June, is the only finalist in the category written by both an American composer and an American librettist.

Funds are currently being raised via IndieGoGo for recording/distribution of a CD release of the opera.

The story of the opera, as described in a press release, follows:

The Story of Champion

Emile Griffith was a three-time World Welterweight Champion and twice a World Middleweight Champion, fighting from the late 1950s into the 1970s. However, one of his greatest professional triumphs-winning back the Welterweight Championship from Benny “The Kid” Paret in 1962-was also one of his greatest personal tragedies. The seventeen punches he landed on Paret in seven seconds resulted in not only a knockout, but also a coma from which Paret would never recover. Paret would die 10 days later.

Before that life-changing televised fight, in a room full of press and officials, Paret mocked Griffith repeatedly with a derogatory term for a homosexual. Years later, Griffith’s sexuality as a gay man was revealed to the public after he was nearly killed by a gang outside a gay bar in New York. “I kill a man,” Griffith was quoted to have said, “and most people understand and forgive me. I love a man, and to so many people this is an unforgiveable sin.” In an inspiring, moving, and painful journey of self-discovery, Champion presents audiences with a great contemporary tragic hero-a man of strength and courage consumed ultimately by rage, regret, and the terrible consequences of his actions.

Originally Published