WNO to Perform Terence Blanchard’s “Champion” Throughout March

East Coast premiere of opera based on life of boxer Emile Griffith

Terence Blanchard (photo by Nitin Vadukul)
Terence Blanchard (photo by Nitin Vadukul)

Washington National Opera will perform the East Coast premiere of Champion, an “opera in jazz” at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C. on March 4. With music composed by Terence Blanchard and a libretto by Michael Cristofer, the opera tells the true story of U.S. Virgin Islands’ boxer Emile Griffith, who after being subjected to homophobic taunts by his opponent, delivered a fatal blow in a televised boxing match in 1962.

Bass Arthur Woodley (Emile Griffith) and bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock (Young Emile) reprise their roles from the opera’s 2013 world premiere in St. Louis, Mo. Singing the role of Griffith’s mother is mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. Tenor Victor Ryan Robertson portrays Griffith’s opponent, Benny “The Kid” Paret.

Blanchard’s score, filled with blues harmonies and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, will be performed by a jazz quartet consisting of pianist Fabian Almazan, guitarist Dan Hovey, bassist Nathaniel West and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, plus the WNO Orchestra.

Additional performances are scheduled for March 6, 10, 12, 15 and 18.

For more information including full performance credits, related events and to purchase tickets, visit the Kennedy Center website.