Terence Blanchard’s “Champion” Triumphs at The Met
Composer Terence Blanchard has made a mark in classical music with his opera Champion, featured in The Met's 2022-2023 season.
Blanchard's score is a masterpiece that seamlessly blends the unique musical elements, structures, and conventions of jazz and classical music, which are traditionally distinct. In Champion, the two genres blend harmoniously to create a spellbinding journey through the life of Emile Griffith. The story is one of perseverance and overcoming adversity, as Griffith faces discrimination as a gay man but rises to become a world-champion boxer. The combination of jazz and classical expressions in Blanchard's score makes the journey all the more captivating, adding depth and emotion to the story. The composer's skillful blending of the two genres into a cohesive musical work demonstrates the power of music to communicate complex feelings and tell a story through sound. It is also a testament to Blanchard's mastery of his craft.
The opera's libretto, penned by Michael Cristofer, is a potent blend of drama and pathos that highlights themes of homophobia, discrimination, and acceptance. The dialogue is powerful, poignant, and delivered with raw emotion by the performers - Eric Owens (Emile Griffith), Latonia Moore (Emelda Griffith), and Ryan Speedo Green (Young Emile Griffith), to name a few.
Blanchard's Champion is a monumental work of art that showcases his genius and features the powerful soprano voice of Latonia Moore, in the role of the boxer's estranged mother. The diva's soprano voice perfectly complements Blanchard's music, conveying the raw power and feeling of the libretto with precision and grace. Her stunning performances and Blanchard's exceptional score make Champion an operatic masterpiece.
But if that's not enough greatness, the choreography, masterfully crafted by Camille A. Brown, takes our breath away. The dancers move with grace and power, giving the story emotional depth through their movements. It is a highlight of the opera, perfectly complementing the music and drama.
Champion is a deeply personal project for Blanchard, reflecting his experiences as a Black composer in the classical music world. Blanchard has broken down barriers and opened doors for diverse voices in classical music, demonstrating that there is a place for unique perspectives and experiences in opera.
Like his opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones, that preceded it, Champion is being hailed as a groundbreaking achievement, a testament to art's ability to inspire and be provocative.
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