Opéra de Montréal will go ten rounds with jazz composer Terence Blanchard next fall, in the Canadian premiere of Blanchard's Champion, an opera about real-life boxer Emile Griffith, who killed an opponent in the ring in 1962.
Griffith, a bisexual man from the U.S. Virgin Islands, was the target of homophobic taunts by Cuban-born Benny "Kid" Paret before the fatal bout at Madison Square Garden. In the opera, Griffith reviews his life in flashback, while in a nursing home suffering from boxing-related dementia.
Blanchard, who refers to his 10-scene work as an "opera in jazz," wrote the piece with librettist Michael Cristofer for Jazz St. Louis and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, which gave the premiere performances in 2013. The production to be seen in Montreal was built and presented at Washington National Opera last March.
Opéra de Montréal's 2018 – 2019 season will also include performances of Wagner's Das Rheingold, in a production from Minnesota Opera; Bizet's Carmen, directed by veteran Quebec filmmaker Charles Binamé; and Twenty-Seven, a 2014 chamber opera about the Parisian salon of Gertrude Stein, written by Ricky Ian Gordon and Alberta-born Royce Vavrek, who wrote the libretto for the recently-produced JFK. The season opens on Sept. 15 with Verdi's Rigoletto.