The Metropolitan Opera will present the company premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Champion,

with libretto by Michael Cristofer, in April 2023

Yannick Nézet-Séguin will lead a cast starring

Ryan Speedo Green and Eric Owens

Production to be directed by James Robinson

            New York, NY (December 7, 2021)—Following the success of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which reopened the Metropolitan Opera and played to sold out houses, the company announced today that it will present Blanchard’s first opera, Champion, with libretto by Michael Cristofer, in April 2023. With a production directed by James RobinsonChampion, based on the life of African American boxer Emile Griffith, will be conducted by Met Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, featuring a cast starring Ryan Speedo Green as the young Griffith, and Eric Owens as the retired boxer later in life. The opera was premiered at Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 2013, its original production staged by Robinson. For the Met, Blanchard plans to revise portions of the score, and Cristofer will be fine-tuning the libretto. Robinson will be expanding and revamping the production. Other cast and production team members will be announced at a later date. 

“We didn’t want to lose the momentum established with Fire, so we reconfigured our very next season to present this important work,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb.

            “Conducting Fire Shut Up in My Bones has been a musical highlight of my career,” said Maestro Nézet-Séguin. “Terence Blanchard’s music and storylines are very much of our time, and we could not wait to ask him to bring Champion to the Met. I am thrilled to be able to collaborate with him again so soon.” 

“While still processing the overwhelming response to my opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones, I am moved by the idea of my first opera, Champion, being produced on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House,” said Blanchard. “I am looking forward once again to experiencing the high level of talent and dedication from all who will be involved with this production.”

“Emile Griffith never wanted to be a world champion fighter,” said Cristofer, who won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his play, The Shadow Box. “He wanted to play baseball. He wanted to make hats. And most of all he wanted to sing. Bringing his story of forgiveness and redemption to the Met, to have it sung from this great stage, would have made him very, very happy.”