Terence Blanchard’s Champion premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City this week, becoming the second opera performed in the venue by a Black composer. The first was Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which premiered in 2019. 

To celebrate Blanchard’s second work, the Met kicked off opening night with a glittery, star-studded event. Celebrity guests Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance, Spike Lee, Phylicia Rashad, Al Roker and Deborah Roberts and more enjoyed a pre-show boxing-themed reception with commentary from New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

Champion is based on the true story of middleweight boxing champion Emile Griffith, a New York hat-factory worker who rose to world champion while attempting to keep his bisexual identity secret. Griffith killed his arch-rival Benny “Kid” Paret in the ring after being outed by him at the weigh-in of their final title fight, an event that haunted Griffith for the rest of his life. 

Ryan Speedo Green (center) as Young Emile Griffith in a scene from Terence Blanchard's Champion. Image: Ken Howard / Met Opera.

Baritones Ryan Speedo Green and Eric Owen portray Emile as a young boxer and as his tormented and punch-drunk older self, respectively. Celebrated Soprano Latonia Moore plays Emile’s mother Emelda Griffith. Camille A. Brown, known for her work on the Met’s Porgy and Bess, choreographed the production.

On April 29, 2023, a performance of Champion will be transmitted to cinemas worldwide as part of the company’s The Met: Live in HD series. A recording of the April 29 performance will also be rebroadcast over the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network on May 27, 2023.

In partnership with Harlem School of the Arts and The Brotherhood Sister Sol, the Met is leading a series of workshops and master classes focusing on opera in jazz and the athleticism of opera singing.

Champion runs for a limited engagement at the Met through May 13, 2023.