Terence Blanchard’s Champion premieres at the Met on April 10, starring Ryan Speedo Green, Eric Owens, Latonia Moore, and Stephanie Blythe; Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts
- Director James Robinson, choreographer Camille A. Brown, and other members of the creative team behind Blanchard’s 2021 Met success, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, reunite
- Related public events to take place at the Guggenheim Museum, City College Center for the Arts at Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, and elsewhere in New York City
New York, NY (February 23, 2023)—Terence Blanchard’s opera Champion, based on the true story of the troubled former middleweight boxing champion Emile Griffith, has its highly anticipated Metropolitan Opera premiere on April 10, with nine performances running through May 13. The work, with a libretto by Michael Cristofer, arrives at the Met a season after Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones made history as the first opera by a Black composer to be presented at the Met. The company’s recording of Fire recently won the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording, garnering Blanchard his seventh Grammy.
A superstar cast led by conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director, brings to life the story of the bi-sexual boxer Emile Griffith, a New York hat-factory worker who rose to become a world champion while attempting to keep his sexual identity secret. Griffith killed his archrival 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.
Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green portrays Emile as a young boxer, and bass-baritone Eric Owens plays Griffith’s tormented and punch-drunk older self. The cast also stars soprano Latonia Moore as Emelda Griffith, the boxer’s estranged mother; mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as the gay bar owner Kathy Hagen; tenor Paul Groves as Howie Albert, the factory owner who discovered Emile’s boxing talent; and baritone Eric Greene as Benny “Kid” Paret, the fighter that Griffith killed with a barrage of blows in a 1962 title fight. Contralto Meredith Arwady sings the role of Kathy Hagen on May 8, and Kensho Watanabe will conduct the May 13 performance.
Director James Robinson—whose productions of Fire and Porgy and Bess at the Met scored major successes—directs Champion, as he did when the work had its world premiere in St. Louis a decade ago. Camille A. Brown, who electrified audiences with her choreography in Porgy and Fire, the latter which she co-directed, also returns as choreographer.
Programs exploring the themes of Champion are scheduled to take place throughout the city. They include:
- Guggenheim Works & Process, March 20, at 7:30PM Blanchard and Robinson come together for a conversation about Griffith’s life, moderated by Peter Gelb, the Met’s Maria Manetti Shrem General Manager. Green, Moore, and Owens join to perform selections from the opera. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
- In Their Corner, April 4, at 8PM The Met cohosts, with Athlete Ally and Native Son, an evening to call attention to LGBTQ+ issues in sports and art at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City.
- Ring Leaders, April 15, at 3PM In partnership with Everlast, RISE, and Native Son, the Met hosts a panel discussion focusing on the perseverance it takes to achieve success in sports and opera. City College Center for the Arts at Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem.
- In partnership with Harlem School of the Arts and The Brotherhood Sister Sol, the Met leads a series of workshops and master classes focusing on opera in jazz and the athleticism of opera singing.
Fridays Under 40
The Met’s Fridays Under 40 series continues on April 14 with a party ahead of the evening performance of Champion. Available exclusively for operagoers 40 and under, the event features complimentary wine, themed activities, and more.
Champion in Cinemas and on Radio
The April 29 performance of Champion will be transmitted to cinemas worldwide as part of the company’s The Met: Live in HD series. The April 10 and 18 performances will be broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SiriusXM channel 355. A recording of the April 29 performance will also be rebroadcast over the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network on May 27. Audio from the April 10 performance will be streamed for free live on the Met’s website, metopera.org.
Champion Artist Biographies
The 2022–23 season marks Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s fourth season as the Met’s Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director. Since his 2009 Met debut with Bizet’s Carmen, he has led nearly 150 performances of 18 operas. He has served as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 2012 and artistic director and principal conductor of the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal since 2000. In 2018, he became honorary conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, after serving as music director for ten seasons, and in 2016, he was named an honorary member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Between 2008 and 2014, he was principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also led operatic performances in Baden-Baden and at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Covent Garden, and Salzburg Festival. In addition to Terence Blanchard’s Champion, this season he takes the podium to lead the world-premiere production of Kevin Puts’s The Hours, a new production of Lohengrin, a revival of La Bohème, and concerts with the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and on tour in Europe.
Japanese conductor Kensho Watanabe recently made his Met debut this season leading a performance of Kevin Puts’s The Hours. He served as assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 2016 to 2019, making his acclaimed subscription debut with the orchestra and pianist Daniil Trifonov, taking over from his mentor, Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Recent highlights include debuts with the Houston Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Brussels Philharmonic, and BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Equally at home in both symphonic and operatic repertoire, he has led operas with the Curtis Opera Theatre, including La Rondine and La Bohème. Additionally, he served as assistant conductor to Maestro Nézet-Séguin on a new production of Elektra at Montreal Opera.
Grammy Award–winning bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, a Virginia native, stars as young Emile Griffith. Most recently at the Met, he helped opened the 2021–22 season as Uncle Paul in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, reprised his portrayals of Jake in Porgy and Bess and Colline in La Bohème, made his role debuts as Varlaam in Boris Godunov and Truffaldin in Ariadne auf Naxos, and performed in A Concert for Ukraine as a soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Other Met highlights include the King in Aida, Oroe in Semiramide, Rambo in John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, the Jailer in Tosca, the Second Knight in Parsifal, and the Mandarin in Turandot, the role of his 2012 company debut. In 2014, he became a member of the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera, where his roles have included Banquo in Macbeth, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Don Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Truffaldin, Fasolt in Das Rheingold, and Colline, among many others. He is a graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and was a recipient of the Met’s 2021 Beverly Sills Artist Award, established by Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman. This season, he also appears in concert with the Met Orchestra and Met Orchestra Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie Hall and sings Ferrando in Il Trovatore and Orest in Elektra at the Washington National Opera, Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde at the Paris Opera and in concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Varlaam at the Bavarian State Opera.
Houston-born soprano Latonia Moore returns to the Met as Emelda Griffith. She made her Met debut singing the title role of Aida in 2012 and has since appeared as Billie in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Serena in Porgy and Bess, and Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly. Recent performances include Serena at Dutch National Opera and English National Opera, and in concert at the Lucerne Festival; Leonora in Il Trovatore at Washington National Opera; Billie at Lyric Opera of Chicago; Cio-Cio-San at the Dallas Opera; Leonora at the Glimmerglass Festival; the title role of Tosca at Austin Opera, Washington National Opera, Opera Australia, New York City Opera, and in Rouen; Mimì in La Bohème at Palm Beach Opera; and Desdemona in Otello in Bergen. She has also sung Aida in Verona, Buenos Aires, Zurich, and Tokyo; at Covent Garden, English National Opera, Opera Australia, Dubai Opera, LA Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, San Diego Opera, and the Dallas Opera; and in concert in Bergen and at the Ravinia Festival. Later this season, she is also scheduled to sing Musetta in La Bohème at the Met.
Bass-baritone Eric Owens, a Philadelphia native, adds a new role to his Met repertory as Emile Griffith. A winner of the Met’s National Council Auditions in 1996, he made his company debut in 2008 as General Leslie Groves in John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, followed by Sarastro in The Magic Flute, Orest in Elektra, Jaufré Rudel in the Met premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin, Vodník in Rusalka, the Voice of Neptune in Idomeneo, both Alberich and Hagen in the Ring cycle, Porgy in the Porgy and Bess, and Philippe II in Don Carlos. Recent performances elsewhere include Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor at LA Opera, a concert of works by Mozart and Wagner with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and King Marke in Tristan und Isolde at the Paris Opera and in concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Later this season, he is scheduled to join the Met Orchestra Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie Hall on May 7 and sing Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West in concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and Wotan in the Ring cycle at the Vienna State Opera.
Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, a New York native, sings Kathy Hagen. Since her 1995 debut as the Alto Soloist in Parsifal, she has sung nearly 250 performances of 28 roles at the Met, including the Marquise of Berkenfield in La Fille du Régiment, the Princess in Suor Angelica, Zita in Gianni Schicchi, Madame de la Haltière in Cendrillon and Cinderella, Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress, Mistress Quickly in Falstaff, Fricka in the Ring cycle, and Ježibaba in Rusalka. Recent performances include Mistress Quickly at the Dallas Opera, Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus and Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance at Palm Beach Opera, the Marquise of Berkenfield at Atlanta Opera, Cornelia in Giulio Cesare at Houston Grand Opera, and Dido and the Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas with the Mark Morris Dance Group. She has also appeared at Opera Philadelphia, Covent Garden, the Paris Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera, among many others. She is a graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.
Contralto Meredith Arwady, a Michigan native, also sings Kathy Hagen, a role she performed at Washington National Opera. She made her Met debut as Pasqualita in John Adams’s Doctor Atomic in 2008, followed by the Marquise of Berkenfield in La Fille du Régiment and Erda in the Ring cycle. Recent performances include Martha in Lembit Beecher’s Sky on Swings at Opera Saratoga, Filippyevna in Eugene Onegin at Seattle Opera and Atlanta Opera, Madame Flora in Menotti’s The Medium and Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera in Frankfurt, Erde in Montreal, and Pasqualita, the title role of Griselda, and Amelfa in The Golden Cockerel at Santa Fe Opera. She has also sung the Abbess in Suor Angelica, Zita in Gianni Schicchi, and the Marquise of Berkenfield at San Francisco Opera; Pasqualita at English National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago; and Myrtle Bagot in the world premiere of Previn’s Brief Encounter at Houston Grand Opera.
With an expansive body of work, including the scores for numerous Spike Lee films and an extensive discography, 2018 USA Fellow and seven-time Grammy-winning trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard has consistently made powerful musical statements about American tragedies. In 2013, Champion had its world premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. His second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, had its Met premiere to open the 2021–22 season, marking the first performance of a work by a Black composer to be presented by the company. A recording of Fire also won the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. He studied jazz at Rutgers University and was invited to play with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra in 1982. Following a string of collaborative recordings, he released his first self-titled solo album on Columbia Records in 1991. In 2015, he released his first album with his jazz quintet E-Collective, and the ensemble recently collaborated with the Turtle Island Quartet for a new album, Absence, that was released in 2021 on the Blue Note label. His original scores for the films BlacKkKlansman (2019) and Da 5 Bloods (2021) were nominated for Academy Awards.
American librettist Michael Cristofer is an actor and playwright who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award in 1977 for the play The Shadow Box, directed by Paul Newman. Among his many other plays is Man in the Ring, also based on the Emile Griffith story, which received the American Theater Critics Award for best American play in 2017. His work in film includes the screenplays for the The Witches of Eastwick, Falling in Love, and The Night Clerk, among others. He returned to his acting career and recently appeared in productions at the Public Theater and Williamstown Theater and in the Broadway revival of A View from the Bridge, as well as numerous television roles.
Since 2009, stage director James Robinson has served as artistic director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where his productions have included Huang Ruo’s An American Soldier, Blitzstein’s Regina, the world premiere of Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown, the world premieres of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones and Champion, John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, and Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath. He made his Met debut on the Opening Night of the 2019–20 season with a production of Porgy and Bess, followed by Fire Shut Up in My Bones in 2021. His work has also appeared at the Canadian Opera Company, English National Opera, Dutch National Opera, Opera Australia, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, LA Opera, and with the London Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic, among others. Between 2000 and 2008, he was artistic director of Opera Colorado.
Recipient of an OBIE Award for sustained excellence, set designer Allen Moyer has worked on numerous Broadway productions, including The Lyons, Lysistrata Jones, After Miss Julie, Grey Gardens (for which he received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations and won the Henry Hewes Award), Thurgood, The Little Dog Laughed, The Constant Wife, and Twelve Angry Men. He made his Met debut with Mark Morris’s 2007 staging of Orfeo ed Euridice, followed by Fire Shut Up in My Bones in 2021. His designs have also appeared at the Canadian Opera Company, English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera, LA Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera, and New York City Opera, among many others. He has also designed numerous productions Off Broadway and in regional theaters throughout the United States.
American costume designer Montana Levi Blanco makes his Met debut. He recently received a Tony Award for Best Costume Design for the play The Skin of Our Teeth, which also marked his Broadway debut. Opera highlights include Iphigenia at the Kennedy Center, Hänsel und Gretel at Houston Grand Opera, and La Rondine at Minnesota Opera. Upcoming engagements include White Girl in Danger by Michael R. Jackson at Vineyard Theatre, Square Dance at Miami City Ballet, Three Sisters by at New York Theatre Workshop, and Rinaldo at the Glimmerglass Festival.
American lighting designer Donald Holder’s credits at the Met include recent productions of Rigoletto, Porgy and Bess, Die Zauberflöte, Nico Muhly’s Two Boys, Otello, and Samson et Dalila. He has been nominated for 13 Tony Awards—winning in 2008 for South Pacific and 1998 for The Lion King—in a career featuring more than 50 productions on Broadway. His most recent work on Broadway includes Tootsie, Kiss Me Kate, and My Fair Lady.
New York City–based filmmaker Greg Emetaz has designed video and projections for the world premiere of Jimmy López’s Bel Canto at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Werther at Boston Lyric Opera, Champion at Washington National Opera, Il Trovatore at Minnesota Opera, and several productions for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, including the world premieres of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in my Bones, Huang Ruo’s An American Soldier, and Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket. He made his Met debut with the historic company premiere of Fire Shut Up in My Bones in 2021. He has served as video director for the 2007–10 New York City Opera VOX Showcases, the 2008–10 NEA Opera Honors, and the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters. He is the writer and director of the horror-comedy feature Camp Wedding and the award-winning shorts Bowes Academy, Death by Omelette, and Spell Claire. He is also the director of the web series Do It Yourselfie: Songs for Millennials and numerous music videos and commercials.
Celebrated choreographer and director Camille A. Brown made her Met debut with the 2019–20 season-opening production of Porgy and Bess, followed by Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones with James Robinson in 2021. She made her Broadway debut in 2012 choreographing A Streetcar Named Desire and returned for productions of Once on this Island (for which she received Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Chita Rivera Award nominations) and Choir Boy (for which she received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations). In 2019, she choreographed Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf at New York’s Public Theater, and recently, she both directed and choreographed a new production, making her the first Black woman to both choreograph and direct a play on Broadway. The production received seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Direction of a Play and Best Choreography. She is also artistic director of Camille A. Brown and Dancers, choreographed the television special Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, and has been honored with a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, five Princess Grace Awards, a Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, and Guggenheim and TED Fellowships, among other accolades.
For More Information
For further details on Champion, including casting by date, please click here.