Last year, the Metropolitan Opera presented its first opera, “Shut Up in My Bones,” that was composed by a Black composer: trumpeter Terence Blanchard. The Grammy Award-winning production proved to be a triumphant success. Now Blanchard returns to the Met for the company premiere of “Champion,” depicting the dramatic closeted life of Emile Griffith, the five-time middleweight champion from St. Thomas whose title fight with Afro Cuban Benny “Kid” Paret proved to be disastrous. 

The libretto was written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cristofer, and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green stars as the young prizefighter. Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the Met’s Jeanette Leman-Neubauer music director, leads an exceptional cast that also features bass-baritone Eric Owens as Griffith’s older self, haunted by the ghosts of his past; soprano Latonia Moore as Emelda Griffith, the boxer’s mother (she also played the protagonist mother in “Fire Shut Up in My Bones”); mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as bar owner Kathy Hagen; and the return of director James Robinson and Camille A. Brown, whose dynamic choreography stimulated audiences in “Fire” and “Porgy and Bess,” also returns. 

The multi-Grammy winner says he is still surprised that after “Fire,” he was asked to do “Champion.” “Being at the Met is still new to me,” said Blanchard. “Writing for voices is very difficult, but it has helped me to use those colors and tones to bring the music together.”   

All championship fights are filled with twists and turns, uppercuts, and heavy body punches, no matter who wins. But who knew on that evening of March 24, 1962, at Madison Square Garden that Griffith’s angry hurricane of blows would end Benny “Kid” Paret’s life? He died 10 days later at Roosevelt Hospital from the injuries he sustained in the ring. 

To witness Blanchard’s operatic expressions of jazz and classical music, and how he blends the emotional concept of forgiveness and redemption with the thoughts that haunted Griffith for 40 years will be moving. 

This may be the first time that staged boxing scenes will take place on the Met stage. Boxing and opera—two unlikely disciplines come together. Michael Bentt, former heavyweight champ (1993), helped the actors with their boxing scenes. “Talking with him about boxing and the story of Emile gave me an inside perspective of the boxing game and helped me with the concept,” said Blanchard. 

“Champion” premiered at the Met’s 2022–23 season on April 10 and will run for nine performances through May 13. For tickets and more information, visit

The music of Haiti infiltrated the city some years ago with a wide range of influences reflecting French, African rhythms, Spanish elements, and others who inhabited the island. Wyclef Jean is a popular Haitian artist, along with Val Jeanty, the creative turntablist and Haitian electronic music composer, and singer Misty Jean.  

On April 16 from 3 p.m.–5 p.m., the vibrant music of Haiti returns to the Big Apple with Rol’hans Innocent and the Agoci Band at the Bayside Historical Society (208 Totten Avenue, Fort Totten) as part of the Passport Concert Series.

Agoci, which translates as “nurturing the soul,” was founded by dancer, choreographer, and lead singer Innocent. The band performs original songs, in Haitian Creole and English about the joy, love, and struggle of the Haitian people. Agoci combines traditional Haitian folk music with hip hop, Compas (modern méringue dance music), and calypso flavorings. His choreographies reflect the everyday lifestyle of Haitian people. His dream is to share Haitian arts and culture with people all over the world.

In 2002, Innocent produced his first music album, entitled “Fèt Drapo Ayisyen.” In 2003, he produced the Haitian Dance Festival and that same year, he founded Agoci Entertainment LLC. 

For ticket visit or call 718-352-1548.

On April 23, something special for old school music heads and for you submarine race watchers: a tribute to the “Cousin Brucie Era,” also at the Bayside Historical Society, with a weekend-long tribute to the music of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. 

If you lived in New York City in the 1960s and into the 1980s, you were treated to the best radio in the country. It was a time when DJs played their own music and were hired for their unique, individual personalities. Bruce Morrow, better known as Cousin “Brucie,” was heard on the number-one general market radio station WABC and WCBS. It was a time when DJs made records happen and hosted live shows at the Brooklyn Palace and Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey that featured acts like Bobby Darin, the Four Seasons, the Flamingos, Little Anthony and the Imperials, André Previn, and Frankie Valle. 

Segregation was still in the air, but integration was forging ahead. Hal Jackson from the top Black radio station, WLIB, was the first Black DJ to be hired by WABC. During the late 1970s and ’80s, it was Cousin Brucie who kept the oldies music alive and relevant. He is a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

“Cousin Brucie” is a step back in time to when radio was king, and on television in the ’60s, the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to boil. And the backdrop grooved, from Chubby Checker and the twist to the soul of the Chantels, doing the slow drag to the cha-cha and lindy hop or maybe the slop or the Brooklyn two-step. Nostalgia will be in the air.

Before COVID, my movie attendance had become cost-prohibitive; $30 for admission and popcorn just didn’t seem reasonable. Having to purchase seats online took all the fun out of just walking in and looking for a seat. However, the film “Chevalier” may be worth seeing. 

Unfortunately, some people aren’t aware that Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was French Creole, the son of a wealthy planter and Nanon, an enslaved Senegalese African woman.  His father took him to France to be educated, where he was acknowledged as a genius violinist and composer. He became the conductor of the leading symphony in Paris. It would be sacrilege to mention Mozart, Bach, or Simon Le Duc and not have Chevalier in the conversation. “Chevalier” is a biographical drama of the life of the first classical composer musician of African descent.

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1 Comment

  1. Hello Ron, We met at last night’s performance, where we became curious because you were taking such copious notes. Your charming wife explained why. But I didn’t realize you had already done a brief article on Champion, which I’ve read with pleasure. I’ll look for the next one, and if you don’t mind, I’ll follow you for a bit, although (being retired) we are lucky enough to live half the year abroad and are leaving in a few days. Still, it’s easy to find you on Amsterdam News.

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