Dr. Christina Greer (115266)
Dr. Christina Greer

Have you seen Champion yet?

Well, Terence Blanchard has done it again. He’s made music, he’s made a new opera at the Met, and he’s made history. Even if you don’t fancy yourself as an opera lover or aficionado, Blanchard’s latest opera is a must see. 

The Met describes Champion as an “operatic retelling of the dramatic story of boxer Emile Griffith…Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green stars as the closeted young hatmaker-turned-prizefighter, who rises from obscurity to become world champion and, in one of the great tragedies in sports history, kills his homophobic archrival in the ring.” As we continue to grapple with questions pertaining to equity and inclusion in the LGBTQ+ community, this opera is important and timely for our continued dialogues.

Many of you may know Blanchard’s work from the countless scores he’s done for Hollywood movies—more specifically, several of Spike Lee’s most poignant films. In so many ways, Blanchard and his trumpet have provided the soundtrack to our lives. If you’ve enjoyed recent films such as “Black Klansman,” “Harriet,” “Da 5 Bloods,” or the “Woman King”—those were all Blanchard originals. And if you remember watching “Red Tails,” “Miracle at St Anna,” “Inside Man,” or “Bamboozled,” those were also Blanchard original scores. 

As I head to the Met to support Blanchard’s latest opera, I am still reflecting on the history he made in 2021 by being the first African American in the century, and the history of the Met, to stage an opera, Fire Shut Up In My Bones. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. In interviews, Blanchard always shouts out the countless musicians who came before him but did not have the same opportunities, due to a host of structural and institutional reasons…whether it be racism or a lack of acceptance of jazz as a true artform.

What continues to fascinate me are the number of jazz musicians who have a strong foundation in classical music or even opera. As I reflect on Champion the opera, I will be listening for Blanchard’s signature notes that seem to awaken the soul in a mixture of history, elation, and wonderment. I can’t fully describe it, but after listening to Blanchard’s original scores on “4 Little Girls” or “Eve’s Bayou,” you’ll know what I mean.

As we celebrate a living legend, be sure to check out Champion at the Met Opera. The opera is performed on select nights, plan accordingly at www.metopera.org. The show runs April 10, 14, 18, 22, 25, and 29, and May 4, 8, and 13. 

If we care about increased representation, we must support the efforts of trailblazers like Blanchard. I know the late Wayne Shorter is looking down and smiling…I know I will be.  

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University; author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”; and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and host of The Blackest Questions podcast at TheGrio. 

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