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Opera Theatre Hosts Weeklong Series February 18-24, Featuring Grammy Award Winner Terence Blanchard and a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Creation of the World Premiere of Champion

Acclaimed composer and musician will lead workshops, master classes, a panel, and a film screening

St. Louis, MO – Opera Theatre of Saint Louis will introduce Terence Blanchard’s highly-anticipated new opera Champion with a week of events, February 18 – 24, in the lead-up to single tickets to Opera Theatre’s 2013 season going on sale.  Champion, an opera in jazz written with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer, is Blanchard’s first opera.  Co-commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis, the opera is inspired by the true story of prize fighter Emile Griffith – an immigrant from the Virgin Islands who claimed the title of World Welterweight Champion in a fatal 1962 fight which transformed him into a tragic hero and left the two-year old son of his opponent Benny “The Kid” Paret, without a father.

As a performer, Terence Blanchard has wowed audiences worldwide, including sold-out appearances with Jazz St. Louis. As a composer, he is deeply committed to developing the careers of future musicians and inspiring new audiences to engage with the power of great music. Mr. Blanchard will be central to a dynamic series of free programs, many of which are open to the general public. Partners for the program include Washington University, Webster University, the Ferguson-Florissant School District, Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Louis, the Missouri History Museum, Jazz St. Louis, COCA, Street Dreamz, the Urban League Young Professionals, the Links Inc., Team St. Louis, Athlete Ally, PROMO, PNC Bank, the Whitaker Foundation, The St. Louis American, and The Vital Voice. Highlighted programs include:

Musical Fusion: Jazz and Opera in the 21st Century
Monday, February 18, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Webster University, Emerson Library

Join Terence Blanchard for a conversation about trends in 21st century American music, giving specific focus to the fusion between the musical styles of opera and jazz that inform the score of Champion. A master class on the future of 21st century music, this program is designed for college music students but is open to the general public.

Creating Original Works
Tuesday, February 19, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Lee Hamilton Elementary

A select group of 3rd to 6th grade students at Lee Hamilton Elementary will experience a workshop with Terence Blanchard and Koran Bolden, of Street Dreamz, to explore ways to set their stories to music across three musical styles – hip hop, jazz, and opera. After the completion of the residency, students will have the opportunity to record the original pieces they created with Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Bolden in studio at Street Dreamz.

Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story Screening with Q&A
Thursday, February 21, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Missouri History Museum

The documentary Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story traces the story of the life of Emile Griffith, the subject of the opera Champion. One of the final moments in the documentary, the meeting between Emile and the son of his opponent Benny “The Kid” Paret, is dramatized in Champion as the culmination of Emile’s journey towards forgiveness. After the documentary, Terence Blanchard will lead a Q&A discussion with the audience about Emile’s life and the process of translating it into the form of an opera. Screening is sponsored by The Vital Voice.

Meet the Composer: A Young Professionals Happy Hour
Friday, February 22, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Mary’s Attic Rooftop Longue // Hamburger Mary’s // 3037 Olive Street

The Young Friends of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and of Jazz St. Louis co-host a happy hour event, featuring drinks and appetizers and a sneak peek of music from Champion. Terence Blanchard will be joined by singer Aubrey Allicock (who plays the role of Young Emile in the opera) and celebrated jazz pianist Peter Martin.

Hip Hop, Jazz, and Opera Collide – An Interactive Workshop for Kids Grades 6 – 12
Saturday, February 23, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Centene Center for the Arts

Students from the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Louis, Jazz St. Louis’s Jazz U program, and the hip hop and theatre programs at COCA will combine for an interactive program on musical storytelling, featuring vocal performance, instrumental performance, and dance.

Out for the Count: A Legacy in Athletes
Saturday, February 23, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Washington University, Whitaker Hall

This panel, sponsored by Washington University, explores the legacy of LGBT athletes in American culture, starting with Emile Griffith in the 1960s and moving forward to the challenges and opportunities that face amateur and professional athletics to become increasingly inclusive today. Terence Blanchard is joined on the panel by singer Aubrey Allicock,  as well as Hudson Taylor (Executive Director of Athlete Ally), Greg Larocque (former North American President of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association), and Philip Deitch (St. Louis amateur athlete and community activist).

More details on each program, including rsvp information, are available at This weeklong series is part of New Voices for Opera, audience engagement program which is made possible through support from Opera America’s Opera Fund and PNC Arts Alive.

The commissioning and development of Champion was made possible with a leadership gift from the Whitaker Foundation with generous support from the Fred M. Saigh Endowment at Opera Theatre, and with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and OPERA America’s Opera Fund.  The production of Champion is made possible with a leadership gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and generous support from the Whitaker Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Phoebe Dent Weil

Single tickets to the 2013 Festival Season at Opera Theatre, including the world premiere of Champion, go on sale to the general public on Saturday, February 23, 2013. All participants in this weeklong series will receive advance access to purchase tickets to Champion before they go on sale to the general public. Ticket prices for Champion start as low as $25. For more information, visit or call the Opera Theatre Box Office at (314) 961-0644.

About Terence Blanchard

World-renowned jazz musican and trumpet player Terence Blanchard is known for his work as a composer of hauntingly beautiful jazz pieces for small ensembles, symphonic settings, film, and stage. He has received five Grammy Awards, including the 2007 Large Ensemble Grammy for A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). Most recently for film, he wrote the score to Lucasfilm’s Red Tails, which chronicled the story of the Tuskegee pilots and starred Cuba Gooding, Jr. His music was also recently represented on Broadway with the score to Emily Mann’s new production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Blair Underwood.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis


Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012, Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit. 


Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation.  Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director.  Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham. For more information, visit


Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.


Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.