October 6, 2020
Terence Blanchard’s second opera — Fire Shut Up in My Bones — may be in the news since it was announced that it would inaugurate the Metropolitan Opera’s 2021–2022 season, but his first is the subject of a bit of local news.
Champion (“an opera in jazz”) was commissioned and premiered by Opera Theater of St. Louis in 2013. But SFJAZZ Founder and Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline eyed it from the beginning as a natural project for his organization: Blanchard has long been at the forefront of jazz and had made a few trips to headline at SFJAZZ.
Since then, he has been a resident artistic director there, and when SFJAZZ teamed up with Opera Parallèle to do a new production (2016), Blanchard was on hand to help trim the orchestration down to chamber size. The production, with Arthur Woodley and Ken Kellogg in the role of Emile Griffith, a former boxer haunted by having accidentally killed a man in the ring, was an enormous success. “Anyone in doubt about the power of great music theater to reach and move an audience at the deepest levels must see and hear this remarkable hybrid opera,” wrote Steven Winn in SFCV after the opening night.
If you missed it, you’re in luck. SFJAZZ made a video recording and now they’re planning to stream it for three days, Oct 21 at 6 p.m. PDT to midnight Oct. 25. The performance is free to SFJAZZ members and SFJAZZ digital memberships start at $5.00. Innovatively, a digital tip jar will be available to support the artists during the performance. For more information, visit SFJAZZ.org.