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C h a m p i o n  :  An Opera in Jazz

Combining opera and jazz, Terence Blanchard’s "Champion" narrates the real-life story of boxer Emile Griffith, grappling with his past and sexuality in a hyper-masculine world. Co-produced by Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ in 2016, "Champion" boasts a visually striking production with full staging and video elements, accompanied by soloists, a jazz trio, orchestra, and Gospel chorus. Blanchard’s soulful score illuminates Griffith’s triumphs and struggles, resonating powerfully today.


In a review for People's World, Eric A. Gordon praised Joe Orrach's performance, noting his expert use of the speed bag as a percussion instrument and his captivating tap dance routine in the second act, showcasing agility reminiscent of a skilled boxer.

Eddie Reynolds, in an article for Theatre Eddys, lauded Orrach's choreography, particularly highlighting the electrifying jazz solo and jump rope performance in the second act, which captivated the audience with its intricate rhythms and dynamic energy. Orrach's choreographic mastery shines throughout the opera, enhancing its visual and narrative impact.

Nicole Paiment - conductor 
Brian Staufenbiel - director 
Terence Blanchard - composer
Michael Cristofer - librettist
Joe Orrach - choreographer, boxing/movement coach/ speedbag artist

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