World Premiere Opening At Opera Theater Getting National Attention

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- St. Louis has the distinction of hosting a world premiere opera this weekend that may raise a few eyebrows.

Starting Saturday, Opera Theater of St. Louis is adding to its festival season regular performances of 'Champion.'

It is an opera set to jazz, commissioned by Opera Theater.

It tells the amazing life story of Emile Griffith, who unwittingly put his opponent, Benny 'Kid' Paret into a coma from which he never recovered, by pummeling him in the ring during the 12th round of their nationally televised welterweight championship fight in 1962.

Griffith was gay, but not openly, and Paret had been taunting him about his sexuality just before the flight.

Griffith responded in the ring with a series of 17 powerful uppercuts and right hooks in just 17 seconds.

Paret died ten days after the fight.

The idea for telling Griffith`s story was belongs to Terence Blanchard, the five time Grammy Award winning jazz trumpeter and composer.  He was hired to write the music, and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Michael Cristopher has written the libretto.

The performances run until the end of June.

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