The Met’s recording of Terence Blanchard’s Champion won the 2024 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. The opera, which had its company premiere on April 10, 2023, was Blanchard’s second opera on the Met stage. A commercial and critical success, Champion arrived at the Met after the overwhelming triumph of the 2021 production of Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones.
This win marks the Met’s fourth consecutive win for Best Opera Recording, for a total of 12 wins in the category. Previous wins include Fire Shut Up in My Bones in 2023, Philip Glass’s Akhnaten in 2022, and the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess in 2021.
Blanchard’s Champion is an opera that tells the story of Emile Griffith, a boxer who killed his opponent in the ring and struggled with his sexuality and guilt for the rest of his life. The opera explores themes of identity, violence, forgiveness and redemption through a blend of jazz, blues and classical music. Blanchard’s score captures the emotions and conflicts of the characters, as well as the intensity and drama of the boxing scenes.
The opera also features a libretto by Michael Cristofer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter. Champion premiered in 2013 at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and has since been performed in several other cities, including Washington D.C., New Orleans and San Francisco. It is one of the most acclaimed and innovative operas of the 21st century, and a testament to Blanchard’s versatility and talent as a composer.
The recording features Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director, leading a cast that includes bass-baritones Ryan Speedo Green and Eric Owens as boxer Emile Griffith at different points in his life; soprano Latonia Moore as Emile’s mother, Emelda Griffith; tenor Paul Groves as Howie Albert, Emile’s trainer; baritone Eric Greene as Emile’s boxing opponent, Benny “Kid” Paret; mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as Kathy Hagen, a confidante to Emile; with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The recording was produced by David Frost, one of the most awarded classical producers in the history of the Grammys.
Maestro Nézet-Séguin was nominated for a Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance for Florence Price’s Symphony No. 4 and William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra.