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Terence Blanchard Talks Back

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Friday March 02, 2018

From OffBeat Magazine

Terence Blanchard Talks Back
By: GERALDINE WYCKOFF

Initially renowned as a jazz trumpeter, composer and bandleader, New Orleans native son and five-time Grammy winner Terence Blanchard, 55, has since delved into music from numerous angles. He became director/producer Spike Lee’s go-to guy for film scores, has composed classical pieces and continues to be deeply involved in music education. Blanchard was once the head of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and he currently teaches one week a month at Boston’s Berklee College of music.

In 2011, Blanchard took on the challenge to write his first opera. His selected subject was the life of Emile Griffith, a boxer who, being bisexual and having pummeled a man in the ring who subsequently died, faced overwhelming battles of his own. “Champion: An Opera in Jazz,” which premiered in 2013 in St. Louis, will be presented on March 9 and March 11 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. It will be performed by the New Orleans Opera with music by the Louisiana Philharmonic and a four-piece, jazz rhythm section. The jazz group includes all local talents with pianist Michael Pellera, guitarist Steve Masakowski, bassist Jason Stewart and drummer Herman LeBeaux. The performances will feature the creators of the original roles, vocalists Arthur Woodley, playing old Emile, and Aubrey Allicock, playing the young Emile.

When it was mentioned to a friend that you had written an opera and it was about boxer Emile Griffith, he laughed and said, “Oh so they won’t be wearing Viking hats?”

[Terence laughs.] There has always been stereotypes about opera just like there are about jazz. People who don’t venture out are missing out. What I tell people is just go check it out for yourself. Don’t allow pop culture to dissuade you from having what could possibly be a very beautiful experience. Me, myself being one of those persons. It took me until 2011 to actually go and see opera for the first time—and that’s a shame—and I was totally floored and blown away by the entire experience. To me it’s like 3-D before 3-D ever existed—bodies moving around a stage, singing lines and telling stories through music. It’s amazing.

Read the whole interview here