The Metropolitan Opera is known for staging some of the world’s most famous operas, but in their 2022-23 season, they took on a new challenge: putting the brutality of a prize fight on their stage. The result was a stunning production of the opera “Champion,” which tells the story of Emile Griffith, a closeted gay boxer who rises to become a world champion.
The production, which features bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green in the lead role, tackles some difficult subject matter, including homophobia, racism, and violence in the boxing world. But with its beautiful music, powerful performances, and innovative staging, “Champion” manages to explore these themes in a way that is both thought-provoking and entertaining.
One of the most impressive aspects of the production is its use of technology to recreate the excitement and energy of a prize fight. At one point in the opera, the stage floor lights up and four dancers appear, mimicking the movements of boxers in the ring. This innovative use of lighting and choreography creates a visceral sense of the physicality of boxing, and adds to the drama and tension of the story.
But while “Champion” certainly has its thrilling moments, the opera is ultimately a poignant exploration of the human cost of violence. Griffith’s story is one of both triumph and tragedy, as he achieves fame and fortune in the boxing world, but also suffers from the emotional toll of his closeted sexuality and the violence of his sport. Through its powerful music and performances, “Champion” encourages audiences to confront the difficult realities of what it means to be a champion, both in and out of the ring.
Overall, “Champion” is a bold and powerful production that takes risks and pushes boundaries, both musically and thematically. By putting the brutality of a prize fight on the Met Opera stage, the production asks audiences to grapple with uncomfortable and challenging ideas, while also offering a thrilling and engaging theatrical experience.