Terence Blanchard | St. Louis Public Radio

Terence Blanchard

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 2, 2012 - Continuing its tradition of being the foremost American opera company to present new work, Opera Theatre of St. Louis' general director Timothy O'Leary and his staff have obtained a $1 million grant to add three new works to the world of opera's roster. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation challenge grant has enabled the company to commission and plan to present a three-year cycle of world premieres by American composers.

Julia Bullock and Davóne Tines in "Fire Shut Up in My Bones." [6/14/19]
Eric Woolsey

Terence Blanchard knows from experience that an opera that sounds and looks different from the classic repertory can bring new audiences to an old art form.

“An elderly African American man came up to me” after a performance of Blanchard’s jazz-infused opera "Champion" in 2013, the trumpeter/bandleader recalled, “and he said: Man, if this is opera, I will come.”

With his latest magnum opus, Blanchard wants to continue changing popular perceptions about opera — particularly, what stories it can tell, and who does the telling.

“Fire Shut Up In My Bones,” based on the memoir of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, makes its world premiere Saturday at Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Terence Blanchard, photographed at St. Louis Public Radio in March. [6/14/19]
File | Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The name Terence Blanchard is well known in the worlds of jazz and opera. The Academy Award nominee and Grammy Award-winning composer/trumpeter scored a big hit a few years ago with “Champion”, a joint co-commission by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) and Jazz St. Louis about boxer Emile Griffith.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with Blanchard about his latest OSTL commissioned production, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” as well as his work on the recent Spike Lee film, "BlacKkKlansman."

Henry Adebonojo

Metro Theater Company’s next production, in partnership with Jazz St. Louis, is called “Bud, Not Buddy.” The play is based on a children’s novel that won a Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature.

It’s about a 10-year-old boy in Flint, Michigan, named Bud who, during the Great Depression, goes on an adventure to find his father.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, producer Alex Heuer talked with Grammy award-winning jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard. Blanchard composed the score for the play and will appear at a concert to benefit Metro Theater Company.

Terence Blanchard
Provided by Mr. Blanchard

When the Sheldon Concert Hall asked Terence Blanchard to replace Latin jazz pianist Chucho Valdés for a scheduled performance this Saturday, Feb. 15, the jazz trumpeter jumped at the opportunity.

“I was sorry to hear about Chucho’s unexpected surgery that forced him to cancel his tour,” Blanchard said during a recent conversation from his home in the New Orleans area. “But I’m very happy to be coming back to St. Louis. I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the past three years. My wife is starting to think of it as our second home.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 17, 2013 - "Champion" has been described as "a jazz opera," but it would be more appropriate to describe it simply as "an opera." Or "a good opera."

Composer Terence Blanchard is best known as a jazz trumpeter and arranger, but he knows his way around a symphony orchestra and has written many movie scores -- including the hauntingly elegiac music accompanying Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke," about the Katrina hurricane striking New Orleans.

Robert Orth as Howie Albert and Aubrey Allicock as Young Emile Griffith
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis

On Saturday, June 15, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis performs the world premiere of jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard’s first opera, Champion. Set to a libretto by Michael Cristofer, the opera tells the true story of Emile Griffith, a gay boxer who became the Welterweight Champion of the World. But in a boxing match, he kills his opponent through no fault of his own, and then has to live with the guilt for the rest of his life.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 10, 2013: Six and a half years ago leaders of Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Jazz St. Louis met to consider commissioning an American opera in the jazz style.

They’ve nursed it, rehearsed it and will give birth to “Champion,” by composer Terence Blanchard and librettist Michael Christofer, at 8 p.m., Sat., June 15.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

The tents are up on the lawn of the Loretto Hilton Performing Arts Center as Opera Theatre of Saint Louis prepares to open its 2013 Festival Season with Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic masterpiece The Pirates of Penzance. Directed and choreographed by Sean Curran and conducted by Ryan McAdams, Pirates is the first of four productions that will be staged in repertory from May 25 until June 30.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 22, 2013 - At 50, renowned jazz composer and trumpeter Terence Blanchard could certainly rest on his reputation. Instead he has nearly finished writing his first opera -- “Champion.”

An opera in jazz style, "Champion" will have its premiere June 15 at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. It is the first of a three-year OTSL cycle of the St. Louis company’s new American commissions. Premieres of the remaining two are scheduled for 2014 and 2015.

Eric Woolsey

As a world-renowned jazz trumpeter, composer and band leader, Terence Blanchard has received five Grammy Awards and has written jazz pieces for small ensembles, symphonic settings, film and stage. But when he was contacted by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson about writing an opera, his first question was “are you sure you have the right guy?”  Robinson knew exactly what he was doing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 28, 2012 - The buzz at the opening of the 2012-13 Jazz at the Bistro season was a little different this year. There was the usual anticipation of a first-rate concert by an internationally acclaimed musician. But the regular jazz fans were augmented by an increased contingent from area arts organizations such as the Regional Arts commission and Opera Theatre.

The reason: Terence Blanchard’s Quintet was playing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 16, 2012 - The buzz at Opera Theatre of St. Louis and among jazz buffs has been about the world premiere next year of a locally commissioned jazz opera. That buzz became official Wednesday.

Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Jazz St. Louis have co-commissioned a notable New Orleans jazz great, composer Terence Blanchard and Pulitzer-prizewinning playwright and actor Michael Cristofer to collaborate on jazz opera “Champion.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 16, 2012 - The ninth annual Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival returns this week with a lineup of nationally known musical talent.

On Thursday, trumpeter Sean Jones and vibes player Stefon Harris take the stage at Jazz at the Bistro. Friday, famed percussionist Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band play with special guest Terence Blanchard at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri St. Louis campus. On Saturday, the festival winds up with acclaimed bassist Christian McBride leading his Grammy-winning Big Band at the Touhill.