January 27. 2024 - February 11. 2024

Upcoming Dates

January 27. 2024 - February 11. 2024

Lyric Premiere Champion

An opera by Terence Blanchard. Libretto by Michael Cristofer.

Lyric Opera of Chicago welcomes Champion, the first opera written by composer Terence Blanchard. Based on a true story and featuring a libretto by Michael Cristofer; the drama unfolds in what composer Terence Blanchard calls “an opera in jazz.” Welterweight boxer Emile Griffith is tortured by the complex realities of his life: decades-long guilt from defeating a challenger in the ring, who died from Griffith’s blows; and desperately conflicted feelings regarding his own sexuality. James Robinson’s production arrives in Chicago with a remarkable cast. Joining Lyric favorites Reginald Smith, Jr., Whitney Morrison, and Paul Groves is Justin Austin, a brilliant new star who triumphed in Fire Shut Up in My Bones, with Music Director Enrique Mazzola leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Content advisory: Champion is about the life of Emile Griffith. In the telling of this complex story, Champion contains mature themes including physical violence, profanity, sexually explicit language, and homophobic slurs.


  • Language: Sung in English with projected English titles
  • Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including 1 intermission
  • Location: Lyric Opera House

Lyric’s presentation of Blanchard and Cristofer's Champion is generously made possible by The Zell Family Foundation, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Pritzker Traubert Foundation, the Pritzker Foundation, the Gramma Fisher Foundation of Marshalltown, Iowa, Ethel & Bill* Gofen, The Joyce Foundation, Lori Ann Komisar and Morris Silverman and Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow.

Major support for The New Work Fund provided by the Robert and Penelope Steiner Family Foundation, David W. Carpenter and Orit K. Carpenter, in loving memory of David W. Carpenter and Virginia Tobiason.

Maestro Enrique Mazzola is generously sponsored by Alice & John Butler, H. Gael Neeson, Sylvia Neil & Daniel Fischel, and the Robert and Penelope Steiner Family Foundation as members of the Enrique Circle.

Athletico is the official provider of physical therapy for Lyric.


Audience programs

January 27 - February 11, 2024

concrete, rose.

concrete, rose.

Join us for a new exhibit from celebrated Chicago artist and collector Patric McCoy in collaboration with the Chicago premiere of Champion. The exhibit, called “concrete, rose.” is the fourth installment of Patric McCoy’s seminal collection of Black male vernacular photography, curated by Viktor L. Ewing-Givens of Southern Android productions. This archive of images gives a photojournalistic glimpse into both the personal and the political landscape of Chicago’s not-so-distant past. Exhibit hours at Lyric Opera House are Monday through Friday, 9:30 am - 11:30 am, and 2 hours prior to and during every performance of Champion and Cinderella.

Pre-opera talk

Speaker: Roderick K. Hawkins

Join us in the Ardis Krainik Theatre one hour before your opera performance begins for a free, 30-minute preview talk discussing that day’s production.

Seating is unreserved, but a ticket for that day’s performance is required. Talks begin one hour before each performance and doors open approximately 15 minutes before the start of the talks.

Pre-opera talks are supported by Raynette and Ned Boshell.

A recorded version of the Pre-opera talk is available below. 

© 2023/24 Lyric Opera Commentaries. All rights reserved.
Music excerpted from the Metropolitan Opera production of Champion, presented in 2023 and available on Met Opera on Demand.

Lyric Opera Commentaries are sponsored by the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation in memory of their parents.

Audio excerpts

By Terence Blanchard

Music excerpted from the Metropolitan Opera production of Champion, presented in 2023 and available on Met Opera on Demand.

Excerpt 1

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Excerpt 2

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* Lyric debut
*** Ryan Opera Center Ensemble
** Ryan Opera Center alum

Program book

Go inside this production of Champion with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.

Download program book

Commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. Originally commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, co-commissioned by Jazz St. Louis. A co-production of Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera.

Header image: Todd Rosenberg