Champion is an African-American boxing opera in two acts and ten scenes, with music by Terence Blanchard and a libretto by Michael Cristofer. Based on the life of welterweight prize fighting champion Emile Griffith, this opera is a joint co-commission by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) and Jazz St. Louis. It received its premiere at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts, Webster University, on 15 June 2013. The opera received its second production, with a revised orchestration by Blanchard, by Opera Parallèle in San Francisco, in collaboration with SFJAZZ, on February 21, 2016. The third production of the opera was on March 5, 2017 by Washington National Opera at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Champion developed out of conversations between OTSL and Jazz St. Louis, and the companies' shared desire to collaborate on a commission that would combine opera and jazz. Blanchard himself described the work, his first opera, with the term "opera in jazz" rather than a "jazz opera". In 2011, the Whitaker Foundation of St. Louis provided the initial $200,000 leadership gift needed to fund the commissioning and development costs of the new work. In 2012, Opera Theatre received a $1M (USD) challenge grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which would underwrite a substantial portion of the production costs of Champion, as well as Ricky Ian Gordon's opera 27 (premiered at OTSL in 2014) and a new production of Tobias Picker’s Emmeline (presented in 2015). Additional support for Champion was provided by the Fred M. Saigh Endowment at Opera Theatre, the National Endowment for the Arts, OPERA America's Opera Fund, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Phoebe Dent Weil, and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.