Friday, March 22, 2019

John Malveaux: Terence Blanchard Talks Upcoming Opera Premiere

Award-winning composer/trumpeter Terence Blanchard talked about his unlikely venture into jazz opera and his work on various Spike Lee films, including "BlacKkKlansman."
Credit Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

John Malveaux of 

Composer, flutist, educator Dawn Norfleet forwarded the following St. Louis on the Air discussion with composer, trumpeter  Terence Blanchard to MusicUNTOLD. See

St. Louis Public Radio

Mar 18, 2019 

Composer, Trumpeter Terence Blanchard Talks Upcoming Opera Premiere, Working With Spike Lee

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.

The new opera will premiere June 15. It is based on the memoir of celebrated writer and New York Times columnist Charles Blow. Blanchard said Blow’s compelling story includes the writer’s traumatic upbringing from being molested by family members.

“The book is a memoir about his struggles growing up, being a little different from everybody else in the family and people not really understanding where he's coming from and he didn't necessarily fit in … and his trials and tribulations of dealing with that,” he explained.

“Just in talking to him, how he still deals with those issues today as a grown person, [is] an amazing thing to see because he's become so successful and so brilliant at what it is that he does – you wouldn't think that he would still have these issues, but they still linger.”

Despite sometimes feeling like “a fish out of water” in the opera business, Blanchard said he’s had a great experience working with OSTL. Blanchard explained he was approached about writing a jazz opera for the main stage six years ago.

“I literally thought they were crazy. I'm like, ‘You want me to write an opera? Okay, where's this coming from?’ But it's been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he said. “[Opera Theatre of St. Louis] has broken down the stigma of what opera is for me – it's storytelling, that’s really what it is.”

Working on ‘BlacKkKlansman’ and with Spike Lee
Blanchard also enjoys working with film director, producer, writer, and actor Spike Lee. They’ve worked on numerous projects together for nearly 30 years.

Blanchard's main theme for “BlacKkKlansman,” “Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil),” also just won Best Instrumental Composition at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.   

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