The Opéra de Montréal continues its already remarkably successful season by scoring a knockout with the Canadian premiere of Champion, a one-of-a-kind work and poignant drama based on a true story. In 1962, boxers Emile Griffith and Benny Paret face off in the ring. During the bout, Paret taunts his adversary, making malicious allusions about his sexual orientation. Stung into action, Griffith pummels Paret with blows, putting him into a coma from which he dies ten days later. After the fight, Emile Griffith would never be the same again…
Suffering from dementia, former prizefighting champion Emile Griffith is confused and haunted by his past. He dwells on memories that keep clashing in his disease-stricken brain, reliving key moments in his life. He remembers his journey to New York, when he was young and filled with the hope of finding his mother and making his fortune as a singer or a baseball player. He recalls his pivotal encounter with hat-maker Howie Albert, who decides to introduce him to boxing and train him as a prizefighter. Also fresh in his mind are the nights he spent in a Manhattan gay bar, his gateway to a world both frightening and attractive. But above all, he remembers his adversary Benny Paret calling him “maricon” before their bout in 1962… his fury at hearing the homophobic slur… the 17 blows brought down on Paret in under 7 seconds… Benny’s empty stare looking up at him from the mat… and the announcement of his death 10 days later.
After the fight, everything changes for Griffith. Following a long losing streak, the first signs of dementia begin to appear. He rejects his trainer, his wife, and his mother, seeking comfort in New York’s gay scene. One night, as he is leaving a bar, a group of thugs beat him violently, exacerbating his brain injuries. Years later, plagued by guilt and illness, Emile constantly relives the nightmare of the attack, struggling to find peace until, one evening, back in his apartment, the memories and voices subside.
Tickets and more information:
Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts
January 26, 29, 31 and February 2, 2019 at 7:30 pm