Champion Jazz Opera: Old Form, New Beat

Joe McKesson is the marketing director for the New Orleans Opera Association. Audiences usually associate opera with "La Bohème," "Tosca," or other classic favorites. When McKesson thinks of opera, he focuses on the essential aspects of this beloved musical form. In this podcast, he describes the unique nature of opera and explains the fundamental elements that distinguish it from other types of music. As a marketer, McKesson is focused on the future, with an eye to expand the market for opera in New Orleans. He discusses how he markets to millennials and explains what type of opera this new generation is looking for. One example of a different type of opera is Terence Blanchard’s "Champion," an opera in jazz. This contemporary work, which premiered in 2013, tells the story of tragic hero, world boxing champion Emile Griffith. Griffith, a gay man, knocked out Benny Paret in seven seconds; ten days later Paret died. The riveting opera presents the story of a courageous man haunted by conflict and regret. In Griffith’s words: “I kill a man, and most people understand and forgive me. I love a man, and to so many people, this is an unforgivable sin.” For information visit



Listen to the podcast here. 


Categories: New Orleans Voices, Theatre + Art