I went to the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s rehearsal for The Tales of Hoffman Tuesday night to work on a story about Matthew Turner, the bass who has joined a small, elite club of UK singers who advanced to the national rounds of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
But as I was shooting pictures of the rehearsal, what caught my ear was another member of that club, the charter member, really: tenor Gregory Turay.
After an international touring career, Turay returned to UK several years ago to complete a master’s degree and now a doctorate. That has put him on the Lexington Opera House stage numerous times the past several years, singing roles such as Rodolfo in La Boheme, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and now the title role in The Tales of Hoffman, sharing the role with Jonathan Parham.
And he sounds spectacular.
I wasn’t taking notes, but there was crispness and power in his voice that was striking, even having heard him numerous times. It stilled the room, as it probably will this weekend as Hoffman plays at the Opera House.
It prompted me to touch base with UK Opera director and Turay’s teacher and mentor Everett McCorvey to get his take on the current state of Turay’s voice and career.
McCorvey recalled how Turay’s career took off after his win in the Met Auditions in 1995. It lead to years of performing around the world, being away from his wife Courtney and their family for as much as nine months a year. That wasn’t really Turay’s speed, a sentiment he has relayed to me in the past.
“When I recognized this, I offered him an opportunity to return to Lexington, finish his Master’s degree, watch his kids grow up and enjoy his family while working on advanced degrees, just in case he wanted to take the academic route after his career,” McCorvey wrote. “It could help him rejuvenate, it would be a huge boost to our program, and, our Lexington audiences would get to hear, on a regular basis, one of the great voices of the world, right here in their own backyard.
“It has been a great match. Greg has blossomed since he has been back. He has finished his Master’s degree, he is now close to completing his doctorate in music and now the companies are beginning to inquire about him coming back to sing again. We are hoping that we can keep him here in Lexington and associated with UK in some fashion. Our audiences love him, the students are excited about having a singer of his caliber in their midst, and he is becoming a fantastic teaching artist as well. There are just so many good reasons to keep him here, I hope that we can find a way!”
Whether he returns to international stages or remains in Lexington as a teaching and performing artist, this stretch of local appearances by Turay has been another special stretch for UK Opera, which enjoyed a lot of local and international exposure thanks to his win. It seems only appropriate the latest singer to make a run at the Met gets to share the stage with him this weekend.