The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Kentucky District round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions isn’t until until Nov. 17 at Memorial Hall. But two University of Kentucky singers already have advanced to the regional round of the competition by competing in other district competitions.
Baritone Reginald Smith Jr. was one of four winners at the Ohio District Auditions on Oct. 20 in Cincinnati. That put Smith in direct competition with singers from the prestigious University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and he held his own in advancing to the Central Region Auditions on Nov. 4 in Evanston, Ill. University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey said Smith went to the Ohio audition because of scheduling conflicts with the Kentucky District.
Soprano Holly Flack, a UK graduate now living in Chicago, also won Saturday, at the Wisconsin District Auditions. She has advanced to the Feb. 2 Upper Midwest Regional in St. Paul, Minn. Flack has been working in Chicago and is cast as the Queen of the Night in Chicago Chamber Opera’s 2013 production of The Magic Flute.
Both Smith and Flack have advanced to regional rounds of the Met auditions before, but neither has gone on to the national rounds in New York.
As many as 30 singers might be in the running when the Kentucky District round is held on Nov. 17. Traditionally, a sizable contingent of UK students has participated, and at least a couple usually advance to the regionals. So there is a chance of a historic field of regional competitors from UK this year.
Tuesday night I got out to rehearsals for the second production by the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre Undergraduate Studio, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, which runs April 15-17. After talking to director Margo Buchanan and music director Dan Chetel, I caught a good chunk of Act I rehearsal and took some photos.
Feb16Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Music, Opera, UK; Tagged as: Alan Sherrod, Amanda Woodbury, Andrea Trusty, Crestwood, Ezel, Kentucky District, Metropolitan Opera, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Mid-South Regional Round, Middle/East Tennessee District, Morehead State University, Reginald Smith Jr., Rice University, Tri-State Regional, University of Kentucky
In its first time competing in the Mid-South Regional Round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Kentucky District distinguished itself with two out of the top three winners, including the competitor who will advance to the national semi-finals in New York City.
Ezel native Andrea Trusty, a soprano who graduated from Morehead State University and then went to Rice University in Houston, won the Regional and will compete in a closed auditions on the Metropolitan Opera stage March 6. The national finals are a public performance March 13.
“I have waited so long for the opportunity to sing at the Metropolitan Opera,” Trusty said to the Morehead State University News. “I’ve dreamed of this for a long time, and now it is finally happening. I’m very blessed.”
This was Trusty’s second trip to the Regionals. In 2008, she advanced to the Tri-State Regional round and came in third. That could be a good omen for University of Kentucky Baritone Reginald Smith Jr., who finished third at the Mid-South regional.
It was actually an all-Kentucky top three as, according to Alan Sherrod’s Classical Journal blog, the second place winner was Amanda Woodbury of Crestwood, who advanced out of the Middle/East Tennessee District.
This was the first year Kentucky District winners headed South to face winners from regional rounds in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Previous years, Kentucky District winners faced off against winners from Indiana and Southern Ohio. Only the first place winner advances from the regionals to the national semi-finals.
Feb2Filed under: Classical Music, Music, Opera, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Angelique Clay, Bill Gregory, Brent Seales, Dione Johnson, Everett McCorvey, Kenneth Overton, Porgy and Bess, Reginald Smith Jr., Singletary Center for the Arts, UK Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre
Here’s a little video look at the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. The show continues Feb. 3-6 at the Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall.
Gregory Turay and Angelique Clay know this stage well.
“For me, it would have to be Magic Flute and Elixir, when we used to do the operas in here,” Turay says when asked about his favorite memories of performing in the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall.
Clay, who is seated with Turay near the back of the hall, remembers numerous Grand Night for Singing performances and preparing for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions on the Singletary Center’s main stage.
Turay and Clay were part of the University of Kentucky’s voice program in the 1990s, the early years of Everett McCorvey’s current tenure at the top. Now, they are both back in the program, Turay as an artist-in-residence and master’s student, and Clay as an assistant professor of voice. And they both will be back on the Singletary Center stage Sunday afternoon as the tenor and soprano soloists, respectively, in the Lexington Singers’ presentation of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah.
They will be joined by two of UK Opera’s current stars, baritone Reginald Smith Jr. and mezzo-soprano LaShelle Allen.
“I’m going to feel like the small voice in that group,” Turay says with a laugh.
He has been the big star of the UK Opera program, having helped put it on the map with his win in the final round of the 1995 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Since then, he has performed at the Met and on stages around the world.
But he and his family have decided that Lexington is where they want to put down roots, as has Clay, who was surprised to be able to land a professorship at UK less than a decade after graduating.
Having been in the school before, Clay and Turay say they think a lot about the experience for students in a program that now bears little resemblance to the one they were in.
Sep30Filed under: Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Classical Music, Lexington Opera House, Music, Opera, Reviews, UK; Tagged as: Alfredo, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Alltech Fortnight Festival, Giacomo Puccini, Gregory Turay, La Bohème, La Traviata, Manuel Castillo, Mary-Hollis Hundley, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Mitchell Hutchings, Nicholas Provenzale, Reginald Smith Jr., Rent, Richard Kagey, University of Kentucky Opera
Over the last decade, the University of Kentucky Opera program has been lucky to count Gregory Turay among its alums.
He’s the one who fulfilled the dream of winning at the national level of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, making it into the young artist program and embarking on an international career that we could sometimes tune in on TV or radio. And he occasionally came back for a recital or even a role, as he did in 2006 when appeared as Alfredo in a benefit performance of La Traviata.
UK and Lexington area opera fans are even luckier to have Turay as an artist-in-residence, leading a full UK Opera production of Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme as part of the Alltech Fortnight Festival in conjunction with the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
The Richard Kagey sets and 1920s vibe will be familiar to local opera fans who saw this production in 2008, but the faces are different as many of that productions’ stars have moved on.
Clearly, with many of its artistic leaders involved in numerous activities related to the World Equestrian Games – including UK Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey heading up the opening and closing ceremonies – the program decided its best contribution to the cultural element of the Games was to revive a recent success.
And Boheme provides a nice showcase for several of the program’s most talented students, particularly Reginald Smith Jr. as Colline and Nicholas Provenzale as Schaunard, a really nice progression for him from Eisenstein in last spring’s production of Die Fledermaus. We’re also introduced to new UK doctoral candidate Mitchell Hutchings as Marcello, and he fits right in with the program that puts a heavy emphasis on acting in its operas.
Jun6Filed under: Music, Opera, UK; Tagged as: Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition, American Institute of Musical Studies, David Baker, Elizabeth Colson, Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Eric Brown, Everett McCorvey, George Frideric Handel, George Zack, Hansel and Gretel, Honor and Arms, J.R. Cassidy, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Lee Todd, Messiah, Reginald Smith Jr., University of Kentucky
Reginald Smith Jr. had no other option.
He was at home in Atlanta. He had an audition for the voice department at the University of Kentucky the next morning. The family car had broken down.
So at 11 p.m., he boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Lexington. He rode north through the night, arriving about 8 a.m. with nothing but a toothbrush in his pocket, the suit he had to wear for the audition and a few hours of sleep.
He changed into his suit in a bathroom and hustled to get ready to sing his audition piece, George Frideric Handel’s Honor and Arms.
“They said, ‘We don’t need to hear anything else,’” Smith says. “Then they said they had this thing called the Alltech competition Sunday, and would I sing in it.”
He had no idea what the Alltech competition, an annual scholarship contest for incoming undergraduate and graduate voice students, was. But Smith had a policy: sing whenever he had an opportunity. And fortunately, because he’d wanted to take a look around Lexington, he had bought his return bus ticket for Sunday night.
So he sang in the competition.
“When they said, ‘Audience favorite, Reginald Smith Jr.,’ I thought, ‘That’s nice; they like what I’m doing,’” he says. “When they said, ‘First place,’ that was even better. But when they said, ‘Tuition waived … ‘”
Smith’s fingers draw the tracks of tears rolling down his cheeks.
“When you come from a low-income family, and someone tells you that you can go to school for free … ”
For a moment, it seems that Smith might shed some tears again.
Since winning that Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition in 2007, the baritone has continued to go above and beyond to make and take opportunities. This summer, he is scheduled to go to the Seagle Music Colony in upstate New York, the oldest vocal training program in the United States. But, he’s about $1,500 short of the money for airfare and tuition, so he is presenting a free concert at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. Donations are, of course, welcome.
He has done it before, using his voice to help develop his voice.
If musicians are in need of a little money, the card they always have in their back pocket is the ability to put on a show.
And that’s the card University of Kentucky opera singer Reginald Smith Jr. is playing this Sunday to support his studies this summer at the Seagle Music Colony in upstate New York. Area music fans would recognize Smith for roles such as Falke in last spring’s production of Die Fledermaus or Billy the Barber in last fall’s world premier production of A River of Time. He first caught audiences attention his freshman year at UK when he was the baritone soloist in the Lexington Philharmonic and Lexington Singers presentation of Handel’s Messiah.
Smith is presenting a concert of music from classical favorites to Broadway to African-American spirituals to raise the $1,500 he needs for airfare and tuition to the Albany festival, where he will perform roles in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, Broadway classics Hello Dolly and Carousel and vespers concerts.
Smith’s concert is at 3 p.m. June 6 at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. Admission is free but donations are, of course, welcome.
Mar12Filed under: Classical Music, Music, Opera, Reviews, slide shows, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Amanda Balltrip, Angelique Clay, Barbara Bailey, Catherine Clarke Nardolillo, Cynthia Lawrence, Daniel Koehn, Die Fledermaus, Dione Johnson, Gregory Turay, Hansel and Gretel, Joahann Strauss II, John Nardolillo, La Bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor, Michael Friedman, Nicholas Provenzale, Pam Miller, Reginald Smith Jr., Richard Kagey, River of Time, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre
Who knew these UK Opera kids were so funny?
The last few years, they haven’t had much of a chance to show it. They’ve been dealing with subjects like slavery (River of Time), murder (Lucia di Lammermoor), pretty young things dying of loathsome diseases (La Boheme and River of Time) and childhood abandonment issues (Hansel and Gretel).
Oh, where’s an operetta with a ridiculous little plot when you need one?
That’s what the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre is offering up through Saturday with its production of Joahann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, a show as silly as its title sounds.
This may sound like an easy assignment, but ask anyone who’s tried to make an audience laugh and they’ll tell you, comedy is tough. Die Fledermaus needs the laughs, because without them, the show is nearly three-hours of memorable melodies strung together by the thinnest of plots.
Three residents of a house, Eisentein and Rosalinda and their maid, Adele, are invited to the same party, but they each think they are sneaking out on the others. It’s all part of an elaborate prank by Dr. Falke to get back at Eisenstein for a humiliation in the past. This is one of those plots popular in opera and Shakespeare that depends on intimate acquaintances suddenly not being able to recognize each other in close proximity.
You need to be laughing to maintain your suspension of disbelief.
Fortunately, we discovered Thursday night that the ranks of UK Opera include several gifted comic singer-actors.
Dec22Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Classical Music, Film, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Philharmonic, LexPhil conductor search, Music, Musicals, Opera, Paragon Music Theatre, slide shows, UK; Tagged as: Alan Stein, Alex Parker, Alicia Helm McCorvey, Always Patsy Cline, Arthur Rouse, Brittny Congleton, Cynthia Lawrence, Heather Parrish, It's a Grand Night for Singing, James Archambeault, James W. Rodgers, Jason Epperson, Jason Thompson, Jeffrey Day, Jeremy Gillett, Joe Baber, June July, Kathy Stein, Lexington Children's Theatre's, Lexington Philharmonic, Long Time Travelling, Lower 48, Luther Lewis III, Mei-Ann Chen, Michael Welch, Missy Johnston, Nick Provenzale, Once On This Island, Papa Shakespeare, Reginald Smith Jr., River of Time, Silas House, Studio Players, SummerFest, Tai-Kristin Smedley, Tamera Izlar, The African Company presents Richard III, The City, Twilight, UK Musical and Operetta Organization, UK Opera Theatre, UK Symphony, UK Theatre, Unrequited, Wes Kawaja
This was the second year I spent covering my beat with a camera in my hands a lot of the time. As I said, last year, covering stories as a writer and a photographer is an interesting approach, because you are instinctively trying to match these images to the story you are writing in your head. Or, in the case of slide shows I put together, you are trying to come up with images that tell the story.
Here are some of my favorite shots from 2009 and the stories behind them. Over the holiday weeks, I also encourage you to look out for year end packages from our amazing staff photographers. I know at least one great Lexington arts image is in that group too.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich