Arts & Culture

8 UK Opera Talents Lend Their Voices to Met’s ‘Porgy and Bess’

photo of Makeda Hampton, Markel Reed, Reginald Smith Jr, at Met
Seven alumni of the UK Opera Theatre program and current doctoral student Makeda Hampton performed as part of the Met's newest production of "Porgy and Bess." Photo provided.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 18, 2019) Seven alumni and one doctoral student from University of Kentucky Opera Theatre recently finished the first seven performances of the Metropolitan Opera’s newest production of “Porgy and Bess.” This group of talented Wildcats will return to the Met’s stage for the last seven performances beginning Jan. 8, 2020.

“Porgy and Bess,” by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin, is one of America’s most popular operas. The 2019-20 production, which opened Sept. 23, brings Catfish Row back to the Met for the first time in nearly 30 years. Directed by James Robinson, the cast features Eric Owens and Angel Blue in the title roles and an ensemble that includes Golda Schultz, Latonia Moore, Denyce Graves, Frederick Ballentine, Alfred Walker and Ryan Speedo Green.

The eight Wildcats lending their voices as part of the cast and chorus of “Porgy and Bess” include doctoral candidate Makeda Hampton and alumni La'Shelle Allen, Denisha Ballew, Christine Jobson, Andrea Jones-Sojola, Karmesha Peake, Markel Reed and Reginald Smith Jr. As part of the production, Smith made his Met debut in the role of Jim. Smith is a 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions winner.

In addition to the UK vocalists, an alumnus of the UK Symphony Orchestra, Seth Morris, served as principal flute in the pit for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Morris was most recently seen at the Singletary Center for the Arts in September 2018 with UK’s orchestra. 

The production has yet another connection to UK. Twenty-three of the vocalists performing as part of “Porgy and Bess,” including the eight UK singers, are part of the American Spiritual Ensemble founded by UK Opera Theatre Director Everett McCorvey.

“Porgy and Bess” runs through Feb. 1, 2020. Tickets can be purchased here.

UK Opera Theatre is part of the School of Music at the UK College of Fine Arts. The school has garnered a national reputation for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, music therapy, composition, and theory and music history.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.