Arts & Culture

Grammy Award-winning Recording Includes 8 UK Opera Vocalists

photo of 7 UK Opera Theatre alums and doctoral student Makeda Hampton at the 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. (March 19, 2021) The talents of seven alumni and one doctoral candidate from University of Kentucky Opera Theatre were recognized as part of the 63rd annual Grammy Awards last weekend. The UK singers lent their voices to the Best Opera Recording “Gershwin: Porgy and Bess” for the 2019-2020 Metropolitan Opera production of “Porgy and Bess.”

“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 ran Sept. 23, 2019, to Feb. 15, 2020, brought Catfish Row back to the Met for the first time in nearly 30 years. Directed by James Robinson, the cast featured 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 Metropolitan Opera Chorus in “Porgy and Bess” included doctoral candidate Makeda Hampton and alumni La'Shelle Allen, Denisha BallewChristine JobsonAndrea Jones-SojolaKarmesha PeakeMarkel 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.

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

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.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.