Arts & Culture

UK Grad Reginald Smith Jr. to Compete for US in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World

Watch Smith performing "The Trumpet Shall Sound" from Handel's "Messiah."

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 12, 2021) University of Kentucky opera graduate Reginald Smith Jr. has been selected to represent the United States in the 20th BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. As part of the prestigious vocal competition in classical music, Smith will compete against 15 of the world’s most outstanding rising stars in international opera and song on BBC TV, radio and iPlayer beginning June 12.

The biennial competition will be staged this year at St. David’s Hall without an audience due to COVID-19 protocols. The baritone’s competitors include vocalists from 14 other countries including: Austria, China, Denmark, England, Georgia, Iceland, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela, Wales, and, represented for the first time, Madagascar and Republic of Kosovo. BBC Cardiff Singer of the World will run June 12-19.

“BBC Cardiff Singer of the World has long been a vital launchpad for world-class singers at the beginning of their careers, and after one of the most difficult years for all performers this is more true than ever. We hope that this year’s edition will be a beacon of hope for all young singers — those competing and those possibly watching from home — as we show our support for up-and-coming artists, provide a much-needed showcase for their extraordinary talent and revel for a few days in live music-making of the very highest order,” Artistic Director of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World David Jackson said.

This year’s singers were selected during three stages from a record-breaking pool of applicants. The main jury is chaired by General Director of Welsh National Opera Aidan Lang and includes two celebrated opera stars: Welsh bass-baritone Neal Davies and U.S. soprano Roberta Alexander. Accompanying the vocalists for performances will be the Welsh National Opera conducted by Michael Christie and BBC National Orchestra of Wales led by Andrew Litton.

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World and its Song Prize are presented by BBC Cymru Wales in association with Welsh National Opera and is supported by Cardiff Council.

Smith, who earned his bachelor's degrees in choral music education and vocal performance in 2013 and his master's degree this May, came to UK Opera Theatre as a 2007 Alltech Vocal Scholar where he studied under Director Everett McCorvey during his undergraduate years. While at UK, the Atlanta native compiled several performance and competition credits including bass solos in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Coronation Mass and Fauré Requiem with the UK Chorale and a solo in performance with the Lexington Philharmonic.

At UK, Smith appeared in UK Opera Theatre productions of "Falstaff," Porgy and Bess," "Romeo and Juliet," "Pirates of Penzance," "Die Fledermaus," "The Magic Flute," "La Bohème" and "River of Time." He also performed every season of his college years in "It's a Grand Night for Singing" and earned an invitation to attend an elite summer program at the Seagle Music Colony, the oldest summer vocal training program in the U.S. 

Outside of UK, Smith has forged an exciting path in the opera world joining the young artist program at Houston Grand Opera, winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2015 and most recently singing on the Grammy Award-winning recording of the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019-20 production of “Porgy and Bess.”

The highly acclaimed UK Opera Theatre program 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.

headshot photo of Reginald Smith Jr.
Reginald Smith Jr.

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.