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Rising Stars Reginald Smith Jr. lg 1015
Smith’s credo: “The words have to mean something to you.”
© Lynn Lane

REGINALD SMITH, JR. , has one of the most exciting baritone sounds to come along in years. His voice is ample and thrillingly dramatic, as anyone who has heard him on the competition circuit can attest. Smith’s big winning aria has been an unusual one — “Lord Jesus, Hear My Prayer,” from Louis Gruenberg’s Emperor Jones. Unlike many of the wan lyric artists who flood competitions, everything about Smith screams “opera singer”; enterprising presenters would be smart to consider mounting a full production of The Emperor Jones for him. 

Smith grew up in Atlanta, immersed in gospel singing, attended the University of Kentucky and bypassed a master’s program in favor of plunging into the Houston Grand Opera Studio, where he currently performs. “The thing I have grown to love about the people in Houston is that they want you to be the best you can be, and they are never satisfied,” he says. “In school, you have a few coachings, but the company does seven to eight productions a year, and the young artists are in a lot of them. We have long days, but I think they’re also helping me be prepared for anything.” His roles at HGO have included the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte, Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus and Bonze in Madama Butterfly

Smith, now twenty-seven, has learned many valuable life lessons in his rapidly burgeoning career. Once, wanting to do something fresh and new in a competition, he sang Enrico’s “Cruda, funesta smania,” from Lucia di Lammermoor. “I could feel my larynx behind my eyeballs by the end of it,” he says, laughing. “One thing about competitions — choose repertoire that’s exciting and gets the interest of people, but also something that keeps you calm. I was taught that you sing to express, not impress.”

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