From Showroom to Stardom: The Drive to Make it in Opera

Mar 30, 2012

Many Kentuckians are laser focused on March Madness, but last weekend while UK and UofL were advancing to the final four, another major national competition took place in New York City where a Kentucky car salesman made a name for himself in the highly selective Opera scene. Anthony Clark Evans is one of five 2012 National Council Audition winners. Rebecca Feldhaus has more. 



"Thanks for comin’ back, I would have never got to sell you a car if you hadn’t come back."

Anthony Clark Evans is back at work at an Elizabethtown car lot talking about in car sound systems and leg room to sell a Toyota Camry to Mary and James McCubbins.

"Well we’d rather get one in E-town anyway."

"Cause it’s closer, because I’m a better salesman, I’m better lookin’."

"I told you remind me of one of my grandsons."

"And his name is Evan of all things. That’s the funny part."

But earlier this month the 27-year-old Owensboro native was performing his dream job on stage at the Metropolitan Opera.

Clark Evans Metropolitan Opera Performance

After battling his way through regional opera competitions over two and a half months, Evans claimed the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Winner prize. Other winners of the award include greats like Renee Fleming, Thomas Hampson and Jessye Norman. In short, Evans had his time on one of the best known and respected opera stages in the world. And now he is still in post-award shock.

"Last week I was sitting at my desk in the dealership, not even thinking about music whatsoever, and this guy was telling me why my car was terrible, but he still wanted to pay nothing for it. And now I’m like, where am I right now? I mean it was totally surreal."

To answer Evan’s question. He’s in the driver’s seat. He is the winner of one of the most prestigious opera competitions in the world. And he did it without a college degree. He studied voice at Murray State University for a few years, he got married and needed to support himself. So he moved to Elizabethtown Kentucky and got a job at Swope Toyota.

Evans didn’t just show up to the Met and enter the contest. He decided to enter district competition days before the deadline. He paid for a few extra vocal coaching sessions and went to Memphis. Then he just kept going.

A win at the national council auditions has launched careers of numerous opera super stars. But there’s no guarantee. Editor and chief of Opera News Magazine F. Paul Driscoll puts it into perspective.

"This is, make no mistake about it, the big time, but it is usually a prelude to the next step professionally."

Evan’s has made a heroic ascent in the past few months. His arias were solid. He rarely gets nervous, and it showed in his final concert performance.

"In my opinion if someone who comes from a background like his is still able to summon up the nerve to give a solid performance on all these various audition rounds, then he has an excellent chance at being able to keep his head on straight as he embarks on a professional career. "

Dr. Randall Black was Evans’ voice teacher during his time at Murray State. Black is enthusiastic about his chances at “making it.” But the work ahead will be a challenging test to his dedication.

"It’s exciting right now, but just as anything that is work, it will become less exciting with time. And it’s when you get in the trenches and do that daily drudgery that the will to succeed, the will to do something special really has to come to the forefront."

Black hopes for Evans to find, what he calls an angel. Angels are those philanthropists who love the art so much, they want to ensure new talent like Evans have access to resources they need.

A successful career combines talent, hard work, a strong support base and, yes, some luck. It’s going to take some luck Evans says to continue garnering attention at such a high level. Without regular singing gigs or a degree under his belt, Evans doesn’t look that great on paper.

"When they look as my resume, it’s not going to say much. Da, da, da, da, da, Nothing, nothing, nothing Met. What I’m trying to avoid right now is da, da, da, da, da, nothing, nothing, nothing, Met, nothing, nothing, nothing. I think that may end up happening if I don’t really keep my eyes on the ball right now."

Evans keeps no illusions about what’s ahead. There are some singers who dropped off the map for years or even decades before making their professional Metropolitan Opera debut. Some burst on the scene and never left.

"Is it going to be that, or is it going to be the other way where I have to train for so long and then I finally make my glorious debut, or is it going to be a celebrated long career. To tell you the truth, I don’t care, because it’s going to happen. "

One way or another, Evans says he’ll be singing opera for the rest of his life.

Metropolitan Opera Selection - Clark Evans