Owensboro has produced a number of talented artists throughout the years, but one you may not be as familiar with is Anthony Clark Evans, who has stunned the opera world after winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Anthony Clark Evans, just “Clark” to those close to him, moved to Owensboro with his family in 1991 when he was in the third grade. Both his father and mother, Steve and Stacie Evans, are originally from Owensboro and moved home for Steve to accept a pastoral position at Macedonia Baptist Church.
Evans remembers his time at both Daviess County Middle and Daviess County High Schools with fondness, but it was those memories made playing and singing music that he remembers best. As a four-year member of the DCHS Band, Evans played saxophone in concert band, and drums in marching band. He also joined the choir his senior year.
“I remember my middle school band director, Ann Burch. She just gave me a lot of confidence and said I had a lot of talent,” Evans said. “Mr. Clark at DCHS made me work really hard to get where I wanted to go. They both taught me the meaning of practicing the right way.”
Evans went on to Murray State University in 2003, where he studied voice. “At that time, I wanted to teach voice. Get my master’s and doctorate in vocal. I wanted to teach people to use their voice. I just got more interested in performing the further I got into voice lessons,” Evans said.
When the economy declined in 2008, the financial factor of college caught up to Evans, who was paying his own way through school. He eventually dropped out and began looking for work.
Evans had met his girlfriend just a year into school at a welcoming event with the Murray State band. “My girlfriend had just graduated. She was on her way to start her career as a music teacher. I just wanted to go with her,” Evans said.
Evans admits that life was pretty bleak after that. The two moved to his girlfriend’s hometown of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. “I would get a job, then try to get a better job. We wanted to get married and buy a house. Just trying to get our feet under us. We lived with Kim’s dad. Neither of us had a job with the bad economy. About a year out of school, I got a job selling cars and that started paying the bills,” Evans said.
But something always felt missing for Evans, who was still drawn to music and singing. While in school at Murray, Evans and classmates always kept up with the Metropolitan Opera National Council winners. (The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is a program designed to discover promising young opera singers and assist in the development of their careers.) He admits to following them on YouTube and thinking, “I can do that.”
And finally in 2012, Evans traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to compete in the district level of the competition. “I was scared,” Evans said. “I had no college degree, no credits in opera. No one knew me. I was selling cars at the time. Hadn’t taken lessons in 3-4 years. But I was mad at myself for not trying.”
Regardless of training, practice, and lessons, Evans felt he had something worthy of this competition. “My voice teacher taught me to critique myself. Taught me how to fix myself. I had all of the tools there. I just needed to put them all together,” Evans said.
And he was right. He won the district competition. He moved on to the regional competition, also held in Memphis, where he won again. He then moved on to semi-finals and finals, both held at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Was he nervous? According to Evans, no. “At that point, I figured I am a car salesman. That’s what I actually am. I want to be an opera singer. At least I’ve made a splash and I may get some publicity. I never thought I would win. I was just very low key. I’ve never really been nervous on stage. There’s no reason to be. It’s fun. Who gets to say they get to sing for a living? Being nervous isn’t acceptable in my book,” Evans said.
And it turns out, Evans had nothing to be nervous about, because he was chosen as one of five winners in the 2012 competition. As a winner, he received $15,000 and a lot of publicity to jump-start his career as a baritone opera singer.
“People that won this thing, they have gone on to be the best in the business,” Evans said. “I have to be as good as those other people. I have to keep up this tradition. Your name gets out there. I went from sitting there to 100 miles per hour in a day. Instant recognition. That’s literally the only way I could have started my career.”
But just because he won such a prestigious competition, doesn’t mean he was instantly embraced. “I think stunned is the perfect word,” Evans said. “I met Renee Fleming, the most famous soprano in the world. The first thing out of her mouth was, ‘you were really a car salesman?’ It was stunning to them, not because I won, but they didn’t think it was real. But I have proven myself since then.”
Since 2012, Evans has been busy performing in productions and competitions, including a two-year stint with the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center. Among his recent roles have been Sharpless in “Madama Butterfly” for the San Diego Opera, Marcello in “La Boheme” for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Simon Thibault in the Lyric Opera’s “Bel Canto.” And in early February, Evans made his debut at the Met in the company’s production of Antonín Dvorák’s “Rusalka.”
“I think opera is the best art form because it combines all art forms– visual art in the scenery and costumes, singing, acting, literature. When you combine all of those things together, it makes for a really good night of entertainment.”