'La bohème' Marks a Passionate Debut for Anthony Clark Evans

By Rob Levy
In Culture

Anthony Clark Evans does not want a day job. He eats, drinks, sleeps and breathes being an opera singer. He fell in love with opera in college as a double music major at Murray State University where he was a vocalist and saxophone player. Burnt out on playing the sax, he felt his true calling after seeing a production of “Faust” in Nashville. He’s never looked back since.

Photo courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Photo courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Before debuting in “La bohème,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ season opener beginning this weekend, Evans surged onto the international scene by winning several awards. In 2012 he was the Grand Finals Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In 2013 he grabbed top honors in the Lissner, Albanese-Puccini, Giulio Gari and Mario Lanza vocal competitions while also capturing second place in the Liederkranz and Opera Index competitions. In 2014, he received awards from the Sullivan Foundation, the Luminarts Fellowship and the American Opera Society. That same year, he also received a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. He also studied at the Lyric Opera’s Ryan Opera Center in Chicago.

Evans plays the painter Marcello, the oldest member of a crew of happy-go-lucky artists who finds himself involved in a combustible relationship with a beautiful singer named Musetta. Evans previously played Marcello in 2008 for Arkansas’ Opera of the Ozarks.

If you have seen the musical “Rent,” then you get the gist of Giancono Puccini’s “La bohème.” This bittersweet tale of lust, love and longing centers on a band of Parisian free sprits who grind it out each and every day for their art and pursue their own relationships.

At their core is the poet Rodolfo, who falls under the spell of an enchanting seamstress named Mimi. Although winning her affections will be challenging, Rodolfo perseveres, setting into motion a love story filled with passion and tragedy.

Creating a fully formed character is never an easy task. Evans discussed this process and how his relationship with his wife Kim, whom he met at band camp in college, shaped the way his character experiences love in the opera.

How have your own relationships influenced the portrayal of your character?
I don’t know if it really has because I’m married and have been with my wife for quite a long time. So I wouldn’t say it’s not been very contentious as far as my character is concerned, but it has given me the opportunity to experience life in a different way than a lot of people my age. I’ve been with the same woman for such a long time. It’s something that I can use to my advantage. The way I feel about her is very passionate and I can take that into Marcello and show that to the audience.

Has this role affected how you think of your own relationships?
This is my second time playing him. The first time, I was much younger and I was not married. What I think has happened is that the way I play him now is a little bit more sincere because I’ve had those life experiences that have helped me grow as a person. For instance, I have a daughter and that has changed my perspective on everything in life and it’s made me more forgiving in the role.

Do you have a special way of connecting with the audience?
That’s what great about opera: You don’t just have to say a word and try to get them to understand the context of what you are saying. You also have the context of the music behind the words. That’s something that makes opera very unique.

When you think about it that way and you add the sets and the stage, what that does is when you start to sing, people are immediately drawn to wherever you are on stage. They see the emotion on your face, the body language and they hear the words and the music.  They are drawing on your own psyche as an audience member. It’s not just the words or the music or the art; it’s all of it.

How does “La bohème” speak to you as an artist?
The four men in this opera are artists in their own right so it gives you a need to go a little bit further into the character. Because I am playing an artist, and I am an artist as a profession, that’s going to make me have a more of an edge on how to play the character. It makes you want to do a better job and do everything on a higher level because it is so well written and the music is one of the best ever done in opera.

As far as most people know, its one of those things you can sing along to some of it because you’ve probably heard it before, like on Bugs Bunny. It’s a good piece that you have to experience it.  The point of the opera is not just to make you feel the emotions, it’s to make you live them.

“La bohème” opens this Saturday and runs through June 25 at the Loretto Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road) on the campus of Webster University.

For showtimes, tickets and more information visit opera-stl.org or call 314.961.0171.

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