Evelyn Mandac: NYâs Met Diva
Evelyn Mandac

Evelyn Mandac: NY’s Met Diva

REMEMBER WHEN? - From the collection of DANNY DOLOR (The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Evelyn Mandac holds the distinction of being the first Filipina to sing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. Only the best singers in the world perform at the Met.

Critics describe Evelyn as ‘the compleat Diva’ as she sings as well as she acts. At the Met, she sang in operas with the likes of Placido Domingo, Brigit Nillson, Shirley Verrett, Krista Ludwig, Justino Diaz, Sherill Milnes, among other famous singers.

Aside from the Met, Evelyn conquered other opera theaters in the United States and Europe.

Photo taken in 1978 after the concert that featured Evelyn and Conching Rosal at the CCP: (From left) Danny Dolor, Evelyn, impresario Luis Pimentel, Julio Cardinal Rosales, Bishop Max Cruz, CCP president Lucresia Kasilag, Conching, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Narding Torres.

Her concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) was much awaited by the Filipino audience.

It was a two-day event, Jan. 10 and 11, 1975. The Zarzuela Foundation of the Philippines sponsored Evelyn’s concert, arranged and produced by Pacifica Cultural Foundation for the benefit of Muslim refugees, the Zarzuela Foundation and the CCP.

Assisting Evelyn was the CCP Philharmonic Orchestra, with Luis Valencia conducting. Special numbers were provided by the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus, conducted by Rey Paguio.

Nestor Torre wrote — excerpts:

“When she was in Grade Four, Evelyn Mandac scored her first musical ‘triumph’ with a spirited rendition of Chiribiribin at a school convocation. That heady experience must have primed her for far greater successes yet to come. At one point early in her musical life, she had to choose between a career in music and a course in home economics, the traditional Filipina’s ‘recipe’ for placid domesticity. Well, home economics never stood a chance (although Evelyn loves to do gourmet cooking up to this day).

“After six years of solid musical training at the UP Conservatory of Music, Evelyn left for advanced studies and an uncommonly bright musical future in the United States. From the start, her brilliant soprano voice was not to be denied its impact. At Oberlin College in Ohio, she spent a semester with the opera workshop; this was followed by a fruitful summer at the Ogleby Opera Workshop in Virginia.

“But it was at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York that Evelyn’s young talent enjoyed its first full flowering. Christopher West, director of Juilliard’s opera theater, saw that she had ‘a lot to offer,’ and cast her in lead roles in a string of showcase productions that invited — and secured — the lavish critical praise that every ambitious singer dreams of, but seldom gets. In just a very few seasons, Evelyn had established herself as an ascendant star of the first magnitude.

“This promise was borne out of Evelyn’s subsequent work as a favorite soloist with many major American symphony orchestras and as a recitalist. In three years under the management of Howard Barrett, she sang with the symphony orchestras of Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland and New York, in addition to some recitals and appearances in operas. The most attention-calling of these was the American premiere of Henze’s Bassarides by the Santa Fe Opera, where Evelyn’s performance was singled out for special praise — and its attendant popular cachet — by Time Magazine.” — RKC

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