Latest Stories

Soprano Evelyn Mandac in Manila: ‘I never stop learning’



Seen up close and personal, international opera star Evelyn Mandac, a living national treasure even if she is a US citizen, strikes one as a serene (she is into yoga), gracious woman with a keen sense of humor and a keen mind which sometimes turns philosophical.

The encounter, if it could be called that, took place at a gourmet dinner at the roof bar of the family-run Nichols Airport Hotel at Quirino Avenue, Parañaque City. Mutual friends, the Protacio family, had tendered the dinner for the diva assoluta.

Mandac blew into town recently with husband Sanjoy Brattacharya to spend the holidays here and attend some family reunions.

One was a bit awed and just asked stock questions: What were the most memorable moments in her long and distinguished career?

She laughed. “Memorable moments? There were many of them. I have been very fortunate because I have sung with a lot of the great singers and conductors.”

A partial list would include tenors Placido Domingo and Richard Tucker, sopranos Brigitte Nielsen and Kiri Te Kanawa, and conductors Zubin Mehta and Seiji Ozawa.

Singing with Domingo was a highlight of her career, and she was all praises for the great tenor: “A fantastic colleague, very very nice, very caring, very generous. There was a moment when they were going to cut some arias, my role was not very big, and I told Placido, ‘Oh they are going to cut my second aria, and he said ‘no, no, no! Don’t cut her aria, you can cut some of my parts.’”

And so that was what they did. It was a recording of the opera “L’ Africaine.” Mandac was the first Filipino to sing and record with Domingo.

He “is very, very honest,” Mandac said. “You know, wala siyang [he has no] ego. He knows he’s good, pero wala siyang ego that you will feel.”

At one time she was very close to Nielsen because they sang one summer in Aspen, Colorado. It was her first TV show, and the opera was Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades,” based on a story by Alexander Pushkin.

The soprano has also performed with Te Kanawa in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” with the latter playing the countess.

“I was Susana, her maid,” Mandac said with a laugh. The character of Susana may be an atsay. But she is also the fiancée of Figaro.

‘Carmina Burana’

With Mehta, Mandac did Mahler’s Second Symphony, and with Ozawa it was Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” According to her students in New York, “that recording was the most downloaded recording of  ‘Carmina Burana’ [sung with Sherill Milnes]. People download it all the time.”

Ozawa may be Japanese, she noted, “but he’s also European-trained, so the way he conducts is no different from anybody. He’s so international.”

Our diva was the first Filipino to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, where she sang when the stage was about to be remodeled and after it was redecorated.

“I can claim I sang in both stages of the Met,” she quipped.

She has also performed in other prestigious opera houses in San Francisco and Houston, Texas; the Hollywood Bowl; in famous festivals in London and Chicago; and, of course, here at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

I remember her joint concert with another iconic soprano, the late Conching Rosal.

Now, semiretired, Mandac has returned to New York, where she concentrates on her teaching.

“I never stop learning,” she declared. “I still think I haven’t learned a lot. I want to learn more… Some people think they know everything, but me, I’m a beginner. As you teach, you learn. You constantly learn, so it’s like a circle. I teach the students and they teach me. They don’t know it, but you learn from your students.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Evelyn Mandac , Lifestyle , Music , Opera , People

  • Batz61

    Bravo, Ms. Evelyn Mandac!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Franklin-M-Bobadilla/657650955 Franklin M. Bobadilla

    I think Brigitte Nielsen should read as Birgit Nilsson.
    Nielsen is a Danish model and actress while Nilsson was one of the most famous sopranos
    after World War II.

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  2. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  8. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  9. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  10. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  6. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  7. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  8. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  9. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week?
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Russia promises support to ending Ukraine crisis
  • Busted valve delays water interruption
  • Cardinal Tagle decries human ‘commercialization’
  • Religion builds bridges in ethnically split Cyprus
  • Iran general urges Tehran to make new UN pick
  • Sports

  • Vettel hoping for resurgence at Chinese GP
  • MLB pitcher donates $100,000 for Sewol ferry victims
  • Hamilton takes pole at Chinese Grand Prix
  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015
  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • DOH to continue tracking co-passengers of OFW infected with MERS virus
  • 5 Filipinos with MERS in UAE reported in stable condition
  • PH boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare
  • Canadians back PH plea to take back waste
  • We treasure our Sierra Madre