LOS ANGELES – Jackie Evancho, the diminutive diva of America’s Got Talent fame scored quite a performance for herself at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles this Friday. Nearly every song led to a standing ovation. She looked and behaved like a petite princess in lovely, age-appropriate, glamorous, and demure concert dresses.
Evancho’s ebullience and graciousness endeared her to everyone when she opened her mouth to speak a few words of thanks in between songs. When she introduced a guest singer she spoke highly of him and said she couldn’t stop listening to his recording with delighted giggles.
Her tones are beautiful, sweet, and perfect in pitch and expression. She is an exceptionally gifted and musically expressive child with a composure beyond her years. Her talent shines as much as her training. She’s spent a great deal of time practicing, memorizing songs, and refining a gift that is beautiful to begin with. And yet, what can’t be taught is her obvious joy in singing.
The basis of the live set were songs from her recent album called Dream With Me. Her repertoire ranges from pop to popera to classical and opera. The selections were beautifully sung. It would be nice to hear her sing more age-appropriate repertoire in some cases. Yes, Lara Fabian’s “Broken Vow” (“Imaginer”) in French was lovely. But it’s difficult to imagine that Evancho would have been through the pain of a broken relationship as described in the song. Clearly, it’s a personal favorite of hers along with “All I Ask of You” from Phantom. Some of her choices work for any age, such as “Angel” (a pop tune), “The Lord’s Prayer” and her other classical repertoire. (Correction 2-29-12. Lara Fabian rewrote lyrics of “Imaginer” just for Evancho.)
Truly, she’s ideal for singing songs from the musical version of The Secret Garden, “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Miserable and a wide variety of child soprano repertoire such as Lloyd-Webber’s “Pie Jesu” which she does sing, and Faure’s “Pie Jesu” which she does not sing-yet. “When You Wish Upon A Star” is a wonderful choice. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” ”Somewhere Out There,” or “Candle on the Water” would certainly be delightful to hear.
She’s on her way to singing opera, but she has not yet arrived. She sang in French, in Italian, and in Latin, in addition to English. Her voice “O mio babbino caro” is exquisite, and sweetly moving with easy high A flats. Her rendition and her “Ombra Mai Fu” by Handel rival that of many a young soprano auditioning for a university spot. Microphone use makes it difficult to fathom how far her voice projects.
Her concert followed a classical recital format which the unschooled audience found disconcerting. They clapped and cheered for songs, not knowing that one holds applause for the end of songs in classical concerts. They clapped at false cadences which make the orchestra sound like it’s over, but it isn’t. The sound was cranked up louder than an opera with the use of suspended amp towers, but was quiet by rock concert standards. And when Evancho left the stage followed closely by the conductor, the end result was confusion at intermission. There were no programs, and they would have been helpful here. It could have been filled with useful tips about how classical concerts work.
Opera snobs will note that singing opera reveals that she is indeed a gifted child, but a child none-the-less. And that’s perfectly OK. Opera’s ideal is to sing every note with a seamless tone, unchanging speed of vibrato from the top of one’s range to the bottom of it, and silent breaths. It additionally requires the ability to fill a large hall of a few thousand seats without a microphone. This often takes years of lessons, vocal coaching, and personal practice to master. Her pop vocals sound far more womanly, comparing Evancho’s cover with Sara Maclachlan’s original “Angel” and “Somewhere” to Barbra Streisand’s version.
A word about the orchestra-they were, for the most part, a delight when supporting Evancho’s concert. They played two classical overtures exceptionally well. However, the 1st violinist ought to get a thrashing for playing the violin solo at the beginning of “You Raise Me Up” with such poor expression, pitch, and phrasing. That was inexcusable in a professional environment. Many classical artists feel that lighter pop works are beneath them. It should never be beneath an artist to play well. Clearly the violinist thought it would be easy and that it would not take work or practice to pull it off. What a shame.
While Josh Page was the older of the two, his voice is still at an unruly stage on some notes. He sang “The Prayer” as a duet with Evancho, an Italian standard called “O sole mio” and “You Raise Me Up”. It was disconcerting that some of his notes fought for pitch, about to crack, rather than being easy like the rest of his voice. This is developmental for many male voices and will resolve with both age and continued lessons into a very pleasant tenor voice. The young singer caused a sensation when his seat number was called to sing a duet with Josh Groban at Groban’s recent Madison Square Garden concert.
Evancho’s sweet demeanor and attitude were evident as she thanked everyone in earshot. “I’d like to thank Robert the conductor. Thank you to the orchestra for making me sound good. And thanks most of all to you in the audience with your claps. I hope to see you in the future because I know I enjoyed tonight.” And the audience clearly showed their delight in the young phenom with a standing ovation and two songs in an encore.
While it wasn’t a sold out crowd, it was well sold and perhaps would have been completely sold out if the ticket prices had been lower. Young working families, of which there were a few, would have been greater in numbers. As it was, the few there were adorable in their Jackie Evancho t-shirts and ballet accoutrements for a special night out on the town.
Evancho’s concerts at this stage in her development are certainly well worth attending. She’s an inspiration to children to try singing for themselves. Her voice takes the breath away of many of an adult who finds her charming sweetness completely adorable. She continues her very wisely spaced out tour which can be followed at www.JackieEvancho.com.
Please check out the photos in the slideshow to the left.