Jackie Evancho, part 2

If you’re wondering what happened to wunderkind soprano Jackie Evancho, she sang again last night on America’s Got Talent. Here’s her latest performance, singing the Italian classical/crossover song Con te partirò (“Time to say goodbye”).

If you want the music without the brouhaha, it goes from 1:45 to 3:20.

Yes, opera buffs are poo-pooing her, pointing out her flubs and “poor technique” (amply in evidence here), and betting she’ll wash out before she grows up, but really—she’s ten years old!  And she seems like a great kid.

Here’s the version that Andrea Bocelli made famous:


  1. Stan
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure she’s a great kid, too. That might not be enough to make a career on though. Concerning Bocelli, any opera nut will tell you that he definitely is NOT a great opera singer. He has a beautiful voice but he does not have the POWER to “carry” in a large performance venue without the aid of sound reinforcement equipment. A great professional opera singer does not need electronic assistance to do this. That’s a major reason why there are so few of them. Bocelli’s voice needs the help.

    • MadScientist
      Posted September 3, 2010 at 4:47 am | Permalink

      But there’s the difference between the purists (“we want to do it the way it was done back in the days of Vivaldi, Rossini, and Puccini”) and the pragmatists (“not many people can get that loud”). Most opera theaters I’ve been to have microphones everywhere – the ones with a well placed orchestra pit and which service a small enough crowd to make it practical to switch off the microphones are pretty rare. Some have a pathetic orchestra pit – they may as well have put the orchestra out in the parking lot and in the rain – it might be an improvement on the sound.

      • Joanna
        Posted September 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        Opera houses may have mics, but they’re for public service announcements (or for non opera performances at the same theater). Opera singers are not amplified, except rarely in large outdoor venues with poor acoustics. Opera singers must be able to project their voices without amplification. There were no amplification devices when most operas were written and opera singers still don’t use mics. The engineering alone to amplify singers would be near impossible.

  2. Posted September 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I need to point out that opera-buffs (and yeah, I’m one) aren’t poo-pooing her, we’re gently pointing out that if she keeps singing like this she will totally ruin her voice, and given the direction she’s going where education is sacrificed at the altar of fame and / or fortune, she might end up without an education *and* without a voice, and then what?

    If nothing else, please, please get the girl a serious singing teacher, ASAP. Because she *does* seem nice, and the world could use more nice wonderful singers who can, you know, actually sing and all.

    Don’t ruin it all by the lure of easy access to fame.

    • Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      So, I’m a trumpeter and not a singer, so this is (almost) totally uninformed rambling on my part.

      In the brass world, the kind of potentially-permanent injury you describe is generally only a concern with over-exertion, especially when combined with poor technique. Young and inexperienced brass musicians often have less-than-perfect technique and are the ones most prone to testosterone-fuelled displays of excess.

      However, it’s generally easy to hear when somebody is doing something potentially injurious. It might still sound impressive, but there’s an edge and coarseness to things that just doesn’t sound right.

      I’ve heard that same sort of sound from singers, including myself.

      I don’t hear it from Ms. Evancho.

      (In fairness, I must point out the warble on her last note. That’s what it sounds like…but this instance sounded as much like nerve-induced loss of control followed by panic-induced overcompensation. The end result is the same, but one is a dangerous habit and the other is a harmless occasional mistrake. If Ms. Evancho does that a lot in the practice room, she’s setting herself up for failure.)

      But she generally had excellent tone production, good support, good placement, and sounded like she’s doing things right.

      Perhaps you could elaborate on the dangers you think she’s facing?



      • Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        In short, she’s pre-pubertal (and this is very important), which means the strain she’s putting on her especially low and high registers (not worried about the middle so much) are going to create havoc on her throat muscles when puberty injects all its glorious altering juices into her veins. The warble and all that doesn’t worry me too much, no it’s the strain (chest and front of throat) of the warble itself. Note how she breaks at the very end of her high warble; that right there is what I’m talking about, the sheer amount of air she has to put through a strain like that is going to kill her voice. The voice needs to relax more, a lot more, she needs to sing more with her non-existent belly and chest than her throat.

        Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice, and the potential here is amazing. But we’re at the point where all this exposure is going to put more strain on her voice than ever before, and this is *the* time to take professional singers advice seriously. It’s not jealousy, it’s more often real concern. We’ve seen promising singers fall pray of this gambit far too often, especially in the pre-teens. Get her a really nice singing teacher now. Please. Pretty please?

        • Posted October 27, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          I think you are absolutely right! My dad, Andy Love use to sing on the Mitch Miller show years ago, and also did comercials for radio & TV.
          He told me the exact same thing and mentioned that his sister Elllen, my aunt, had a bad voice teacher that ruined her voice for the same reson.

      • Laurie
        Posted February 27, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        I agree that Jackie’s bad technique could damage her voice. Worst of all, she drops her larynx to get that more mature sound. She also hunches her shoulders and neck and clenches her fists which shows tension in the body, gulps for air every few notes, breathes improperly for singing, wobbles her lower jaw and lip to produce more of a vibrato, doesn’t support the tone, and has strained high notes.

        You said you are a trumpet player. If your trumpet was ruined, you could go out and buy a new one. If a voice is destroyed, the singer can’t get a replacement. A singer, even a small child, is taking a horrible chance by singing with poor technique. If Jackie actually got a teacher, the teacher would insist that Jackie sing with her normal child’s voice instead of “manufacturing” a more mature vocal sound. Without this manufactured sound, Jackie would just sound like a kid with a nice voice and the “circus” that the exploitation of this child has become, would be over. This would be a good thing, because Jackie could learn to sing properly so that her voice would last over a decades long adult career in whatever musical genre she chooses…and make no mistake about it, the choice should be hers, not the choice of her mother who has stated “WE don’t like opera.” Jackie should be free to choose for herself without having to deal with her mother’s musical prejudices.

    • Joanna
      Posted September 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your comment. i’m getting very tired of being called a Jackie hater, healous of her, and an opera snob for saying that she needs a good teacher. Her mother is currently functioning as her teacher, but has no voice teaching credentials whatsoever.
      Most of Jackie’s fans either don’t realize and/or simply don’t care that a voice can be ruined by singing with improper technique. They just care about listening to her sing right now. Dropping her larynx ot produce a more mature sound the way she does, is one of the most potentially damaging things one can do to one’s voice. Perhaps her parents only care about the money she can make right now, and don’t care what will happen to her voice in the future.

  3. Posted September 2, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    All very well, but what about the merengue dog?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Bueno! Muy bueno!!

      And, BTW, back to Jackie, she’s from Pittsburgh!

    • Posted September 3, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Well any merngue-dancing-dog buff will tell you that his technique is all wrong, and if he continues to dance like that he’s going to wreck his pelvic muscles after he gets neutered.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted September 3, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        I go to the annual Dog Merengue competitions in Peoria, and I tell you, you may think this dog is good but he wouldn’t even win a ribbon there. And his skirt is a hideous color! He really needs a coach if he’s going to go anywhere.

      • Posted September 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        He? That dog is in drag?

  4. Posted September 2, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Damn. That kid is phenomenal.

    Is her technique perfect? Not quite. But I’ve heard graduate students do worse in degree recitals. She might or might not not be quite good enough (yet) to win a chorus audition for the Metropolitan Opera, but she is good enough to do minor roles in almost any regional opera company, and major roles in a number of them. It’s no exaggeration to state that she’s already better than the majority of professional opera singers (even if she’s still a long ways from the top). And I’ve heard Met broadcasts where the leads didn’t sing as well as she did — even those at the top have their off days.

    More importantly, she has enough technique to express her musicality, and, though young, she was more expressive than many of those same pros I mentioned.

    (Of course, I’m sure her repertoire is very limited, which would put the kibosh on her actually working as a professional opera singer for the next several years. But, depending on how quickly she learns new music, even that might not keep her off the big stage for long.)

    You know? I think her biggest obstacle today might be her limited lung capacity. She had to sneak more breaths than one would like, but what do you expect from a ten-year-old body? She probably doesn’t have enough physical stamina for a whole opera, either, but that will come soon enough.

    Keep your ear out for this one. If she doesn’t give it up, her name will someday be said along with those of Jessye Norman, Maria Callas, Marian Anderson, and any other of the greats you care to mention.

    For that matter, she doesn’t have to sing opera to be a huge success. Whatever genre she decides to focus her attention on will be greatly enriched by her efforts.



    • Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      Just a note to point out that she’s well miked but that the singing style is for singing without, and that there *are* real issues when mixing them up. But yes, phenomenal, absolutely lovely.

    • Joanna
      Posted September 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately, her mother has stated” “We don’t like opera.”, so jackie is obviously being discouraged fom an opera career by her own mother. Sad, isn’t it?

  5. Josh Slocum
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    She has obvious natural talent (preternatural for her age), and anyone who denies that is daft. That’s a difficult piece to sing, whether you regard the piece as “high art” or not.* But yeah, she needs a competent vocal coach stat. Not because she’s a little bit warbly and flat on a few notes (she is), but so she doesn’t rip her vocal cords out of her throat before puberty.

    *Yikes, wtf is up with that horrible key “modulation” up a major second? Is that how the piece is actually written?

  6. Josh Slocum
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    This is the first time I’ve listened to Andrea Bocelli.

    Um, he sucks. Seriously (OK, he’s obviously better than a non-singer like me, but please, that’s a low bar). His voice is thin, he has little control of his tuning, he has no resonance, he’s reedy. . .

    This guy is considered an opera singer? Really? If so, he’s the shittiest one I’ve ever heard.

    • Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      Now, now, he’s done some more recent serious stuff that are certainly on par with a swath of opera mediocrity. Mixed with an undeniably beautiful voice and getting better technically over the years, he’s above average. His latest Rossini stuff is quite nice, although, as an opera-buff, my actual preferences lies very elsewhere. But don’t diss the man for bringing people back to real singing … 🙂

  7. Joe Dickinson
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Singing with a mike, perhaps with “reverb”(?)and backup vocals is not what opera singing is about. One doubts that this audience (or those judges) really know what quality opera singing sounds like. We go every year to a local Met Opera National Council Auditions. In my judgement, neither Miss Evancho or, for that matter, Mr. Bocelli would make it to the semifinals here in Utah, let alone nationally.

  8. Juha Savolainen
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I also share the concern for Jackie. Of course, she is impressive and nobody needs to apologize for enjoying her performance…:) All the same, get her a good singing teacher…

    As for singing with and without a microphone: all these lovely recordings we love to listen exist thanks to microphones!…:) Still, it is true that opera singers are the only non-amplified singing voices of the (Western) world. These tell it all:

    And the result of the experiment:

    And,finally, here is an example of using that Ferrari voice in the high-octane range with a microphone while doing crossover (OK, I like the original more, for all sort of reasons, but this is kind of fun, too!)

    Have a Perfect Day!…:)

  9. gordon
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    Saw a doco narrated by Kiri Te Kanawa on BBC last night on what it takes to be a top soprano. I suspect a 10 year old has a long way to go. And on the technique point-one large chunk of the programme featured singers with instruments down their throats as a ENT doctor examined their vocal cords as they sang various notes

  10. MadScientist
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t complain about her singing; I’d complain about the crappy fourth-rate amateur backing and sound diddling – it was painful. Hopefully the kid gets a chance to sing with a real orchestra.

    @gordon: Personally I can’t stand Kiri Te Kanawa – she’s in my book as a shrieker. I can’t stand the artists who treat the music as if there were some sort of warbling and shrieking competition.

  11. MadScientist
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Dang – my arias are being neglected. I can’t find my Enrico Caruso. Oh well, I found my Jose Carreras.

  12. astrokid.nj
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Andrea Bocelli.. What beautiful music I got to listen to this morning.. Thanks Jerry.

    Ophelia.. Thanks to your Dancing Dog, I have just jettisoned 1 years worth of reading up on Evolution, and now believe in Intelligent Design 🙂

    • Posted September 3, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Well I’ve gone so far as to believe in the existence of one Intelligent Golden Retriever, which is quite a revolution in itself!

      • MadScientist
        Posted September 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Golden Retrievers are very intelligent – they just like to play stupid so they can get away with doing really dumb things. If you don’t let them get away with their act and they behave, they’re a terrific dog – almost as good as a standard poodle.

        • MosesZD
          Posted September 3, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          This is true. But you left off they seem to be a compulsive over-eating breed.

  13. MosesZD
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I had to ask my daughter, who like this girl, is a young, budding soprano, what was wrong with this piece. I knew there was something wrong, but just because I’ve been taking the child to voice lessons for six years doesn’t mean I can express it.

    Especially as I usually read a book or nap through the lesson. She says the following:

    Monotone. She doesn’t have that much range. She’s loud, but the range isn’t there.

    There’s something about the rigidity of the way she holds her mouth. This went completely over my head. It may have something to do with the mouth thing and something about all the syllables she has to sing. I really, really didn’t understand what the heck she said.

    She’s straining her voice, she’s not there yet. She’s barely able to push it out and it lacks definition. Sort of “watery.”

    Doesn’t have the physical capacity for this song. She just can’t breath enough and has to gasp.

    BTW, she does think the girl is talented. But that she is way over her head right now and is going to hurt herself.

  14. MosesZD
    Posted September 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got it. Finally. What’s been driving me nuts about this performance and why I couldn’t understand it.

    She’s mimicking opera! That’s why her range is so limited, she doesn’t breathe, doesn’t support, doesn’t open her mouth right and doesn’t know how to sing the notes she’s singing.

    Quite a bit of talent there. But mimicry is why it didn’t sound right. She’s totally not there.

  15. Charlie
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    MosesZD, I have no problem with what you like or don’t like. However I’m baffled by you saying: “.. her range is so limited…”

    Totally confused by that. I’ve listened to these songs and she certainly hits all the notes, high and low, and in fact if you listen to her doing “Memory” she not only hits all notes there, it’s a song most established stars ditch the low notes. I’ve failed to find a song where her range limits her from doing a song properly.

  16. Saffie
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    I love reading these arguments that ensued over two years ago about how Jackie Evancho was going to ruin her voice, is being exploited, needs a voice teacher, and on and on…

    She’s still touring. Her voice is buttery rich and naturally adult-like. She has a coach. Her octave range has expanded. Her repertoire (of Nessun Dorma belting) has been restricted. Her breath support is vastly improved. Her intonation is as impeccable as ever. And perhaps to the disappointment of many of her classical crossover fans, she stays well inside of her range (possibly a little too much, as her Songs from the Silver Screen CD is a little bit saccharine, but still good). She’s been trained out of voice-straining bad habits. If I recall correctly, I think it was her mother who said that she will begin more formal voice coaching (not opera) once well into adolescence. It’s a much tamer Jackie Evancho, but sounding even more beautiful.

    There’s a lot of information about her out there, but it takes a while to uncover it. I am confident that she’s well-handled and not being exploited. Both of her parents have said they will pull the plug the moment she no longer wants to do this (her dream so far). Her dad said that their job as parents is to keep her emotionally grounded, ensure that she has as normal a childhood as possible, and more often than not, to say no (to the constant demands on Jackie to perform). She is a kid at home, equal to her siblings, and nothing is made of her fame while she’s jumping on the trampoline, chasing lizards and doing her chores. She herself recently said she appreciates her parents keeping her grounded, and respects their gate-keeping decisions. Both she and her dad emphasized that she is included in all discussions.

    Do I, as a dedicated fan, worry? Yes, but not about her voice, and not about her ability to balance fame with growing up. I worry about this becoming a job instead of a dream. I believe her when she says that she’s not into “stuck-up stuff” or being a diva, and that people deserve to be treated well, but the last two times I saw her in concert, I grieved a little for the loss of her innocence. She’s still sweet, but those spontaneous, geyser-strength upwellings of excitement and joy she gets from knowing she pleased her audience weren’t there. When she giggles, she brings her mic to her mouth to do it. No physical convulsions of pure joy (if you’ve ever seen her nearly wiggle out of her skin with excitement during a standing ovation, you’ll know what I’m talking about). I didn’t see any of that. Just the smiles of a maturing and genuinely polite pre-teen. Of course, I admit I want to lock her 10-year old persona in with some kind of magic spell, but she’s growing up… fast. Should her dream ever fade, I worry that neither she nor her parents will recognize it. Meh, that’s just me thinking back on all the times I turned an interest into an occupation, and grew to hate it eventually, but clung to it. I do think she’s confident and willing to take chances, so maybe there’s no problem.

    Another thing I worry about is the same thing that happened to Charlotte Church. She was under so much pressure because, like Jackie Evancho, she was a “gift from god,” an “angel,” humanity’s best hope, blah blah. Like Jackie, she was (is?) Catholic, but found herself up to her neck in pressure to be a perfect little god-like trained-monkey child. She rebelled and started smoking and partying (i.e., she started acting like a normal person). Her religious fans, and the press, turned on her like junk-yard dogs. Fortunately, she came through it, and is actually, and always was, a nice person, but the god-botherers still hate her. Jackie Evancho may one day see that god’s-perfect-child stuff as a little bit too much, and break under the pressure (in some way). I doubt she’ll become an atheist (one can dream) because her religion goes deep in her family (even though they don’t wear it on their sleeve), but there might come a day when she at least wants to keep her career and her religion separate, which will be the day the wolves will start howling. My fantasy is to be the one who sits her down and points out that if her god was any kind of a respectable god, then why would he waste time giving “gifts” of beautiful voices to little blond girls, while allowing children all over the world to suffer. She’s very empathic, and still humble, so I would think she’d see the absurdity of thinking of her voice as a “gift from god.” I would be lynched for doing this, but this shit bothers me so much, I might find a rope around my neck worth it if I could destroy even one child’s faith. 🙂

    • stephiegrl316
      Posted December 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      So you are angry that she believes her gift is from God? She has said she always believed this … Why would you want to destroy her faith? Your lack of faith, because you analyze God’s ways, makes you cynical. We cannot fathom the higher ways of God. It will never make sense to us, why things are the way they are …

      • Saffie
        Posted December 30, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

        You’re on a scientist’s blog claiming there are things we’ll never understand? Wow. Don’t assume I’m angry — I’m bothered as in disturbed, about brainwashing children and allowing them to believe that there’s a god who bestows blessings in the form of talent upon singers and quarterbacks, while ignoring the suffering of millions. If that seems fair or ‘godlike’ to you, then I don’t know how to help you.

        My sincere hope, still, is for Jackie (.

        Don’t make too much of me saying I want to “destroy her faith” – I was being facetious for effect. Still, I would be happy to see Jackie recognize the injustice and absurdity of arbitrary divine providence, and come to this by way of her intelligence, reasoning and empathy.

        By the way, just to bring the comments up to date, below is a link to one of Jackie’s latest performances. Obviously, there are still issues that she needs to work on, like breathing support, jaw wiggle, vowels and diction in general, and maybe a few other things, but at this point in her adolescence, it is probably enough to deal with the sheer unpredictability / unreliability of a breaking voice.

        As you can see, she did not (nor did she ever want to) become an opera singer, and I’m glad for that. Can she use training? Yes, every singer can, and she does. Is her voice “in danger” as people have been predicting for years? (She supposedly was destined to lose her voice by the end of her 10th year.) I can’t see it. If anything, she’s singing with too much caution. This girl (by way of her parents and handlers) is being well taken care of. Those who have followed her career as I have can attest to the changes in her voice, especially over the last year. She is dramatically improving, i.e., I think she (her voice) is emerging safely into young adulthood, and she will have a long singing career.

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