O Mio Babbino Caro, at age 9

I’m sure, like the last time I presented an young opera-singing prodigy, people will carp about her singing, but really, Amira Willighagen is only nine. This is apparently from the show “Holland’s Got Talent,” and it seems to.

Plus it’s my favorite of all opera arias, and a perennial crowd pleaser.  But listen before you carp. (My only plaint: she goes high on the last note.)

I have to note that I can sing this in the original Italian—but not on key!

O mio babbino caro,
mi piace, è bello bello,
vo’andare in Porta Rossa
a comperar l’anello!
Si, si, ci voglio andare!
E se l’amassi indarno,
andrei sul Ponte Vecchio
ma per buttarmi in Arno!
Mi struggo e mi tormento,
O Dio! Vorrei morir!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!



    • Grania Spingies
      Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Icky, self-important opining from Anne.

      Technique can be taught to anybody, but nothing other than the lottery of DNA can give anyone a voice like that.

  1. Lianne Byram
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink


  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    That sounded amazing. It’s freaky to see these small children singing things you expect to hear from adults. My brain can’t handle it – luckily unlike when the brain upsets the stomach because it thinks you’re moving when you’re not, the sensation is pleasant.

  3. Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I just saw this last night. Un-freaking-believable. (And that’s coming from a classical musician.)

  4. Allen Linville
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Wow!!! I don’t like operas, but even I can tell that child has talent.

    • Merilee
      Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:14 am | Permalink

      What’s not to like about good opera????

  5. Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    The concern with people younger than…well, mid-20s, really, singing some of the big operatic literature is that a lot of them have done permanent damage to their voices by singing with bad technique.

    I listened very carefully and didn’t hear any signs of strain, which is encouraging. (It should also be noted that I’m a trumpeter, not a singer, and there are many people better qualified than I to perform such an analysis.)

    I suspect (and really, really hope) that she’s getting coaching from a first-rate vocal coach, in which case she’s got as good a chance as there is to preserve her voice long enough to make a career of it, if that’s what she wants to do.

    Those concerns aside, she really did a lovely job. With that kind of phrasing and technique and the obvious dedication that it took to prepare the work, at only age nine…assuming she avoids injury, her star will shine most bright, indeed.

    …but it’s going to take a lot of discipline, especially the discipline to not attempt some really great and tempting juicy stuff until she can safely do so….



    • Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      …as a postscript, Puccini is generally a danger zone for young singers, but this one is probably the ideal first Puccini aria for a young singer to start with.

      I’m just relieved that she didn’t attempt to sing Wagner…or, worse, Mozart. Even as talented as she is, I’d be quite worried if she attempted that one any time in the next decade…but, at the same time, I’d love to hear her perform it a couple decades from now, ideally on stage and not in the recital hall.



      • Posted October 31, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        You won’t ever hear a dramatic lyric soprano like one that would sing most Puccini singing full-on coloratura stuff like The Queen.

        One of my favorite arias ever is the queen’s other big solo: O Zittre Nicht. The more subdued first section has some moments of delicious chromaticism, and the second part might be even more difficult than the better-known vengeance aria.

      • Kevin
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

        Or worse, Rossini, Rameau, or Vivaldi or lots more…

        I hope she will stay healthy.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Charlotte Church can barely speak she did so much damage to her voice. I worry not just about the child in the video but other kids who see her and decide to try it out on their own.

      • Linda
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Not sure where you got the idea that Charlotte Church can hardly speak, from, as I was speaking with her recently and heard her sing. She now sings pop and rock.

    • Stephen P
      Posted November 3, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Coming to this late, but I’ve just watched the Dutch original.

      She says she’s never had a singing lesson. Her brother plays the violin and she wanted to do something musical. So she went hunting for arias on the internet, and when she found one she liked she started copying it.

      • Posted November 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Um. That’s a bit disturbing. I really hope she gets the coaching she’s going to need if she wants to keep doing this….


  6. Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink


    1) This is not an aria for a child. The piece is either (as originally intended) a tongue in cheek playful tug of war between daughter and father over sex/love, or (as interpreted by big-time sopranos recently) a serious love song.

    2) Two words for the disaster of the child prodigy in opera: Charlotte Church.

    3) If one MUST hear this very adult aria sung by a child, two words: Jackie Evancho.

    4) This is the best there is for this aria:

    • Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      I agree on Dame Kiri (I believe I even posted her aria on my Evancho post, but I’m not so sure Evancho is that much better than the Dutch girl.

      I posted three times on Evancho when this song first wowed people (go here, here, and here).

      At any rate, try not to embed videos in the comments.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        Jackie Evancho had better breath control and sang longer phrases, but they both have lovely voices

      • Merilee
        Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:12 am | Permalink

        Kiri is/was the best at this. I can’t bear to watch this singing with the cameras panning on all of the judges with their mouths hsnging open; said judges who would most likely say that real opera sounds too operatic. The young girl has potentisl, but let’s hope she’s not ruined by this celebrity schlock treatment. I wish more people would go watch The Met in HD, or better yet go to live opera.

        End of carping rant….

        PS. Like Jerry, i can belt out a caterwauling ( kittehwauling?)rendition in perfect Italian and very few true notes…

        Mi piace, e bello, bellllllllllloooooooo…

    • Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      “a tongue in cheek playful tug of war between daughter and father over sex/love” — yes, I prefer this. As beautiful as an aria as it is, I saw a Woody Allen production of it in LA played for laughs, and it worked.

      One of the few upsides to my times as a Mormon missionary is that I lived in Italy two years and I learned Italian (and an appreciation for opera).

    • Kevin
      Posted October 31, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      I love Kiri, but I have high hopes for Jackie…and, of corse, it was WEIT that brought me Jackie.

  7. Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Remember Jackie Evancho – she was ten when she sang O Mio Babbino Caro on America’s Got Talent back in 2010: watch?v=0elw9CAndq8
    A gorgeous and mature alto voice.

  8. Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    O, I for one shall not.at.all be carping.

    I first saw this last week —- and passed it on as a “wee present” to All of … … My Sphere.

    To me, her voice / her instrument is smashing. I do not care her age — although .that. does make it all … … phenomenal !


  9. Diane G.
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink


  10. Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m in awe of Amira and Jackie.

    Jackie singing Pie Jesu
    Singing Pie Jesu with David Foster on piano

    More recently, Bridge Over Troubled Water

    • Posted October 31, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      Please remove this post, Dr.C. Sorry for the double post… the first one appeared to have not gone through, but in fact did.

  11. Jonathan Dore
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    A great talent. Hope she has a good coach and sensible parents: the greatest danger she faces is to force her voice at too young an age to do things it isn’t yet equipped for.

  12. Dominic
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    She does have a remarkable voice, but I wonder if the techniques she has been taught to prodice it are appropriate for her age? I was a chorister & as such we alway sang with a pure tone, & I really have never appreciated vibrato (even though a good friend is an opera singer). Tone Hulbækmo has the type of voice I love.

    • Dominic
      Posted November 1, 2013 at 2:42 am | Permalink

      prodice??? Oh dear…

  13. Andrzej
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    What a stupid adaptation, we are all suddenly short of breath.

  14. mikespeir
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    I despise people with “gifts.” They make me feel small. 😦

  15. natalie
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:22 am | Permalink



    (Second link without subtitles, if it works where you are)

    This show, probably unknown to nonbritish, is very enjoyable and well done, if anyone has 50 minutes to kill…. Although I admit it must be from a very dark sense of humour that this show springs to mind here…

    • natalie
      Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:42 am | Permalink

      Sorry, first link wrong! ( How on earth…) I meant “15 million merits” by Charlie Brooker, with subtitles here.


    • Posted November 1, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

      How the heck did we go from a little girl with a great operatic voice to a trailer for some Chinese epic movie full of magic and impossible martial arts I really don’t know… :p

      • natalie
        Posted November 1, 2013 at 5:06 am | Permalink

        Wrong link, this new iPad played trick on me, sorry

  16. michieux
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    I saw the clip earlier this week — it’s gone, or will go, viral.

    Fascinating. The voice belies the girl’s age. I’m sure she’ll have a bright future.

  17. Leigh Jackson
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Please could someone arrange for these two young ladies to sing The Flower Duet?


    • Posted November 1, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Better still, Rossini’s Duetto Buffo Di Due Gatti (and the lyrics aren’t too difficult to master, either)… 😀

      • Leigh Jackson
        Posted November 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Well, if it’s good enough for Elisabeth Schwarzkopf…
        But the cat connection is appropriate.

  18. JBlilie
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Excellent. But my favorite operatic piece is the duettino from The Marriage of Figaro (it figures prominently in a scene in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”

    Duettino Sull’aria

    From the movie: Duettino Sull’aria

    (This version (movie) is the same one as on a superb recording on Deutsche Grammophon. ASIN: B000001GEI.)

  19. will
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    This was the aria Merchant-Ivory used for their gorgeous adaptation of Forster’s “Room With a View”.

    I could really do without the judges’ mugging and doing double takes and looking bewitched in a fake way that’s meant for the camera. It’s like a Three Stooges routine. They spoil any pleasure you might get.

    • merilee
      Posted November 3, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      sub!!! Yes Three Stooges nails it. The 3 S’s are fine in the right context, but opera ain’t it (unless they’re sending it up). I think it was someone on Ed Sullivan who used to play opera records at a faster speed and have everyone running around like crazy.

  20. krzysztof1
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I have to confess I do not know what the fuss is about Kiri. Chacun a son gout, however. Other renditions you should consider are those of Victoria de los Angeles, Montserrat Caballe’, Bidu Sayão, and Maria Callas. Schwarzkopf was good too. I can’t find a recording of Gundula Janowitz doing this aria, but there is one of her singing Vissi d’Arte from Tosca. I imagine if I heard her singing O Mio Babbino I would like it too.

  21. krzysztof1
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Also, if you would like to hear the voice of the singer who sang the premiere in 1918, go here:
    http:slash slash goo.gl slash rmxnfE

  22. lisa parker
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    The child has an amazing voice. But my favorite will always be Charlotte and Johnathan. Every time I see it, I almost cry (maybe because I, my husband and our children
    have always had a weight problem. Their voices are incredible, but the best part is watching the judges and audience. See if you can watch it without getting at least a little sniffley

  23. Rob
    Posted November 2, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    There’s something in my eye..

    • Rob
      Posted November 2, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      My favourite opera piece is from Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák.
      It’s called měsíčku na nebi hlubokém (also known as song to the moon).

      It will be a while before a prodigy appears that can sing this at a young age, unless she’s from the Czech Republic or similar.

      • merilee
        Posted November 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

        I love Lucia Popp doing Song to the Moon, too. I strangely discovered this aria in the movie Driving Miss Daisy and it took me forever to track it down…

        I need to add one last (at least for me) Babbino Caro anecdote: A year ago we were staying in a small Days Inn in tiny Torrey, Utah (home of the gorgeous Capitol Reef National Park). The somewhat ditzy young woman at the front desk was having trouble with the reservations website and had some somewhat grumpy customers, including quite a few bikers (not Hell’s Angels, just nice, middle-aged bikers (Born to be Mild…)). I was having trouble with the wi-fi in our room so came down to use the lobby computer to check my email. A last minute biker couple was trying to check in – apparently they had booked a hnadicapped room and were not given one. Some switcheroos went on and everyone seemed pretty happy. Then I heard the couple mention to Ditzy that it was their 25th anniversary. D. said go have a seat on the couch and I’ve got a surprise for you. I’m quietly typing away in the background but can’t help hearing this. Noone else was around. Suddenly D. comes out and launches into O Mio Babbino Caro, at full operatic volume. She actually wasn’t bad, and the couple were gob-smacked. I slunk down the hall to open our door so that my bf could hear it. The next morning at breakfast the place was abuzz about this great opera singer at the front desk. Apparently she just learned off the internet and had never sung in public. One never knows, do one??

  24. rainbowwarriorlizzie
    Posted November 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    WOW Truly amazing a born opera singer we will be looking out for her first album. Her parents must be so very proud of this young lady bless her.

  25. rainbowwarriorlizzie
    Posted November 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink


  26. Posted November 5, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    That was so unbelievably beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. What a humble and earnest contestant she appears to be, throughout the entire video, as well.

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