Sunday, March 13, 2011

Music review: Boca fest audience was wild about Jackie

Jackie Evancho.

By Greg Stepanich

Perhaps some were thinking of their own daughters,‭ ‬pre-teen rebellion,‭ ‬and others of their granddaughters,‭ ‬out of touch in distant states.

Doubtless most had happier ideas in mind,‭ ‬though one thing was clear:‭ ‬The appearance Saturday of Jackie Evancho on the final night of this year‭’‬s Festival of the Arts Boca turned an audience of concertgoers into proud,‭ ‬teary parents.

The‭ ‬10-year-old poperatic sensation from‭ ‬America‭’‬s Got Talent waved excitedly at the crowd with both hands,‭ ‬and‭ ‬they leaned closer to the stage‭ ‬and waved‭ ‬right‭ ‬back.‭ ‬She beamed after finishing her arias,‭ ‬squeezing her arms close to her ivory dress in best aw-shucks style,‭ ‬and the audience jumped to its feet and roared its approval.

It was an unusual,‭ ‬emotional night at Mizner Park,‭ ‬and one that offered a healthy display of young operatic talent outside the celebrity wattage of the petite,‭ ‬golden-haired Pittsburgh tween.‭ ‬Evancho was the special attraction on a concert that also featured‭ ‬four rising singers who‭ ‬took the big crowd through some of the most familiar selections from the operatic repertoire,‭ ‬and did so impressively.

The Boca Raton Symphonia,‭ ‬which appeared in the earliest iterations of this five-year-old festival,‭ ‬was the house band for the evening‭ ‬(called‭ ‬A Night at the Opera‭) ‬under the able direction of Constantine Kitsopoulos.‭ ‬The five singers alternated appearances in Whitman‭’‬s-sampler style,‭ ‬separated by three overtures from Italian opera and the entr‭’‬acte from Act IV of Bizet‭’‬s‭ ‬Carmen.

Most of the music was amplified,‭ ‬which gave it a slightly unrepresentative sound,‭ ‬but there was enough‭ ‬good vocalism‭ ‬there to be encouraged about the future of opera in North America.

John Tessier.

All four of the adult singers gave one or more excellent performances,‭ ‬which‭ ‬in that sense made them relatively equal.‭ ‬Each of these voices was large and powerful,‭ ‬perhaps‭ ‬none more so than the Canadian tenor John Tessier.

Tessier‭’‬s voice is one of those lyric tenors with a cutting,‭ ‬thrilling vocal edge that makes it stand out immediately on stage.‭ ‬His‭ ‬Ah,‭ ‬mes‭ ‬amis,‭ ‬quel jour de fête,‭ ‬from Donizetti‭’‬s‭ ‬La Fille du Régiment,‭ ‬showed a voice that had no difficulty at all hitting the aria‭’‬s legendary nine high C‭’‬s,‭ ‬even to the point that he was able to sing the first eight‭ ‬at mezzo-forte,‭ ‬with a sense of plenty of muscle to spare.

His second appearance,‭ ‬also in music by Donizetti‭ ‬– Una furtiva lagrima,‭ ‬from‭ ‬L‭’‬Elisir d‭’‬Amore‭ ‬– demonstrated that he can sing with full-blooded warmth as well,‭ ‬spinning out rich lines‭ ‬of song with apparent ease and textual sensitivity.‭ ‬The‭ ‬audience loved this performance,‭ ‬as they did Tessier‭’‬s duet with baritone Michael Todd Simpson,‭ ‬in which the two men‭’‬s voices blended beautifully for‭ ‬Au fond du temple saint,‭ ‬from Bizet‭’‬s‭ ‬The Pearl Fishers.

Michael Todd Simpson.

‭Simpson was an audience favorite,‭ ‬first for his‭ ‬funny,‭ ‬but not overdone,‭ ‬reading of the‭ ‬Largo al factotum from Rossini‭’‬s‭ ‬Barber of Seville,‭ ‬and even more for his swaggering,‭ ‬aggressive take on the‭ ‬Toreador Song from‭ ‬Carmen.‭ ‬Simpson has a dark,‭ ‬full voice with a strong lower register,‭ ‬often a point of treachery in the verse for the‭ ‬Toreador Song,‭ ‬but not here:‭ ‬all the notes spoke solidly,‭ ‬and well.‭

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Holloway also scored with the‭ ‬Habanera from‭ ‬Carmen,‭ ‬for which her large voice was well-suited‭; ‬she didn‭’‬t play much with the notes,‭ ‬as mezzos often do in this aria,‭ ‬but it was every bit as effective.‭ ‬Her work in Mozart was also quite fine,‭ ‬with a strong‭ ‬Non so piu cosa son from‭ ‬Le Nozze di Figaro‭ ‬early on,‭ ‬and then best of all,‭ ‬a charming duet with Simpson in‭ ‬La ci darem la mano,‭ ‬from‭ ‬Don Giovanni.

Jennifer Holloway. (Photo by Dario Acosta)

Opera producers often like a lighter voice type for Zerlina than Holloway‭’‬s,‭ ‬but the benefit of using a fuller voice like hers is the element of mature seduction that she can get across,‭ ‬rather than the sound of an innocent abroad in a dangerous new land.

Katie Van Kooten,‭ ‬an American soprano who has studied and worked in London,‭ ‬is a singer with a huge,‭ ‬commanding voice who would make an excellent Musetta for‭ ‬La Bohème.‭ ‬As it happens,‭ ‬she sang Puccini:‭ ‬Magda‭’‬s song‭ (‬Chi il bel sogno di Doretta‭) ‬from‭ ‬La‭ ‬Rondine,‭ ‬an increasingly popular selection as this opera continues to make inroads into the repertory.‭ ‬She almost oversang the first high notes,‭ ‬but in sum this was a fine,‭ ‬intense performance.

Katie Van Kooten.

Her second appearance was even finer,‭ ‬with a beautiful,‭ ‬high-floating tour of‭ ‬Song‭ ‬to the Moon,‭ ‬from Dvorak‭’‬s‭ ‬Rusalka.‭ ‬Van Kooten has plush,‭ ‬orchestra-swamping vocal power to spare,‭ ‬a quality that suggests that she could handle the most demanding roles in the repertoire.

For its part,‭ ‬the Boca Symphonia did its job admirably and well,‭ ‬accompanying capably and giving crisp performances of the overtures to Verdi‭’‬s‭ ‬Nabucco and Rossini‭’‬s‭ ‬Barber of Seville and‭ ‬L‭’‬Italiana in Algeri‭ (‬this last a wise mood-changing switch from the originally scheduled Intermezzo from Mascagni‭’‬s‭ ‬Cavalleria Rusticana‭)‬.‭ ‬They also proved suitably emotive in the Intermezzo from Puccini‭’‬s early‭ ‬Manon Lescaut,‭ ‬with good work from cellist Christopher Glansdorp,‭ ‬violist Scott O‭’‬Donnell and violinist Misha Vitenson.

Then there was Evancho herself,‭ ‬the headliner of the night.‭ ‬She sang five pieces,‭ ‬part pop,‭ ‬part classical,‭ ‬including the Puccini aria‭ ‬– O mio babbino caro,‭ ‬from the one-act‭ ‬Gianni Schicchi‭ ‬– that made her name on‭ ‬America‭’‬s Got Talent.‭ ‬In its pre-mature stage,‭ ‬it is a pretty voice with a haunting alto quality that makes it sound like the property of someone much older,‭ ‬as well as something otherworldly.

Evancho does not have a lot of breath control,‭ ‬since her adult lungs haven‭’‬t arrived,‭ ‬and she has to gulp air repeatedly to sing the longer lines that will come easily to her a few years from now.‭ ‬But she clearly has a good ear,‭ ‬and even when she ran into some vocal trouble,‭ ‬she managed to stay on pitch and keep the basic purity of her tone production intact.

All five of her songs were arranged‭ ‬by pop master David Foster,‭ ‬and for most of them an added piano part,‭ ‬heavily miked,‭ ‬was prominent.‭ ‬She looked always to Kitsopoulos for her cues,‭ ‬followed them strictly,‭ ‬and then delivered,‭ ‬with the slightly awkward hand and arm movements that endear her‭ ‬to listeners,‭ ‬and which turned into forceful pulls to her sides at moments of high drama.

She was most effective in the two lighter selections:‭ ‬Lovers,‭ ‬from Shigeru Umebayashi‭’‬s score for Zhang Yimou‭’‬s‭ ‬2004‭ ‬costume actioner‭ ‬House of Flying Daggers,‭ ‬and‭ ‬All I Ask of You,‭ ‬from Andrew Lloyd Webber‭’‬s musical‭ ‬Phantom of the Opera.‭ ‬In both,‭ ‬her dark lower register added real loveliness to music of derivative sweetness,‭ ‬and she sang them persuasively.

Her‭ ‬Ombra mai fu,‭ ‬from Handel‭’‬s opera‭ ‬Serse,‭ ‬showed that she is able to sing with evenness across the course of a song,‭ ‬and her terminal high note‭ (‬an F,‭ ‬I think‭) ‬was full and steady.‭ ‬O mio babbino caro,‭ ‬as expected,‭ ‬drew huge applause,‭ ‬and she sang this arrangement‭ (‬down a whole step from the original‭) ‬reasonably well.

Evancho reappeared at the close of the show for Puccini‭’‬s‭ ‬Nessun Dorma,‭ ‬from‭ ‬Turandot,‭ ‬normally an aria for a tenor.‭ ‬This is not a particularly good choice for this girl‭’‬s voice,‭ ‬and she struggled through it,‭ ‬rebounding in true trouper style‭ ‬with an added three-note flourish for the final chords.

Jackie Evancho is a most fortunate person,‭ ‬having been born with talent into a musical family that has shrewdly managed her and carefully placed her career in expert hands like those of Foster.‭ ‬She has said one of her voice teachers expects she‭’‬ll be able to keep her higher notes as she grows older,‭ ‬and build strength in her lower notes.‭

I don‭’‬t see any reason to doubt that,‭ ‬nor do I see any reason to deny that she has real ability.‭ ‬It will be interesting to see what happens to her as she moves from angelic adorability into a much more uncertain future,‭ ‬but I also expect we‭’‬ll find out,‭ ‬and that we‭’‬ll be hearing from Jackie Evancho for some time to come.


john said...

Why didnt you mention the standing ovations she recieved after every song jackie sang.Maybe because it didnt go along with your backhanded review of a performance that brought the house down.

CurtFrantz said...

I just posted this to Jackie's Facebook:
‎"Struggled"?? "Awkward hand and arm movements"?? "Poperatic"?? "Sang (O mio babbino caro) reasonably well"?? "I don't see a reason to doubt ...or deny that she has real ability"??? The reviewer, though he said some complimentary things, ...has almost zero sense of the moment. It's not so much that Jackie is the fortunate person, it is we who are fortunate to be here at this time and place, in a world in which this remarkable, beautiful, unique being can share who she is and her performances with the rest of us. There is no need for a reviewer to tell us what we ourselves can experience and in any case, words will always be inadequate.

Evelyn Bershack said...

This can only happen in Florida.A child Classical crossover with no credentials but a talent show, being the headliner. First of all she is barely a mezzo and not opera, yet she headlines over people who actually are.In some articles they title her Operatic lyric soprano.False publicity.I did some research and Jackie has never been at the Met or even Carnegie.I think this review was more than kind. There was so much more to pick apart. One correction in the article she never hit an F note.Someone bring back Streisand please. When David Foster was not meshuga.

Maethee said...

Jackie Evancho is a miracle. And I am a big fan. I expect her mature voice to be sublime. The article does have some valid points. 'Nessun Dorma' is an odd choice for someone so young. A demanding aria that can tax the best lung capacity. She performed it admirably but I can imagine how much more beautiful it will be in a few years.

Bella Gello said...

Evelyn,Only in Florida? Get your head out of the sand! So you were there? Go get a life somewhere. Better yet, why don't you get up there and try doing what Miss Evancho did. I was there for the performance. She blew the roof off and received a standing ovation after each performance. Sounds like you are jealous of this beautiful young talented prodigy.

Ken said...

Evelyn, just curious as to whether you would consider "Being the youngest person in history with a Platinum Album" as a "credential".
Apparently Not. But the million people Plus that bought her CD might. And then there is the matter of 13 Standing ovations on 13 songs (Houston and Boca) - but we wont get into that. Have a wonderful day.

CrystalJ said...

Apparently, only those who worship Ms. Evancho are allowed an opinion.

I was there, and yes, a part of the audience (not always entire) stood after each of Ms. Evancho's songs. Of course they did - she's a beautiful, talented 10-year-old singing beautiful songs well.

I note that the review mentions a standing ovation. It was not ignored as some would suggest.

These comments, however, are borderline ridiculous. The child is "a miracle." "Words will always be inadequate." Etc.

I understand the girl has fans. But she's not the second-coming. She's a child. A talented, beautiful child, but a child.

I must admit that my first reaction to these comments was to think like Ms. Bershack. But, her comment, frankly, was unfair. There's no need to criticize a child, even in response to exaggerated fan(aticism).

The review was well done and I concur with the majority. I believe Ms. Evancho is a special talent, but perspective is always important.

pgantioch43 said...

Evelyn, please. Yes, Jackie's 10, her lungs are small, she's very uneven & unpracticed. She's unable to support proper dynamics from pianissimo to fortissimo. But there are technical things she does extremely well: 1. Her use of portamento is beautiful & 2nd to none. 2. She hides her passaggi EXTREMELY well. 3. Her timbre in modal & loft registers is becoming more & more similar. 2 & 3 allow voix mixte. No, her voice isn't nearly as robust & powerful as an adult, but for her size it's ASTONISHINGLY powerful.
Still, all the technical things miss the point, because Jackie's strength is emotional connection with her music & her audience. She does that as well as any singer of any age in any genre. That's why she gets standing ovations not just after every performance, but after every SONG.

CrystalJ said...

I would like to add that I find the tone of most of these comments to be very distasteful. It seems Ms. Evancho is quite a divisive artist, with an interesting group of fans, unfortunately. I hope that changes for her sake.

Also, as so many are commenting on Ms. Evancho, let me say that I loved the other four singers in the performance. Yes, they're young for opera performers but obviously headed to great careers (as is Ms. Evancho, but in a different genre).

Anonymous said...

For the most part this was a fair assessment of 10 year old Jackie Evancho and the others, with a couple of exceptions. Jackie did not struggle while singing Nesun Dorma, although she (as any young person) did require more breaths than older performers require, and she did quite a remarkable job. In fact, it was so exceptional that the orchesta joined the audience in an extremely long and loud standing ovation. How often does that occure, anywhere? I have not seen that kind of response before.

While this critic over emphasized her need for extra breaths, he did not comment on the fact that she did not miss a beat, nor did this special child go off tune; and furthermore, a review of her videos on YouTube (particularly from her Houston Concert last month) would verify that Jackie's vocal range is higher than he stated in his comments.

The full truth will be revealed on Jackie's performances in Boca Raton, since Sony recorded all of them, and these shall be made public in the near future, you can be certain. They will not only show that her performances were not only excellent, but way over 90% of the audience (and the orchestra) agreed with that assessment.

Jackie has a way of projecting her emotions, on whatever she sings, in such a way that Jackie's love for the music (and its meaning) is conveyed to an audience. She makes them feel a part of what the composer intended to convey and tears flow from the people who undertand the beauty of what this little girl shares with them.

As the Judges stated on AGT, Jackie is a superstar and deserves that title. Soon her next multi-track album (produce by David Foster) will be released and the World population will vote on the issue of whether she deserves it, with their money.

DLHom said...

I am a very big fan of Jackie, but I have to say that this review was extremely good, honest, and flattering overall. Jackie IS still developing and has far to go, BUT it is equally fair to state that if the object of music and performance thereof, is to connect and move one's audience, then Jackie has few peers at this time ... whatever the reason and any detractor does themselves and listeners a disservice by not acknowledging that.

DLHom said...

Additionally, Ms. Bershacks comments were ridiculously harsh in which she seems intent on attacking Jackie for being an audience draw, something over which she has little control. Her comment about Streisand is not only not charitable but petty and mean spirited. I wonder if she has children and how she would respond if such were the case. The review was not "kind." It was fair and analytical, an attribute that might well be emulated more by others, both pro and especially con. Jackie is mostly guilty of finding an audience that adores her voice and musical presentation. I find it pitiful that she should be so attacked for that. Perhaps such detractors might better attack fans and promoters. I'm sure there is a deeper source of bitterness in these people. May it eat away at them like the fate of Prometheus if they cannot gain some perspective!

DLHom said...

To Crystal J... Jackie has never promoted herself at all, let alone as an opera singer. She has simply stated that her voice, as it stands now, is best suited for Classical Crossover and that genre has rewarded her with a number of recent Classical Crossover awards which are easily found in a simple search. Denigrating her for not being what she has never stated she was borders on pitiful invective, something that CJ's tone overall (to her credit) decries. Let's just take her at face value, a beautiful, poised, talented child with an inexplicable ability to reach into and touch the hearts of many listeners with her music. Criticizing that demeans those whose lives are touched by her as somehow being sub-human for not being thus reached by singers of greater technique. Very disingenuous and uncharitable.

Ken said...

As some of you may have already noticed, Jackies fan's are passionate, supportive, and VERY protective. Yes, perhaps some of us do get carried away at times :-) I know I have been guilty of that on occasion. However, when we hear comments that we "percieve" to be unwarranted, we will support Jackie EVERY time. Why would anyone think otherwise?? She is a ten year old child after all.

So whether you find this amusing, ridiculous, or "interesting" as someone else put it, all I can say is "Get used to it ". Jackie is not going away any time soon, nor are her fans. :-)

My only other comment is for Mr/Ms Anonymous. I am so glad that this performance was recorded. Eventually all the world will be able to witness the pandemonium that erupted after Nessun Dorma :-) . I cant wait !!! ~W W~

Marie R said...

Apparently some people enjoyed the Boca concert. Jackie’s CD, “O Holy Night” shot back to number ONE on the Billboard Classical Charts this week. Not too bad for a Christmas album ---- in March !!!
Congrats Jackie, we are delighted for you, but by no means surprised. To quote a line from my favorite song of yours ( I really hope that “Teaching Angels” is on the new CD !!):
“There are times in life … gifts come our way”.

Ricardo K said...

I'm a reader from Brazil, one of the souls touched by this little girl. I like beauty, bought most of Sarah Brightman's CDs, love Katherine Jenkins. But Jackie makes me feel something more. The only occasion I felt something similar was at Inspirational Point, Yosemite Park. I was awestruck by so much beauty. Well, I feel it everytime I listen to some of Jackie's interpretations (not all them, I'm not that fanatic). I never felt that in 51 years, don't know why I'm feeling it now, but I'm grateful all the same.

Anonymous said...

I think you all need to get a life. Sony "papered" the house to get the look and response they wanted.

PG Antioch said...

I wonder where Evelyn went? She wanted to bring back Streisand, & we now know where to find Barbra: duetting with Jackie on the new album, Dream With Me!!

Let's quote David Foster:
"I can say without a doubt that working with Jackie on Dream With Me was truly phenomenal. Her natural ability and the depth of her understanding of the musical process left me speechless. I think we have created a musical experience that will thrill audiences of every age. She was a pure joy to work with and I had a front row seat to one of the next great talents of our time," said David Foster.

Does anyone still think it's David Foster who's meshuga?

Katie said...

Hi Evelyn. Oops, I guess the Streisand comment did come back to bite you :-( Oh well, dont feel too bad, it happens to the best of us ;-)

W. Randall said...

I did not see this concert although I wish I had. To Jackie's detractors, I am 72 years old and have rarely seen someone come out of nowhere with such an impact. I have cried through some of her songs. She moves me with both her angelic voice and looks. I would imagine if there are angels, Jackie is one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Jackie, millions of people (i'm sure) have discovered a new found appreciation for classical opera .This child is supremely gifted,peerless (to me) and deserves full praise for her natural ability and the way she carries herself. After watching the Houston concert,i have listened to other superstar sopranos and her voice is much more pleasing to my untrained ear. It does not have the shrillness that accompanies the higher notes as heard with other singers, but is soft ,smooth,pure and seemingly effortless. As a layman, i say we are witnessing the blooming of something extraordinary , but not the second coming for pete's sake !!