Thursday, April 03, 2014

Two Tenors Talk About Jackie Evancho, Amira Willighagen, and the Child Singer Phenomenon

These guys are brilliant! Toronto-based tenors Chris Mayell and Isaiah Bell talk about the ridiculous nature of how the child prodigy script is more captivating than watching those who actually work at their art for many years:








20 comments:

  1. I agree with everything you say but to take a positive out of this annoying trend. Isn't there something amazing about it being opera that moves people. The same people who would swear they didn't like/know opera? That's what we need to harness somehow.

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    1. Great perspective, Anne! What you say is valid, as long as the operatic experience of these kids actually leads audiences to going to operas and buying recordings. At the same time, the talent and education of these children need to be nurtured, not exploited.

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    2. Anonymous6:45 PM

      @Anne Kostalas Alas, it isn't "opera" that is moving people. It's little kids trying to sing opera arias. Most of the people who listen to these children wouldn't go near an opera house and vehemently declare their hatred for opera. Read some of the things some of Jackie Evancho's more extreme fans have to say...and read just how nasty they are to anyone who dares to suggest that she will suffer vocal damage if she doesn't get a teacher. She's not going to get a teacher anytime soon. Her controlling mother has stated that they tried having Jackie work with teachers, but the teachers wanted to change the way Jackie sings. She also said that they wanted to make Jackie sound like every other soprano. You bet they wanted to change the way Jackie sings. They wanted to teach her to sing with decent technique, but that would have meant abandoning the way she shoves her larynx down to get that more mature sound her fans all love and are willing to pay millions of dollars to listen to. As for making her sound like every other soprano, that wouldn't have happened. She'd still have had her own voice, but would have been producing the tone properly. These kids are all being exploited, and it's going to go on and on until at least one of them ends up with a voice that is ruined. But even then, it will probably go on because there will still be parents who think that the huge amount of money their kids can earn before the damage sets in makes it all worthwhile...and that is despicable.

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  2. Anonymous7:04 PM

    A fundamental flaw in this rant is the assumption that Jackie Evancho ever was, is or claims to be an opera singer. That label was incessantly attached to her by TV news and entertainment reporters. But she herself, even before the end of her America's Got Talent run, repeatedly corrected interviewers, claiming instead to be a 'classical crossover' singer. Still the media wouldn't let go of the attractive myth. That is not Miss Evancho's fault.

    Say what you will about the nebulously defined CC genre, but it is decidedly not opera. Evancho's instrument took on the ability to sound more mature, and unfortunately, early vocal coaches and a certain producer pushed her into a repertoire that highlighted that.

    The good news is that her parents (who by all credible evidence are truly looking after her voice, and her, to ensure as normal a childhood as possible) applied the breaks and distanced themselves from the freak show. No more Nessun Dorma (which she only performed five times in public), and no more 'operatic affect.'

    Her second album, a collection of easy listening songs from movies, disappointed many of her fans, but she sang in a much more natural voice. Even though it seemed she still colored her voice, for the most part it was apparent that she did indeed possess unique vocal qualities.

    Also good news (to me) is that she began singing safely within her natural range, and pulled her delivery back to 3/4 throttle.

    Now, after four years of easy does it, and after navigating successfully to the other side of her vocal break, she is as far from an opera singer as one can get, short of being a rapper. She is a young songbird whose repertoire appeals to a much older audience. She reminds me of a young Doris Day, actually.

    I don't know anything about Amira, but I would not even consider her and Evancho contemporaries. Which leads me to another annoyance about this video: Why would anyone try to make hay out of a typical and tired YouTube preference debate. These kinds of back-and-forth contests are useless and irrelevant, and say nothing about the singers. For two seemingly hip guys to base an entire rant (which is riddled with inaccuracies, unfounded assumptions and unfair ad hominem attacks) on this drivel seems as much or more incongruous as a 10-year old girl singing Nessun Dorma.

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    1. Great comment. Thanks Anon!

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    2. Anonymous3:52 AM

      How does one says they know nothing of something...then go on to make an uniformed opinion, without feeling foolish?

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    3. SENHOR ANÔNIMO, COMO PODE JULGAR ALGUÉM SEM
      CONHECER?} SUA MANEIRA PRECONCEITUOSA DE SE REFERIR A AMIRA, FAZ-ME PENSAR SE VOCÊ FOSSE CONTEMPORÂNEO DE MOZART. DIRIA O MESMO QUE SOBRE AMIRA. COMO PODE ESSE MENINO(MOZART), COMPOR TANTAS MARAVILHAS?}.
      ANÔNIMO - EU DETESTO ANÔNIMOS.SÃO RECALCADOS,INVEJOSOS E INCAPAZES DE CRER QUE O TALENTO EXISTE...

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    4. Anonymous3:20 PM

      You miss the entire point which is that little kids shouldn't be thrust into careers before they have training. Also, these guys are the first I've seen who talk about how the contestant's "back story" is of great importance and also how the talent shows are extremely formulaic in the way the hosts react to everything in the same progression of emotional reactions. This TV talent show opera craze is going to come to a crashing halt when the first little kid ruins her voice before even achieving adulthood.

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  3. Bob G.5:42 PM

    I'll second that, Chris. Before posting a video like this, its authors should have taken the time to learn something about those they've targeted. Jackie and her family are a class act, have always been honest with the public, and deserve some consideration for putting out a high-quality product while staying true to their values.

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    1. Anonymous3:25 PM

      No parents who continue after four years to allow their daughter to sing with terrible technique that is going to ruin her voice are a "class act". They refuse to listen to the no doubt countless vocal professionals who have warned them of the dangers of pursuing a singing career without training. Even the opera profession is littered with the ruined voices of talented singers like Jose Carreras, Giuseppe di Stefano and others who thought they could sing with bad technique without consequences.

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  4. Anonymous1:13 PM

    The idea is that Amira learned it all on her own vs years of training. Raw talent. I realise that professionals are better but let me ask...did you sing anywhere near as good as Amira without any training?

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  5. "Classical crossover" is a wide catchall, safe, but not specific enough. Amira, Jackie and a younger Charlotte employ the operatic singing style. But yes, they are not opera singers. And it is a great wonder and joy to behold such youthful innocence tackle highly emotional songs that only trained adults who have gone through real world tragedies can convincingly deliver. It's no different when we delight at kids acting out adult roles with costumes of a policeman, or a doctor, or delivering Lincoln's Gettysburg address from memory, etc. I don't think Amira or Jackie even understood the lyrics or the context of the arias they sing (though there's a hint of that in Amira's O Mio Babbino Cara). They were simply mimicking a Maria Callas or a Montserrat Caballe or other opera singers which abound in YouTube. And how splendidly they mimicked, almost as if they were them. That's the talent unique to very few kids, and which we adults celebrate after picking up our jaws that dropped to the floor when we first heard them.

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    1. Anonymous3:28 PM

      Lots of little kids are good mimics. That doesn't mean that we should allow them to have careers mimicking adult opera singers when opera singing by children, without good training and waiting for their voices to mature enough to deal with the rigors of singing opera, can be extremely dangerous to children's voices. I think of these little kids singing opera as child endangerment.

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    2. They are called prodigies, kids with talent far beyond ordinary kids their age have. I've also seen 6 year old kids playing difficult chopin and liszt piano pieces but no one is crying child endangerment that they might damage their little fingers. You know what, just cite to me a specific medical study to support your claim.

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  6. Anonymous9:50 PM

    Well, she's 14 now - and she honestly sounds amazing. She connected with David Foster - and between Mr. Foster, her parents, and whomever is coaching her now - she is doing the "classical crossover" thing in a way that crowds like - but she's not tearing up or forcing her voice. Plus she is a very poised young lady. She's going to have an amazing career - watch out world.

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    1. Anonymous2:54 PM

      David Foster is a promoter of rock and pop singers. He knows nothing about opera. He even thinks that popera singer, Andrea Bocelli, is a real opera singer. Bocelli, who sings undifferentiated versions of opera arias in a pop style and who always uses a microphone, is pure popera, not an opera singer. Sorry, but considering the terrible technique with which Jackie sings, she is likely to tear up her voice. The first signs of damage can already be heard. Bad technique damages voices. Calling what Jackie sings "classical crossover" and using a microphone are no assurances that damage will not occur.

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    2. Yup, so where are those called "concerned" music gurus warning she will lose her voice for not undergoing the proper training? It's been 5 years already.

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    3. Anonymous6:51 PM

      Her vocal technique is terrible and has been terrible all along. I know that you probably won't believe this, but bad vocal technique damages voices, and damages them badly. David Foster is not a voice teacher. He's a music entrepreneur who is interested in making as much money as possible off of his proteges. Jackie has no teacher at all. Her mother won't allow it because a good teacher would make Jackie sing with her natural child's voice...and that voice wouldn't be nearly as pleasing to her musically uneducated fans as the artificial one she uses now. Sorry, but she is forcing her voice...and it doesn't sound good at all. Her poor vocal technique is going to damage her voice and damage it badly. I can already hear the beginnings of this damage.

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  7. Anonymous11:03 PM

    Something else should be mentioned here. When Jackie appeared on AGT, she was immediately adopted by religious nutjobs who --noting she was singing Ave Maria and Oh Mio Bambino --imagined she was sent by God to bring people to the Blood of Christ. There are undoubtedly many people who sincerely believe that Jackie does not NEED vocal training because God himself will protect her voice for the sake of the mission He has given her. As crazy as this is, it is a strong component of Jackie's fanbase.

    One of the sad things about this is, those same people will be the first to drop her when she shows 'feet of clay'. They will say that Satan has corrupted her and "We need to pray for her to listen to the voice of God who gave her His greatest gift and is waiting with Infinite Patience for her Great Homecoming."

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  8. We play and sing in hospitals and one of the patients was a girl. I knew her immediately she was famous in the press. She was the national trampoline champion at the age of ten. Girls of this age are Olympic gymnasts, athletes, championship soccer and hockey players. Scores of them are now paraplegics. Go ahead Amira sing your little heart out, sing all you can and all you want. Even it it so calls "ruins" your voice. The trampoline champion I was playing for in the hospital was now a paraplegic. This sure as hell will not happen to Amira. God Bless the little angel that sings like Maria Callas.

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