Why did no classical critic review Jackie's Avery Fisher debut?

Why did no classical critic review Jackie's Avery Fisher debut?


norman lebrecht

November 09, 2011

Jackie Evancho, 11 year-old contender in America’s Got Talent, has topped the US classical record charts this year.

So why, when she makes her Lincoln Center debut to a ‘mostly-filled’ hall, was no classical critic sent to assess her performance? Were the editors afraid of backlash? Did the critics chicken out? Enlighten me someone.

Jon Caramanica, who reviewed for the Times, covers mostly rock and pop. And granny concerts, apparently.


  • Janey says:

    I have no idea about the answer to your question. Nevertheless, is it, in actuality, an “Avery Fisher debut” if it isn’t with the NY Phil? Who arranged for this performance?

    As in an earlier discussion about Ms. Evancho, I have serious concerns about the quantity of her singing.

    I do congratulate her for her achievement and continue to hope for the best.

    • UncleMike Davis says:

      The quantity of her singing? You are kidding aren’t you? How many 11 year olds are capable of singing ten or more songs in live concert? How many 11 year old sopranos are capable of giving live concert after live concert all over the world? How much quantity do you require? Less? She doesn’t seem to be struggling to keep up does she? Not straining either? She appears to be really happy at her chosen profession doesn’t she?

      Or did you mean quality of her singing? Does standing ovations after every song qualify her? How about perfect pitch? Sold out concerts? An invitation back to Japan for three more concerts?

      • Janey says:

        I do not want more singing. I am concerned she is singing far too much for undeveloped vocal chords. Far too much.

        These 11 songs are taxing for a child’s voice. She’s recorded many CDs, which takes significant vocal work. I assume there are more concerts and more traveling. Anyone who does not recognize that this much singing for an 11-year-old may be dangerous has no knowledge of the voice. Nothing is certain, but it is extremely worrying and I wonder what sort of singing professional would encourage this – or enable it. This is why I hope for the best for her. She has a great gift.

        • stephnotell says:

          Though I don’t know the exact details of her recording sessions , and my information only comes from interviews of her, her parents, and of David Foster, I believe you are wrong in your assertion about her cd’s taking significant work. The first platinum selling cd took 2 days to record, the highly acclaimed concert at the Ringling Museum was filmed in 3 days, her gold record Dream with Me album was recorded on weekends over a 2 month period because she was still attending public school at the time, and if I remember right her current cd was recorded in 5 days with re-recording because an engineer messed up the masters or something. As far as concerts go her summer tour consisted of 6 shows over a period of months so not much to worry about there either.

          • Iain Michaels says:

            It’s was great that you took the time to put those stats together but I think you misunderstood my message here. Firstly it was aimed at the critics who found it easy to make comment about the flaws in her performances. They obviously overlooked the amount of ‘effort’ she puts in to achieve what she has done, and also overlooked the fact that it’s not every 10 or 11 year old who has the ability or gift to do this. What ever way you call it it is still putting in the hard yards to get where she is, and I think you may have understated this a little.
            I totally aggree with you that she has the capacity to cope with all that she is doing, her parents would closely monitor her well- being. Yes, not too much to worry about there. I’ve just seen her schedule of events coming up, wow! pretty impressive, even for an 11 year old. And she has been filming in Vancouver as well, just in between concerts in Japan and appearences at home.
            One point I would like to make is that we, (and the millions of fans around the globe) were all hoping that the Lincoln Centre Concert would have been recorded. If it wasn’t then I think the organisation behind her missed a huge oppotunty for maximum world-wide exposure and tremendous revenue potential. This what concerts are for aren’t they ? From all the forums I have recently read there are many people who share the same opinion. It would be a shame if we have missed seeing what was obviously a wonderfull performance. Looking forward to seeing and hearing more of this amazing young star.

        • DLEE says:

          Such a gift, that it worries me. May the graces that gave her this precocious talent also protect her against those who might project their needs onto her. She will have to find her own way some day. I hope for all of us that it means continuing to share that voice and that innocence with us (is it the surprising juxtaposition that most fascinates us?). But if it doesn’t, if Jackie finds her truest self in some other calling, all the more hope that she can be true to those voices within her. We are already better for experiencing her time with us; let’s not lay more expectations on her.

          • earlyriser says:

            ‘This is what concerts are for aren’t they?’

            A sad but, I fear, increasingly true statement. Concerts do seem to be becoming more and more about ‘maximum world-wide exposure’ as simple marketing tools for recordings. I can’t help feeling this is (a) lazy of the artists and (b) disrespectful of the audience on behalf of the record and marketing behemoths who promote these ‘concerts’.

            Surely the point of a concert is to give a moving and interesting experience to those people who have paid money for a ticket and gone to the effort of travelling to the hall to experience the artist(s) live? Any marketing benefit should be absolutely regarded as a fortuitous side-effect.

    • Nevertheless, is it, in actuality, an “Avery Fisher debut” if it isn’t with the NY Phil?

      Of course it is. The existence of Avery Fisher Hall is not contingent on the presence or absence of the NY Philharmonic. Otherwise, I didn’t actually see Elvis Costello there three times in 2004.

    • Henry Ohlef says:

      After attending the Jackie Evancho concert in Dallas on August 31, I wrote the Dallas Morning News twice with no reply. A sold out concert with the financially strapped Dallas Symphony apparantly was not significant enough to cover as a cultural event. The people that I met in the lobby were from Los Angeles and Chicago. I am from Fort Myers. Here is what I wrote to the Dallas Morning News:

      “How Come? How come you were not at the Jackie Evancho Concert? How come you and your newspaper did not review her concert with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra?

      Jackie Evancho made music history in your town. An eleven-year old child soprano sang O MIo Babbino Caro, Pia Jesu, Umbra Mai Fu, Impossible Dream, Angel, When You Wish Upon a Star, Lovers, All I Ask of You, The Lord’s Prayer, To Believe and two other numbers.

      I have been to over 2,000 concerts. I have seen Cynthia Gregory receive a 45 minute standing ovation after her performance in Swan Lake with the American Ballet Theatre. I witnessed the passionate performance of the 5th Symphony by Mistlav Rostropovich at Tanglewood the day that Dmitri Shostakovich died. I saw Luciano Pavarotti sing Cavaradossi (Tosca) in Chicago for the first time ever.

      I have never witnessed a quietly-reverent, sold-out audience give a singer a full standing ovation after every number, and it happened in Dallas.

      Sure, there are issues. A child’s voice needs to be protected. You could have talked about that.

      If the possibility of a successor to Renata Tebaldi does not excite you, then you are in the wrong business.


      Henry Ohlef – Fort Myers, Florida”

  • The mystery is why Caramancia would bother to complain that a gifted 11 year-old sounds like a gifted 11 year-old. Isn’t that the point of the exercise? One of his comments is especially amusing. He said that when singing the Phantom of the Opera, Jackie “appeared to retreat from the words, to say nothing of their meaning.” Considering Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work, sure this would be a measure of musical intelligence.

  • C.J. Sperling says:

    Apart from some market arguments that inevitably come to my mind: remembering some discussions here on Slipped Disc, I can’t imagine any critic voluntarily running into a flame war started by a horde of “fans” – which sure would come if she’d be not be estimated as equal to Maria Callas.

    Perhaps it’s possible to write about her from a classical standpoint when the hype is over. I hope for the girl that she still likes singing then.

  • Chuck Yates says:

    It’s not hard to figure out… it’s the ‘cool factor’. The community of critics put their wet finger in the air to gauge who’s cool and who isn’t. While countless adult singers are either sitting at home eating popcorn, or lining the halls of Julliard wondering how it is that this little kid is getting all the big gigs…. over two million albums sold… a sold out summer concert tour… then The Benedum in Pittsburgh… two nights in Tokyo and bookings for three more, the venerable Shea’s in Buffalo, an encore at the Benedum, the 12,000 seat Mandalay in Las Vegas, the 5000 seat Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, New York City… LINCOLN CENTER… FAGAWDSAKES…

    Jackie Evancho is a one child economic stimulus package for the arts, and the classical community either gripes, criticises, or ignores her altogether. But, that’s OK… she’ll be on TV at least five (5) times before Christmas… they can stock up on snacks and… enjoy.

  • Michal Zoldy says:

    At the age of 11, most critics were probably having fun playing baseball with their peers, watching TV cartoons and giving their parents hard time to control their approaching puberty. Jackie Evancho (11) has been releasing successful CDs and DVDs people purchase not just for themselves but also for their friends and relatives, appearing in TV shows and giving concerts all over the USA. Not a bad start for an 11 year old. Here in Europe she has many fans, and will have in more with each new released CD/DVD.

  • Fred Brown says:

    WELL SAID , Chuck. This little girl is going to grow up to be the greatest of all time. Jackie Evancho will be around long after most of us are gone. I hope to live long enough to see the critics eat their words.

    • Instrumental prodigies have a good record for becoming adult artists, but singers don’t, because their body is their instrument. It’s not possible to predict how a child’s voice will evolve as they grow. A study of the fanaticism of Evanko’s fans might provide some insights about the nature of musical reception.

      • Janey says:

        I’m not sure it’s a musical reception issue. This sort of fanaticism seems to exist around most television talent show contestants. Susan Boyle, Adam Lambert, numerous American Idol winners, and more. It also seems to surround Youtube “artists” like Justin Bieber who came to prominence through videos. I think it’s an interesting sociological question. Why do certain people attach so completely to a performer they don’t know after watching them for a length of time?

        Regardless, I suspect the classical critics either wanted to avoid criticizing a child or didn’t wish to support the idea of an professional child “soprano.”

    • Richard Hertz says:

      greatest of all time?
      she’s not presenting classical music, – she just happens to have an orchestra behind her rather than a track.

  • Charles Hoff says:

    Monday Night Football? Just not interested? Monday nights are supposed to be dark?

    She’s just eleven, after all. And she’s singing classical-crossover, that in-between orphan genre that jumps back and forth between classical and semi-pop, and seems to only please the unwashed masses. They don’t understand that “real” music has to follow strict protocols (after years of sweat and training), or have drum-machine bass, flashy-lights, and booty-dancers filling the stage. They just like what they hear. That no critics of note were present at the concert just doesn’t matter. It is funny that Mr. Caramina couldn’t figure-out whether he was in Alice Tully Hall or Avery Fisher Hall. It’s been corrected on his posted article, but the URL still tells the tale.

    Jackie’s on her own course now, regardless of what a few might write. She recently returned from Tokyo, having accompanied David Foster & Friends for two concerts. She’ll return to Tokyo in January (by herself) to sing as part of an ensemble celebrating the reopening the newly renovated Bunkamura Orchard Hall, followed by two solo concerts there the next two nights.

    Her summer concert tour in front of six symphony orchestras was a resounding success. Her appearance with the Pittsburgh Opera was a sell-out, and will be repeated on Dec. 20th. On Dec. 15th, she’ll present a solo concert at the Shea PAC in Buffalo, followed by a solo concert at Trump’s Taj Mahal on Dec. 17th. On Dec. 29th, David Foster and Jackie (just them) will be in concert at the 12,000 seat Mandalay Bay Arena.

    The story is that Robert Redford watched Jackie’s performance of “Nessum Dorma” on the finale of this season’s America’s Got Talent, made inquiries, and asked for Jackie to audition for the part of his character’s daughter, Isabel, in his currently-filming production of “The Company You Keep”. She auditioned, and was cast immediately.

    Jackie will also be appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Dec. 9th – the fourth time in less than fifteen months.

    Thanks for thinking about her. ‘Too bad that you didn’t have the time to go to the Avery yourself.

    • Charles Hoff says:

      I’m attributing that to “Indigo” (Jackie’s family screen name) on her official website, who posted that “Robert Redford saw Jackie in this year’s AGT finale and began pursuing her after that performance”. The timeline fits. Two weeks after her AGT finale appearance, she was in Vancouver filming. Her own tweet about “working on something special” at the same time reinforces it.

      • Charles Hoff says:

        Here’s what actor (and “The Company You Keep” castmember) tweeted:

        TheSamElliott Sam Elliott
        Just spent time with the most adorable little girl, voice of an angel. You all might know her from Americas Got Talent. Guesses?
        17 Oct

        TheSamElliott Sam Elliott
        Thank you all for your warm welcome. “The Company You Keep” is filming now in Vancouver. Ill leave the fancy smiles to you all.
        17 Oct

    • Charles Hoff says:

      And apologies for misspelling Jon Caramanica’s name. One of my favorite professors from many years ago was named Caramina.

  • For An Angel says:

    @Charles Hoff,
    “The story is that Robert Redford watched Jackie’s performance of “Nessum Dorma” on the finale of this season’s America’s Got Talent, made inquiries, and asked for Jackie to audition for the part of his character’s daughter, Isabel, in his currently-filming production of “The Company You Keep”. She auditioned, and was cast immediately.”

    That’s interesting. Can you tell me where you heard that? I can’t find the source.

  • Don Drewecki says:

    Fred Brown wrote: “WELL SAID , Chuck. This little girl is going to grow up to be the greatest of all time.”

    So, whatever happened to Charlotte Church? Does she now have a major career in the opera house and concert hall?

  • JD says:

    Every wants to dig deep, deeper than this eleven-year.old’s pockets have room for. Give her a break, a break from your “real” adult worlds and let her be a chikd!! Geeeeees!!!!

  • Don McKee says:

    I began to go over Jon Caramanica’s review of Jackie evancho’s New York performance with view toward a tit for tat response. However, after short consideration, it is enough to say that it is the work of an arrogant and mean spirited prig. The reviewer is attempting to be cool and properly contemptuous of something which is, when all is said and done, good, a good performance, good music, good spiritually and, horror of horrors, wholesome. I suggest that Jon give some thought to how easy it is to take the safe path of contempt, mean-spiritedness and condescension toward the unhip, especially where hip has no place. I trust that Jon would not want his character to be judged on the basis of his review of Ms. Evancho. It was hip though. Cool to the max. Can we doubt that Jon moves in the crowd of those who choose their wine based on how the “experts” rate it rather than on how it actually tastes to them.

    Jon’s remarks about Jackie Evancho’ singing are trumped by her actual performance. There is a Greek paradox which says that you cannot move from point A to point B without first moving to the halfway point in between. Each further increment of movement only gets you, logically, to another halfway point moving you ever further from your goal in a process of infinite regression. How do you solve this paradox? You don’t. You put your finger on point A and slide it straight over to point B, acting through it, over it, in spite of it. It is like this with Jackie Evancho’s performances. Here, you have Jon’s niggling, often sarcastic criticisms which stand, ‘logically’, as obstacles between Jackie and a “technically” correct performance. She simply trumps Jon’s obstacles with her stunningly beautiful singing. Jon can’t see the forest for the trees. Perhaps, In a manner of speaking, we can say that Jackie Evancho’s performances transcend much of what is said about them. Jon should stick to his own genre.

  • george says:

    I agree with your take on the lincoln center review written by the alleged ny times music critic Jon C. I read somewhere that he is a rock and pop critic for the ny times. Perhaps Jon was in avery fisher hall for the first time. This may be why he initially and incorrectly identified the Evancho concert venue as alice tully hall. In the future, I think the ny times should send someone who is a little more familiar with ms. evancho’s genre. Surely the times has the financial resources to send a critic who is more competent than jon carmanica. Just my opinion.

  • Iain Michaels says:

    We have just read all the positive and negative comments from all these ‘learned critics”.
    I think you have to understand that there will always be the ‘knockers’ who for whatever their reasons find fault somewhere in everything. Everybody is entitled to their opinions, good or bad. All that said, here we have the most adorable, likeable, charming and hard working Jackie Evancho, yes people, ‘hard working’. None of her performances comes without a tremendous amount of dilegent hard work. All of it on top of her usual daily routines like study etc. How about you negative critics try to learn to sing songs in Italian and French and then perform without any mistakes. Could you have done that at 10 or 11 years? How about being a little more gracious towards this fabulous little girl who has won the hearts of millions, yes millions, around the world. What would happen if one day she woke up and said, “I’m not enjoying this anymore’, and stopped singing. The world would loose probibly the most special gift that has come to life for many a long time.
    She has been chosen to act alongside one of the best actors of all time, Roberts Redford. He obviously saw her huge potential as an actress. What a wonderfull future this angelic little person has.
    So people, instead of listening to the critics giving her a hard time, let’s ignore them and sit back and enjoy this wonderfull gift the world has been given. A few more DVD’s of her concerts would be greatly appreciated by all of her millions of fans.
    God bless you Jackie, may he keep you safe and well, always.

  • John Nemaric - PHD says:

    In the USA’s music industry the Jackie Evanko phenomena is considered amongst critics and serious classical followers as well as music promoters to be ” KIDDIE PORN.’ I have heard this unfortunate term and/or opinion many times over the years. I do not subscribe to this term but you asked and you shall have it. Jackie is from Pittsburgh and so am I.

    • Don McKee says:

      Oh, please! Do adult performances therefore become adult pornography in this same wierd tansmutation? Does this phenonon apply to actors, dancers, athletes, comedians, etc? Is all human activity to be caterogized as either child or adult ‘pornography’? I trust that your characterization here does not come from some kind of personal projection. Wow.

  • Johnny D. says:

    To have a chance to see an 11 year old prodigy at her first concert in NYC meant a lot to me ., considering that I may one day say , many years from now , that I was at her very first NYC concert . She could very well top the best in the business , when it all said and done, if it all goes to plan.

    However , since I am not nearly in my golden age of my life , I can’t help but feel swindled for the amount of money (Tickets for multiple family and all) it took to see her , for the limited songs she sang . I mean I never shelled out this much money for a concert and saw a performance that was a fraction in length of the many other concerts I’ve seen before . A mere 45 minutes and missing a good amount of songs from Jackie’s PBS special (Maybe for those who clamored that the LC event should of been recorded , should have second thoughts) . Yeah sure , she’s a kid and all , but heck I never bought tickets for an opera before , so I could live w/o the Orchestra (I could see plenty of Operatic Orchestras for free in the Parks in the summer time, if I choose too) and their Operatic arrangements( I saw a couple of Old timers doze off in their seats) if it would bring back the costs.

    If singing 15 – 18 songs is to stressing on her vocal cords, perhaps Jackie should not be doing Concerts . At the very least Jackie should have a co-headliner for the $150 per ticket

    For such a a unique event we got a 2 X 2 bk/wht photo of Jackie in the middle of the Playbill for our money, Whippee !…There was 5-10 times more blank white space left empty after the editorial on her. Evidently LC or the Evanchos didn’t think much of us or Jackie in having a unique individual stapled Playbill with the program and Jackie on the cover, as a lasting souvenir for us. A mere few dollars per book would of covered the cost and could of easily been produced free with sponsors. Heck , we all came for the moment , I’m sure we all would of paid an extra $5 if we had a Playbill with Jackie on the cover .

    More Jackie and less fluff for my money please.

  • Michael Nolte says:

    Letters to the Editor

    The New York Times

    620 Eight Ave.

    New York, NY 10018

    Dear Sir:

    I am writing to you in regards to Jon Caramanica’s (Very Poor) review of Jackie Evancho’s performance at Avery Fisher Hall November 7. 2011. While the performance was listed as sold out, he refers to it as mostly full. I assume this his first attempt to diminish the event. Why he needs to list the crowd as mostly grandparents, with a few wide eyed girls (young boys must have been banned), seems to me to have no bearing on the quality of the performance.

    Mr. Caramanica is a moron. You wouldn’t insult morons, would you?

    Of course not. So morons, Mr. Caamanica included: cover your ears and eyes.

    Since Mr. Caramanica covers mainly pop concerts, having to listen to gutter rap crap all the time is a curse. He no longer would know good music if it bit him in the but. Some people acutely like to hear show tunes and melodramatic pop. I am not sure what he is referring to with statement since Mr. Caramanica failed to define which tunes that includes. Miss Evancho sings Classical Crossover, the type of music I like and not the beeves and but head music that seems to appeal to Mr. Caramanica. What do teen opera dreamboats of Il Volo have to do with this performance? Perhaps a better choice of music critic would more appropriate, may I suggest one of your janitors.

    One hundred years ago, his article would have been found in out houses used for toilet paper. Maybe America needs to bring back the out house so Mr. Caramanica can have a purpose in life.

  • Don Drewecki says:

    let classical music critics review serious classical events. Let rock/pop/celebrity reviewers report on events like a talented 11-year-old performing for 45 minutes. Classical music is NOT about stunts or nice little moppets. It’s about musicians and composers who have dedicated their lives to perfecting their art, for audiences who are serious about that art.

    If Jackie Evancho spends another ten years practicing and studying at good schools and going into vocal/opera training programs, then we’ll take her seriously as a classical musician.

    • Richard Hamilton says:

      You seem to be simply assuming the illegitimacy of “classical-crossover” and proceeding from there. I have no problem that the expectations are different for pure classical than for crossover. I _do_ have a problem with throwing crossover into the trash bin where only unqualified reviewers deal with it. A reasonably objective reviewer should be able to take something for what it’s meant to be, not burdening it with prejudices of either more rigorous or more freewheeling genres.

  • Don McKee says:

    In the context of her status as a prodigy, Ms. Evancho is being taken seriously, just not by you. Now consider the contrast between your patronizing and dismissive use of the words “stunts” and “nice little moppets” with regard to Jackie and her performance and Jackie’s own disposition as she expressed it in a recent interview, “I don’t go for all that stuck-up stuff”. It is not a flattering comparison but it is telling. That you apparently found rock/pop Caramanica’s review of Jackie to be appropriate is just as telling. Jon was clearly not up to the challenge of discerning and elaborating meaningfully on her performance or on her current and/or potential future greatness. And your inference that Jackie is not serious about her art is at serious odds with David Foster’s experience that she is an extremely serious, disciplined and gifted artist.
    Additionally, classical music is not about “musicians and composers who have dedicated their lives to perfecting their art”. Nor is about “10 years practicing and studying at good schools and vocal/training programs”. It may or may not include these things in whole or in part. Classical music is about quality, whether that comes through all of the above “hoops” or by innate gift, occasionally early on as in the case of a prodigy. These are only means, not an end, not quality. Many hopeful students have spent their lives jumping futilely through the hoops. In these cases, clearly the hoops were not what classical music is about because they did not produce quality. No amount of training and practice will produce good results in those without the innate gift. Some, mysteriously manifest this gift at a very early age with less of the above mentioned constituents brought into play. A friend once told me that singing can be great art, as can acting. However, when you marry the two as in opera or musicals, you don’t get the best of either, with each discipline compromised in service to the other. That is easy to say. But, is it true? You probably know that opera has a history of being parodied for its melodramatic emoting and outlandish, heroic poses. I am not summing up opera or musicals with the above in mind, rather I am giving due to how easily any artist, genre, discipline or art form can be ever so easily mocked and denigrated through sarcasm and ungenerous, faulty generalizations. It is not precisely your opinion to which I object; it’s the condescension. Jackie Evancho is far better than to suffer the haughty and dismissive barbs of the pretentious and insecure.