In America 2014, does Jackie Evancho = opera?

A touching and thoughtful post by opera student Chelsea Feltman poses three questions which should never be asked of a young artist (and obviously are, all the time). The questions:

-”Wow! So are you going to be on American Idol?”

-”The Phantom of the Opera is my favorite!”

-”Have you heard of the amazing 14-year-old opera singer, Jackie Evancho?”

Chelsea, alert to bad mood music, argues that opera will only be saved if the quality of singing comes first:

I just want to be an opera singer who does interesting things that fulfill me artistically, and I’m tired of waiting for the perfect opportunity to appearCreating new, independent work does not detract from my love of traditional grand opera.But at times it can feel like a conflict of interestWith so many elements balanced so precariously, it often feels like the singing comes last.

chelsea feltman2

But the singing! That’s why we all got into this mess of a businessFew people know the innumerable hours of study and practice that go into making an opera singer—of the musical, interpretive, linguistic, and stagecraft skills one has to master in order to tackle some of the most challenging music on earthI often liken opera to the Olympics of singing; my voice teacher compares hearing a great singer fully in control of her instrument to watching a figure skater flawlessly execute a technical programIt’s absolutely thrillingThere is an athleticism to operatic singing that is truly stunning to beholdThat a single human voice can project over a full orchestra and envelop an audience of 4,000 people without any artificial amplification; that we never rely on autotune to deliver a note-perfect performance; that we can sing higher, lower, faster, and longer than anyone else in the world—all while telling the greatest stories and giving life to the most intense human emotionsHow is that not exciting? In my heart of hearts, I feel that if people really knew this, they wouldn’t dismiss opera as elitist or irrelevant or ridiculousAt its best, it is a perfect marriage of technical mastery, physical endurance, and artistic vision, and no amount of sexy costumes or high-concept set design can ever displace that.

Plenty of  food here for discussion.

Real the full article here.

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  • Prepare for this comment thread to devolve into yet another “Jackie is the best thing since sliced bread/no she isn’t” fest in 5… 4… 3…

    • Hey, it was Norman who brought Jackie into this. He could of course just ask her if she is an opera singer, but for some reason he seems reticent to do so.
      She is a great singer though.

  • Jackie Evancho is not an opera singer. She never claimed to be, and denies it vehemently when asked. She cannot be responsible for the misguided PR person or reporter, or ignorant person on the street.

    Out of a performance repertoire of over 80, only three are opera arias, and even one of those was retired during her growth years.

    So the answer to the question is: Jackie Evancho ≠ Opera. Jackie Evancho = Classical-crossover singer.

  • Opera is whatever Fill in the Blank’s Country’s Got Talent says it is for a popular audience. Therefore cute little moppets are being preened by their families, trotting out Nessun Dorma, O Mio Babbino, Ombra Mai Phooey, etc., getting the oohs and aahs from the judges while inspiring everyone to rise to its feet for the 90 seconds it takes to emote and crowning it all with a high note. That’s all the time their patience lasts, not for a full opera or even half or quarter of one.
    This operah is more a caricature of the same. What would it be without drama, pathos, costumes, gestures…who cares what the words mean?
    The problem is not the one or two shots on the XGT stage. These kids are actually propelled into a premature career. It’s not so much the WHAT they are singing but the HOW, albeit that Nessun Dorma does require a powerful set of chops.
    Sustaining long high notes ONSTAGE (and not necessarily in the studio where plenty of rests can be taken and anything can be concocted) is a BAD idea combined with having to negotiate full programs without proper muscular support. I won’t go into what the signs of insufficient technique are. The fans won’t listen and the those who have the power to stop the process, won’t.

  • I would want to hear Chelsea to get an idea how she is progressing. She looks to be about Jackie’s age(14) in that pic. As Chelsea is in opera training I would rather compare her to Patricia Janeckova not Jackie.

  • I don’t get the term “opera training”. Particularly in the early stages, there is no difference in the ABC’s of voice production. Strictly speaking, one does not learn how to belt out to fill a hall. If anything the process is the same, only some voices are more suited than others for opera. And even lighter voices can sing in less demanding roles. All tenors don’t need to be Othellos or Lohengrins. The same for sopranos. We are not all Aidas or Leonoras.
    For sure, though early trotting out of Nessun Dormas and some of the repertoire of little Amira, the Ode to the Moon, for instance, are very bad ideas for undeveloped muscles. Of course anything can be conjured up and spliced umteen times for a recording like the Vocalise of Rachmaninoff. This doesn’t mean a thing except if a soprano can do it in full voice in public (with the repeats).

    • I just assumed opera training means coaching the voice to do the projection above the orchestra, the runs up and down the scales, the trills and tricks of vocalizing what the composer wrote, you know all the things opera voices have to do that pop voices don’t normally do.

      Am I wrong?

      • The fundamentals of good singing are the same for any style. The difference is the repertoire and what MUSICAL approach it demands.
        Popular music, as opposed to classical, has a more spoken quality, but free supported breathing is at the base of both. This is why singers in their early stages of development are not permitted the Ode to the Moon by Dvorak or Vocalise by Rachmaninoff. OK, many of them can reach high notes, sometimes even higher than their teachers but as these are non-supported will make pressure on the cords like a rubber band stretched long enough will lose its elasticity. Singers learn by personal hoarseness and even losing the voice for a period that this is not a process to be repeated, so pass on their their hard won knowledge.
        To correct a misunderstanding, opera does not equal loud. It’s not about stock gestures and melodramatic emoting (as when kids or Sarah Brightman do Ombra Fu, Nessun Dorma or O Mio Babbino). It is not about learning quick scales and ornaments although they can come in handy when doing Baroque or Romantic operatic music. It is the INTENSITY of the sound versus the loudness or crassness of belting that can carry over a full orchestra. Some voices though are not really suited for opera or musical theatre.
        Of course, anything can be concocted in a recording studio. Someone mentioned that Issac Stern’s Beethoven Concerto had 400 splices, maybe more. The test is what one does in PUBLIC.
        If a singer cannot get through the first line of Somewhere Over the Rainbow without having to breathe, how can that same person negotiate lines more than twice as long that span the tricky upper transition of a soprano voice? One would have to suspend the laws of physics to accomodate such irrationality unless as I wrote, it is demonstated live.

  • I will never understand why so many so called Classical Music experts seem to show disdain for a young lady trying to make her way into a field in which so many young people have no interest whatsoever! Shouldn’t they welcome her with open arms and encouraging words. As it has been stated Jackie has never claimed to be an opera singer and has occasionally sang a few arias and that’s it! She has introduced Classical/Crossover to so many in the world. I read many comments on YouTube that say they have never listened to Classical Music until they heard Jackie! I once heard an educator say when asked about her and the students following her, that he was embarrassed and sorry. Sorry for what, that students suddenly want to sing good music? Sorry for the fact that someone performing that style of music was so popular! I was embarrassed for him! Would he rather they follow Lady Gaga or some of the other unbelievably vulgar music out there? Instead of spreading ignorance he could have made it a teachable moment. Her popularity and fame has brought many closer to the joy of truly beautiful music. Her fan base has continued to grow over the years and she continually produces great albums. I suggest that this kind of elitist narrow minded thinking will not be at all helpful to preserving a vanishing art. Perhaps it is time to rethink how we treat young talent especially those who perform so valiantly against all odds! Maybe it’s time to get off your dwindling high horses and nurture young performers rather than in your own muddled way trying to destroy them.

  • It’s sad to see opera people here just blasting a beautiful young girl with an incredible voice who has never set foot on an opera stage. She sang ONE operatic aria on America’s Got Talent and all of a sudden people started calling her an opera singer. Then she compounded that terrible sin by singing THREE arias on her next album. Never mind that she was just 10 years old and would have never been allowed on an opera stage; she was an opera singer.

    But you know Ken the best thing is these haters and baiters(you know who you are cough-juicelady-cough etc) have absolutely NO EFFECT on Jackie’s career or any decisions she makes. That makes me VERY happy. 🙂

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