Why Laura Bretan is a worry for opera singers

The 13 year-old singer won Romania’s Got Talent this weekend.

She is also a contender in America’s Got Talent.

Experienced opera singers are alarmed.

Carnegie Hall voice teacher Claudia Friedlander has written the following assessment in the Summer Issue of Classical Singer Magazine:

This is why Bretan’s performance raises such deep concerns for experienced opera singers and voice teachers. She possesses both a promising voice and strong musical instincts, but most of the sounds she is producing are the result of effortful, unsustainable manipulations of a body that is not yet mature enough either to create these sounds in a free, organic way or to withstand such pressure without significant risk of injury. The hazardous technical problems I note include the following:

Her vibrato is tremulous and irregular and is accompanied by shaking in her tongue and jaw. An organic vibrato depends in part on well-modulated registration, and it may be that she is not yet able to fully engage the muscles governing heavier registration. This may also explain why the cut of “Nessun dorma” she chose to perform omits the low D at the very beginning – she may simply not be capable of producing a focused sound in her primo passaggio yet. 

She performs these syllabic phrases with virtually no legato, pumping breath into individual notes and syllables rather than streaming her air continuously throughout each phrase. This is an extremely fatiguing process, and while it can produce a sequence of richly produced tones it cannot deliver the long, beautifully shaped lines required for Puccini; it would also be hard to sustain for a period longer than the one minute and twenty seconds of this excerpt. …

Read on here.

laura bretan

UPDATE: What happened next.

UPDATE2: Still worried?

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  • Respect says:

    Typical self-aggrandizement from singers not getting gigs, they trash everything around in a narcissistic fashion. This was written by a pompous ass. It was a little girl who learned how to imitate the hooty head voice she thinks an opera singer makes and warbled her way through a tune they’d heard Aretha Franklin sing. No one is hiring the poor child as Calaf, proposing putting her in any operas. It’s as harmless as can be, but if you read the idiocy on several well known singers Facebook pages, you’d think this was as great a threat to the world as nuclear proliferation. And what is this idiotic “analysis” of her technique? I’d be terrified to have my granddaughter okay Für Elise in front her.

    And exactly what is a “Carnegie Hall Voice Teacher”? There was a wildly overrated teacher in the US a decade ago who apparently hung out in Salzburg, offering free lessons, who parlayed that into, “official voice teacher of the Salzburg Festival”. Americans and self promotion are a vile mixture.

    I despise this business of those who try to make their name through pompous bloviating on any forum they can get on. Most (not all – there’s a famous Elektra who has forgotten to come out of character who specializes in ad hominem attacks on colleagues on every subject imaginable) great artists are too busy making art to indulge in this crap, I suppose it’s the professions substitute for the vicious gossip of yesteryear. So glad I retired.

    • Maria Brewin says:

      The writer has backed up her conclusions with details of where she thinks Laura Bretan is going wrong. You attack the writer’s personality without addressing any of the technical points raised yet have the gall to mention ad hominem attacks. If you think her conclusions are wrong, then explain why.

      If anyone is “trashing” anything it is you. Nasty.

      • Respect says:

        Lol. Thoughtful analysis. You mean like suggesting the aria was cut to cover registrar weakness, rather than simply to meet the time restrictions of an amateur hour? That’s just pompous idiocy, not insightful analysis.

        I’m amused to see you criticize me when it’s easy to find your catty remarks on other threads.

        Strongly agree with wtfach’s comments below. This is just vulgar self promotion at the expense of a child, from both the show organizers and the remora-like bloggers who shout to the world on their little Speaker’s Corner of blog spots.

        • Maria Brewin says:

          Still throwing vague insults around but demonstrating no ability to formulate a counter argument. Now, in desperation, you’ve found unspecified earlier comments to sweep with your incredibly broad brush.

          Delightful.

        • Allen says:

          Stop digging. I suggest you go back to shouting at pigeons from your favourite park bench, or whatever it is you do in your retirement.

          • Vince says:

            I loved listening to Laura sing….Turnadot is one of my favorite operas…My only concern would be singing these notes at a young age could she do damage to herself….Consider Julie Andrews…after many years of delightful singing and the octave she sang in…now she can,t…and that started years ago…I would hope Laura doesn,t give up singing but save that beautiful voice for later..

      • Janelle says:

        Please ignore the article and try to comprehend the point this individual is making. In simple terms: If this child had performed at Carnegie Hall then it would make absolute sense for a “Voice Teacher” to write such an article. However the child performed at a TALENT SHOW! The Opera world going all up in arms over a talent show is simply outrageous.
        What about this young girl’s family that makes this “Voice Teacher” believes she can speak on their behalves. What about them that made her draw to the conclusion that they are not intelligent enough to safely care for their daughter?
        No where in the article is there a mention of an interview of the family. We have no idea of this young lady’s singing inspirations.
        Yet somehow this “Voice Teacher” seems to know all about the young girl without ever speaking to the family. What is it about that family?

        • Cathy Frankel says:

          The writer of the original criticism of Breton is simply jealous. She wishes she had the same exposure. It simply sour grapes!!

          • Laraine says:

            No she isn’t, Cathy. She recognises that Laura has real talent and doesn’t want to see it ruined. Didn’t you notice that after not a lot more than a minute’s sining Laura was panting as though she had run a marathon? Even someone who knows nothing about opera would realise that shouldn’t happen.

          • Frank C says:

            Perhaps she was “panting” because she was caught up in the emotion of performing for the biggest audience of her life , because she put her soul into the performance, because
            she is only 14 and wants to please, because she was overwhelmed by the possibilities of her performance as it apparently means the world to her and finally because she is who she is a 14 year old young lady on a journey of her choosing.

          • Ian raffill says:

            Laura seems comfortable with her voice I suggest she cuts down her engagements but keeps up her public relations she is flavour of the month now so good luck laura in the future

        • Rachel says:

          But the problem is that if Bretan continues to abuse her voice the way she is, she won’t be able to take advantage of the naturally beautiful voice she has. She will injure it and be unable to continue the way she is now. Look at Julie Andrews- she didn’t have troubles until she was much older, since she was taught well, but after she had nodes removed, she couldn’t sing for years. So think of what this young girl is doing to her voice when she’s NOT taking care of it.

          • Victoria says:

            Andrews could not sing post surgery because of a surgeon’s error and it was legally settled as a malpractice matter.

          • Richard Fasano says:

            That’s for HER & Her Doctors to worry about
            as well as her parents & NOT YOU. She is clearly a child prodigy “the best of the very best” hard work or no hard work SHE DILIGENTLY DELIVERS AN ANGELIC HEAVENLY VOICE!!! If she wants to make a
            sacrifice in doing some “damages” to her voice in exchange of getting some fame & fortune whereby putting YOU out of the spot light. SO BE IT. Man up to it, the same way all the others had to do WHEN YOU stepped on THEIR “toes” on YOUR way up to “success”!!
            Like you said in the pass “ IT IS A VERY COMPETITIVE BUSINESS “ YES it is NOW step up to the plate & give credit to where credit is due, especially to this God sent lovely little lady. Who by the way is God’s Gift To The World !!!

      • BEANMASTER says:

        Maria, well said.

      • BEANMASTER says:

        MARIA, i agree with you. I think Friedlander gave a valuable professional opinion. I just saw some videos of vocal cord surgery due to damage caused by exertion, lack of training.

        Adele recently had surgery on her vocal cords. All due to years of exertion, stress, lack of training. She suffered from vocal cord blood vessel hemorrhaging. She was ordered not to say a word for two months after surgery.

        • ekengsinstone says:

          Get som knowledge. Adeles voice problem most likely because of lifestyle which include smoking. Her voice always had a smokey touch in it. Now she also want’s to move outside london to avoid the smog.

          • BEANMASTER says:

            EKENSSTONE or whatever.. Get some knowledge????? I read Adele’s interview and saw her video in which she talks about the surgery. I’m not guessing. You are. you have zero knowledge about her surgery.

        • D says:

          Yeah but if you read the surgeons notes you would see that was a request of her husband.

      • mike says:

        That old “nobody on the road’s edge” paid you to write here? or are you a kind of relative of her?

      • christian lagerek says:

        Maria Callas and Victoria de LosAngeles used in fact the very same technique in their younger years and they became with maturity two of the greatest ever lived.
        She will change and she will recieve more training.
        However she will of course earn lots more doing gigs and concerts rather then an opera singer.

    • MacroV says:

      It may be true that those that can’t, teach, but those teachers often understand a lot, even if they can’t do it at a high level themselves, and there’s no need to denigrate them.

      The writer is making the important point that being a professional opera singer with a sustained career of consistently excellent performance isn’t just a matter of a good set of vocal chords and a nice, girlish expression; it’s the result of year of thought, training and technique. She didn’t even get into the important point that opera singers are generally not prodigies; a lot of singers don’t really emerge until their 20s, and never even thought about it before that.

      Most of those wowed by Laura Bretan are like those wowed by the waterskiing squirrel: the wonder is not that it is done well, but that it can be done at all.

      • Jon says:

        Laura Bretan has shown her extraordinary talent to the world now. David Foster is involved with her isn’t he? Seems she will be well taken care of. God created a very special girl. Heart, mind and soul.

    • Dave T says:

      “Americans and self promotion are a vile mixture.”

      Catty disrespectful retired nobodies and the internet are, as well.

    • MacroV says:

      This reaction reminds me of the (many) folks who derided people as elitists about 20 years ago when they pointed out – correctly – that David Helfgott couldn’t play the piano. But why should all those people moved by his story, the experience of being in his presence, and his “unique interpretive approach” have their enjoyment ruined by a bunch of know-it-alls? Answer: It’s about having standards, and pointing out when people are doing something for which they’re not ready, possibly at the risk of long-term harm.

      • Sue says:

        I thought I was the only person embarrassed beyond reason at Helfgott’s appearances – especially in Vienna!! It takes a particularly cruel individual to put a man like that in front of a concert audience like the Musikverein, when that individual would have little understanding of what he’s up against. I’m Australian and feel sympathy for the plight of Helfgott (and I taught the film “Shine” to students in high school), but ‘sympathy’ and ‘talent’ do not remain in the same auditorium, on the same program.

    • Non-Opera Singer says:

      Did you read the entire article?

      • Bruce says:

        Now why would anybody want to do a thing like that? The point is to say what you’re thinking right now, not what you might be thinking in some far-off future time after reading some hypothetical “article” or something.

    • Vicki says:

      Your comment shows your ignorance about vocal production.

    • Bobby B says:

      In the parlance of our time. “+1”

    • BelCanto says:

      America’s Got Talent is using a sweet little girl–and major sound engineering–to draw viewers.

      It’s truly smoke and mirrors. And that’s gross.

      With regard to Laura Bretan, surely there’s a plan to commercialize her, so Laura will be singing regularly with this current vocal “technique” she employs.

      Are the consequences life and death? No, of course not.

      But this short-cut to sounding like an opera singer, by imitating a fat, supple, mature sound via muscular manipulation, will cause a type of vocal overexertion. Not so dissimilar from screaming at a ballgame and ending up hoarse.

      Over time, as Laura fulfills her professional engagements (which surely will come, as they did for Jackie Evancho), this “technique” of mimicry will become even more ingrained–will become even more second-nature–and then will be difficult to reverse, should Laura someday wish to reverse it, in favor of less taxing vocal production and technique.

      And the overexertion resulting from the regular employment of her current vocal technique will make her voice less and less reliable, which will likely bring about psychological/emotional stress.

      If Laura wants to someday be a professional opera singer (not simply a singer who is paid for their particular style of singing), then it is rather critical that she not develop and ingrain habits like swallowing the back of her tongue to darken the sound, etc.

      But that’s only if Laura should someday wish to be a professional opera singer.

      If she doesn’t have that highly-disciplined career in her sights, then may Laura continue what she’s doing for as long as she wishes, without a care in the world.

      • christian lagerek says:

        using a sweet little girl?? may i remind you that opera singers with a slightly similar start includes. Caruso, of course different in those days. Mario Lanza, Correlli, de Losangeles, etc, etc.
        How else are you going to get discovered? its not as if you can march in to the Met or La Scala and ask for a leading role in La Boheme.

    • Kate says:

      I agree completely about the concerns for the health of this very young talent. Laura’s shaky under-supported vibrato was evident in her first notes and I was immediately troubled for her. I am a devotee of opera and I listen carefully and am rather picky about good technique in conjunction with musicality and performance dynamics. Laura has two of these important factors already BUT her technique is basically wrong and dangerous.

      I hope Laura draws people to her who can prevent future damages to her enchanting abilities. That is what happened for Jackie Evancho. who faced similar problems after gaining early popular attention. David Foster took her under his wing and saw to it that her voice is allowed to develop correctly and healthily.

      • Adrian Ashfield says:

        “her technique is basically wrong and dangerous” I think that is rubbish. Why is it “dangerous’? She has singing teacher who performs with the Chicago symphony orchestra.
        Do try and answer the question in a scientific fashion. Old wise’s tales from singing teachers don’t count.

    • DS says:

      I read the article and was taken in by all the arguments about how Laura Bretan could harm her voice and how she could not sustain her singing for the amount of time necessary to actually sing opera, etc. However, the author lost me with the criticism of this child for her pronunciation of Italian. Really? At that point I decided that yes, the author might just be jealous and yes, sounds like a snob. I am not an opera fan and I admit to really not know much about it other than when I have stumbled upon the “real” thing, I have not been drawn to it. I came to this article because of Laura Bretan. I loved Laura’s performance mostly because of the emotion that she was able to convey. When you put raw talent aside, which this child obviously has, you can teach all the finer points of any craft. However, conveying real emotion only happens when the emotion is there. It is the most compelling part of any performance. I will be interested to see if this amazing child does pursue formal training and make this her life craft.

      • CheyChey says:

        Bravo to DS.. I was taken by the emotion in her singing and her voice….regardless of technique, she is a natural….and I honestly think the “exhaustion” people claim to have seen was a mixture of nerves (She is only 14…or was 13 at the time), and putting so MUCH emotion into her music… some could have been the vocals but a combo of all three.

        Honestly I have taken to reading comments on young singers since we started having AGT and people are cruel and awful because everyone suddenly becomes a pro critic and singers as young as 10 come under the gun….and it’s horrible. I PRAY the young ones don’t read the awful kinds of things said about them by hard and ugly hearts..
        The author above may not have that motive…and may truly be telling truths regarding her vocals but writing an article ABOUT her is about showing off her own “knowledge” and not about helping the girl. If it were for the sake of Laura’s vocals, then she would try to contact the family and ask if she could help with training her.

        Everyone has opinions and some just stink and that’s all that there is…
        thank you DS for your positive comments about a beautiful little girl trying to entertain and move the world…

        • Mel. says:

          Children are our world, to teach them and love them and show them the way, with love and emotion , physical , mental and spiritual well-being is the responsibility of Adults, To criticise the child like hounds chasing a fox is a fools game. True humility comes from quietly contacting the family and helping teach the true skill that is what a champion of life does .

          • Victoria says:

            @Mel – so perfectly stated. Someone with a true concern for Laura (rather than using her as an example) would have taken the time to share her opinion privately. Diplomacy is a lost skill having fallen victim to the questionable lure of the internet and hints at a less altruistic motivation regardless of the author’s expertise.

    • The post by norman lebrecht is strictly technical. What do you know about singing and Opera, instead of commenting those who are technically involved in the Opera? Let us know what is your expertise, genius.

    • Jerry says:

      Why worry she is lip syncing. You don’t hit notes that high with…….wait for it…….your mouth closed.

    • Me, myself and I says:

      Well you all that has comment is it jealousy not having a daughter like that or is it for the concern of Laura i am wondering. Many childs overhere started when they hasn’t even reach the age of ten and are between their 30’s and 60’s now and still reach Golden and platinum records

    • BEANMASTER says:

      Re: Respect’s posting –
      Wow! and I thought my vocabulary was better than average .. I had to look up ‘bloviating’, ‘ad homenim’. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look up the term ‘pompous ass’, I have an innate sense of pompous ass detection.

      I studied music some, I know a lot of Italian musical vocabulary words, but I had to look up the word ‘legato’ that Claudia Friedlander used in her article. Then I realized it basically means ‘linked’ and refers to flowing and connected syllables. I don’t know what she means by ‘vocal folds’, but I inferred that she is describing the physical dangers that a child opera singer faces without proper training. I remember a vocal coach saying that young singers without training can end up with a ‘smoker’s voice’. Maybe she’s talking about something similar.

      Respect, I don’t think Friedlander’s analysis is ‘idiotic’ at all and your comment about not wanting your granddaughter to perform Fur Elise, a piano solo, for voice teacher Friedlander is puzzling to say the least.

      I don’t understand Respect’s criticism of Friedlander who is a teacher. I saw a couple of her Youtube videos – she seems to be knowledgeable and competent. Her critique of the young singer’s technique did not seem in the slightest to be malicious as I inferred you to mean.

      Respect, I hope you are enjoying your retirement…. I suppose you mean that you were working before, right? .

    • Yom says:

      Her voice reigns supreme. She was a little nervous, which is understandable. Let’s remember that she is only 13. Here voice is the best that I have ever heard, the technical aspects not withstanding, and this is hard to admit. She possess the finest natural voice within or outside the operatic realm.

      • DadOfAClassicalSinger says:

        Then you need to hear more voices, because I personally know many that are as natural and beautiful, but more technically proficient,

    • RGRHON says:

      Perhaps… It is the lack of rote formal training then that makes her passionate voice so appealing? For some reason that can’t be quantified millions found it so. Maybe the formal training itself destroys the purity of tone? Anyway I hope it lasts…

    • Sr says:

      For all those out there who say she needs work, Well yes as a 14yr old she needs more training, She can become one of the worlds most foremost Vocalists if she is not slammed every time she sings.
      Perhaps we can remember she is only 14yrs and has a long way to go, I hope for her there is someone who will take up this challenge and show her how much more there can be for her with the right help and encouragement, Remembering it takes so very little to damage a Child, So I say to all the adults who say so much and give so little lets wait and see how she will mature then give your opinion again

      She is lovely and will only grow more so

    • RESPONSE TO CLAUDIA FRIEDLANDER:

      I have read carefully Ms. Claudia Friedlander’s assessment on the thirteen-year old girl that has recently become a sensation; despite my efforts, I failed to understand what Ms. Friedlander is trying to tell us here; except perhaps that we should not encourage gifted kids like Laura to sing, and to focus strictly on the technical aspects of Opera singing, or singing in general for that matter.

      Ms. Friedlander, there is just one small problem with your approach, and it is that by doing so you are taking away all the humanity and sensitivity from this young artist. For God’s sake, give her break, she’s only thirteen.

      Thanks,
      Felipe

    • scott baldwin says:

      your crazy lady she will be the best you have ever seen you will see

    • IsabelleT says:

      Firstly, I think everyone is in agreement that this young lady has an amazing voice that she has clearly worked very hard on. People aren’t saying that she is a bad singer, they are expressing their concern. And it is, in my opinion, entirely valid concern. Opera like she is singing isn’t meant for people her age. Most singers voices don’t mature until their thirties. By pushing her voice like this she could seriously harm herself, which would be an honest loss to to the art. Think of it this way- you wouldn’t send a nine year old on an Iron Man just because they are fast. A nine year old’s body isn’t mature enough to handle that kind of stress. They may be able to do it easily as an adult, but at this point it would only damage their chances at being a professional.

    • anthony says:

      I do not care who and why criticizes Laura.
      she is the best I have ever heard and I will pay any price to sit in her concert.
      hope to see her in Florida soon.

    • Sara says:

      She is amazing , and she is only 14, she should be admired and respected for popularizing opera and not some kind of hip hop and pop music as most youngsters seem to follow, and that is that , I compared her with other famous opera singers singers and she came up to the top, she is a total threat to opera singers I’m sure, , if this teacher is so concerned as a vocal teacher , why doesn’t she offer to help rather than an elaborate critique . BTW , many many adult opera singers lose their voices or styles.

    • Henri Sackett says:

      I agree with some of what is being said but think most of it is just hype. The most successful young opera/classical singers in the world today are the trio Il Volo
      All three started their career at about the same age a Laura. They were recording by the age of 15/16 and on tour before the age of 18. Fantastic talents and I see no ill effects of the start at such an early age.
      I hear all of this talk but see no proof. Who exactly, of the great singers has been effected by starting at an early age. Many of the great ones started very early. I just love it when people give all of this advise and show no proof.
      When listening to experts and critics I always try to remember the old adage:

      Those who can …..Do
      Those who can’t…..Teach
      Those who can do neither become…..Critics!

    • John H Montgomery Jr says:

      This why she´s teacher. The girl is better than most singers

    • deborah skeete says:

      I totally agree with your comments

  • Bastiaan says:

    First, let me list my musical credentials; None.

    I watched the performance several times, and it moved me every time.
    Without having any credible industry know-how, I can hear that her voice still needs maturing, and I think that it would be best to do that under professional guidance. What I came to realize is that her breath seems to run out and can’t make the transition between passages, notes, or whatever the technical terms are. I’m not a pompous ass, just a casual observer, but I can see that it would benefit her immensely to get professional training for a few years, instead of “throwing her to the wolves” at such a tender age.
    I think both the author of the article and the respondent make good points, and I hope that Laura and her parents will make wise choices that will define the rest of her life and career in Opera.

  • WTFach says:

    There is a difference between genuine concern for this little girl’s vocal health and trashing her performance on the internet, and you chose to do the latter. It is disappointing that one of the leading opera magazines would publish this pretentious and unneeded technical analysis OF A CHILD! No wonder people feel opera is not accessible.

    • Joel Schroeder says:

      Your comment would perhaps have merit if the tone of the entire article was the same as the brief section Lebrecht chose to excerpt. I find the complete article balanced and nuanced.

      Here’s another excerpt, for context: “Bretan delivered an earnest, authentic outpouring of passion, and she allowed it to flow through her voice with steadfast courage and commitment. I believe that the ability to do this is at the very heart of every great operatic performance – the very thing that our audiences most long to experience.”

    • V.Lind says:

      But opera, basically, is NOT accessible to children — in the sense of their being able to perform it. Any more than ski-jumping from a high height, taking part in a corrida, or dancing Giselle. Children need to walk before they run, that’s all. These “Got talent” winners clearly can SING — why is it their parents are pushing them into opera arias instead of other good songs more suitable to young vocal development? Except now it is the kids themselves, who see their age group doing this on TV or on the net.

      Opera takes training. The Pavarotti and Friends concerts featured, as well as Big Lucy making some forays into pop, many of the top pop stars of the day duetting with him in operatic selections. Now, this was only for fun — only one singer I know of ever thought he could make a go of operatic arias after a rather impressive rendition of a couple in one concert. But for the most part, people who were VERY GOOD at their own work showed just how hard it was to sing an operatic aria.:

      *Clear-toned, wide-ranging Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, who has a fascinating and strangely beautiful voice in her own work (and that even showed through here) did a sincere and heartfelt Schubert Ave Maria with Pavarotti. Her effort and his encouragement made it charming for the couple of minutes out of the show, but it was evident even in one hearing the trouble she was having with the breathing on this. Her tones were pure, she hit her notes, but she took gasping breaths in the wrong places.

      *Sheryl Crow made a wonderful fist of her part of La Ci Darem La Mano, breathing correctly and again hitting all her notes, but her plangent voice, wonderful in her own work, was thin and tinny compared to that of any opera singer.

      *Probably the nearest to a full-bodied rendition of something came from Meatloaf — doing Torna a Sorriento. But popular artists from Sting to Bryan Adams to Bono showed that they should not give up their day jobs.

      • jojo says:

        Ski jumping is accessible to children. I know this for a fact.

      • Nisi Dot says:

        Some children like opera. That must be what she likes to sing and wants to sing. Why criticize her family for allowing her to do that and supporting her dreams.

  • Thomas Lehman says:

    When I was 9, I listened to Limp Bizkit. At 6, I was obsessed with Coolio. When I hit the acne-ridden age of 15, Billy Joel was the only name in music I listened to and now that I am 28, I have a Spotify playlist lazily called “Best” containing anything from bluegrass, opera, popera, musical theatre, grunge rock, indie rock, indie pop, techno, and who knows what else.

    The point is this: I will like and listen to whatever I want. I will be impressed for whatever reasons I want. I will admire people for whatever reasons I want.

    My father has heard me sing with some amazing colleagues over the years, including people who are singing at every major Operatic house this side of Timbuktu and I assure you that regardless of all of the amazing singers he’s heard, he probably loved that 13 year old on TV. This is because he can like what he wants. And it is no one’s business to tell him otherwise.

    We’ve all gotten told by people “outside the business” to sing for American Idol or America’s Got Talent or whatever else, and none of us possibly consider doing it. Why is that? Perhaps it is that we “opera singers” are too concerned and worried about what other people will think or say about us. We may impress hundreds of thousands of laymen (pun intended) but we’d also fear the disapproval of colleagues/agents/conductors, etc.

    I know I should follow this mantra a lot more, but my goodness, it would be great if the operatic world could mind it’s own business on this one and every subsequent “attack” on the genre.

  • Victoria Scott says:

    I hope the parents know what they are doing and can cope with the hype and hysteria (good and bad) surrounding this child. The fact she went all the way to Romania and the USA shows huge determination to “become famous” rather than seek out the best teachers the world has to offer. She needs her talent to be nurtured and guided – this takes years. 5 minutes of mad fame will not a lifetime career make!

  • M. Trawinski says:

    It’s clear to me that Carnegie Hall voice teacher has clearly too much time on her hands and is starved for attention applying technical and surgical review to a child. She conveniently ” forgets” the fact that this was a talent show where contestants come with hopes of having their talent discovered. That’s exactly what happened, we discovered sweet young girl with a magical talent not a seasoned singer. And the fact that instead of being happy for the kid she chooses to technically dissect performance from a talent show not a opera olympics is simply sad. You take the diamond in the rough and cut it and polish it not smash it to pieces because it’s not perfect. I’m sure Laura and her parents are aware of her vocal imperfections but at least she might have a future now as a singer and opportunity to work on perfecting her undeniable talent. And hopefully exposing opera to larger audience, something Claudia Friedlander is definitely not going to do.
    Again, just be happy for the kid, and the spotlight she’s bringing to this art.

    • Respect says:

      Bravo. Better put than I did.

    • Non-Opera Singer says:

      And how will she survive the demands of a Vegas show, which is one of the prizes for the winner? This is the concern underlying the article, and if you read it again closely I hope you would see that.

    • Frank C says:

      WELL WRITTEN, all issues addressed. Now lets just enjoy the journey Laura has invited us to share with her.

  • David Blackwell says:

    I agree that she has a wonderful voice, but even a wonderful voice can be injured if it is used in the wrong way. Many successful opera stars probably have had to take a day off every now and then because of throat issues. I feel the voice teacher was expressing more concern for Lauren than the ones who jumped on said teacher’s case with pointless name calling. Lauren has a gift that should be treasured, and allowed to reach its maturity without injury. This comes from a teacher who really knows the voice to guide her. If you are arrogant enough to think that she can’t injure that gift, you need to step back and let a teacher take over.

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    I too was gifted and granted by G-d one of those voices filled with passion, expression, and of good size….the Fach was considered dramatic spinto soubrette….and .as this young girl sings by wrote, copying shall we say her Landsman Angela Gheorgiu through CD, so did I, and by the time I was 16 sounded like a mix between Grace Bumbry and Mirella Freni singing O liebliche Wangen and Un bel di from the artist’s LP’s. But from the beginning, as my hometown in Howell, NJ, was not noted for being a singer’s cultural mecca, I went through some pretty poor teachers, including the Mayflower Madam’s step father, formerly of the Vienna Boys Choir, who was no opera repertoire maven and assigned me to learn Non la so spiri la nostra cassetta and Traum durich die Daemmerung for the Garden State Arts Center compeitiion…ha ha. As a knowledgeable professional friend said when I asked him if Eva Kleinitz was good for Stuttgart and Yannick for the MET…ve vil see. Unless she finds a really, really, really good teacher and coach, and then a Ronald Wilford/Sol Hurok type manager, she will make lots of money appearing with Bocelli and David Foster. Just sayin…..By the way, it was my rendition of Tu che di gel sei cinta that got me accepted by Jennie Tourel at Juilliard where my classmates included Barbara Hendricks, Maria Ewing, Neil Shicoff, Robin Williams and so many notables who were destined, or even predestined to “make it.” As my parents used to say, “all you need is a little mazel.” For you non Yiddish speakers we are referring to luck, not Lorin. But both couldn’t hurt.

  • She’s imitating what she hears in grown up opera singers. It may cause her to learn bad habits, which are hard to break, but children are resilient. I don’t find it so alarming. No one can predict that it will ruin her as an adult singer.

  • john neal says:

    “They” have missed the Point “She” Laura Bretan enjoyed herself ‘She” the Mother enjoyed herself…… and “Me” & “Millions of Others” enjoy ourselves…….Describe it anyway you want but you who picked faults then tarted it up with supposed care are just jealous ….. and no doubt very Sad people

    • Martin says:

      I totally agree with you ,
      Same happens to me every time I see her videos may be more than thousands times cos I CANT GET OVER HER BEAUTIFUL VOICE .Laura Bretan have a voice like an angel ,and some opera PROFESSIONS they are trying to pull the pin of our young very talented young LAURA , To write that sort of stories its out of this world , Jealousy is the main reason cos as a profession as she is she shouldn’t wrote and insulting Laura Bretan instead she should off written what a talented young girl she is ,I think her parents they know what Laura needs to slowly not to hurt her vocal , I think her mother knows what is the right for her daughter as a opera teacher .IN my eyes LAURA BRETAN will be the next opera singer that the world will ever seen ,

  • Cyril Blair says:

    If Laura Bretan’s manner of singing were an actual threat to opera singers, in the sense that she could be taking their jobs, that would be a worry. But obviously she is not a threat in this way. The only worry here is that the uneducated public will think this is opera singing. How worrisome is that misconception? I don’t know. The answer will vary for each person contemplating it.

    That’s a fascinating blog post. Very educational and insightful. It answers many of the questions I had after listening to Bretan sing Nessun dorma.

    • bratschegirl says:

      I think the “concern” Ms Friedlander speaks of is that experienced opera singers and vocal teachers fear that this girl will damage her currently lovely and impressive voice if she continues to sing in a way that isn’t technically sound and appropriate for her current stage of physical development.

  • E L Wright says:

    Laura may be the next to try to pursue her dream and she might have an enormous talent. Perhaps this will be the way she gets the teachers and coaches she needs to find her dream. Yes, she has problems now-but she has a voice that can be developed with time, work, and determination. To rip her apart on a single audition is small and pointless. The child is a beginner with beginner’s skills. One doesn’t expect even a talented violinist heard in the subway to be Mozart or Hayden on the first go. There is such a thing as realistic expectations-and the judges and the crowd were expecting NOTHING but were handed SOMETHING. Now granted, she is a gem in the rough-she needs the hands of masters to make into something really rare and exquisite.

    In the meantime-can we please just rejoice with a young teenager and her parents that her big day turned into a fairy tale come true? Just for a little while?

  • I just listened to to video, and was delighted by this girl and her talent. I am a trained singer (not opera) and I understand technique. I get what the writer of this article is saying about the technical points of Laura Bretan’s voice use. But it does seem peculiar to critique with such rigor, comparing what she did in a few minutes here, in an audition format TV talent show at age 13, to what one should expect from a seasoned professional performer working regularly in operas. This was a nervous young girl in a big moment. If she was a little breath-short and tremulous, running on heavy adrenalin, that accounts for the shaky jaw and small excess of vibrato; But I also hear a solid under-pinning to this big voice, a strong gut giving her full-lunged air flow, going straight into the right places in her chest and head. Throat strain was minimal. Her pitch and tone were excellent. So there is a lot to work with there. I am sure she will get the training she needs to master the technique issues as she matures. Give her a chance.

    And BTW, people carping about opera singers being jealous and trying to tear her down, etc., seems unnecessarily reactionary to me. The idea of the article was that opera singers are worried for her, that she might damage her voice without more training. Not worried about the competition. Opera has its own place in the world, and does not directly compete with things like “America’s Got Talent” and the singers who emerge from it. I don’t think think Ms. Friedlander was being critical; she was critiquing a voice, technically. She knows her stuff. I think she’s just saying, in effect, don’t expect this young girl to be an instant opera star, she has promise but needs training and should be careful not to damage her vocal cords and throat pushing beyond her current level too fast.

    I hope Laura Bretan and her family, and the talent handlers she will be working with, will heed the warnings.

    • Fernando Salmeron says:

      I am just a person that enjoys good music, and particularly good singers. The fact that she is 13 makes her a true and valuable candidate to be as good and maybe better than any famous opera singer. It seems to me that criticizing so hard an AMATEUR girl that has wonderful conditions is a little bit out of “tune”.
      I am sure that her family is very aware of the things she has to learn to be a professional singer and thinking that they would exploit her voice and talent the way it is now, would show a lack of love and responsibility, which I believe they have.
      There is something else this little girl has that can not be bough or learned: charm, humbleness and a truly wonderful way of showing her feelings when she sings.
      I believe we will be hearing a lot more of her in the future.

      • Maria Brewin says:

        As others have already pointed out, the actual article is far more generous than the above extract suggests.

        I think it’s too simplistic to say that a young girl is being criticised. It seems to me that the author is issuing warnings that are entirely reasonable in the circumstances. The girl is, after all, singing music that is normally the preserve of older singers. That was obviously part of her appeal.

        The author uses the word “yet” more than “never”, meaning that she should be capable of even greater things in due course. I think most people here, me included, hope that she will be able to realise her full potential – hopefully as a famous opera singer.

        I also suspect that she is more robust than she is being given credit for. Entering competitions is not stress free. I’m also sure that her singing teacher must be a firm taskmaster to bring her this far.

    • Non-Opera Singer says:

      Spot-on. The girl is talented no doubt and I wish I had a voice like hers. The underlying problem is that the headlines and articles are referring to her as an “Opera Singer.” She is not. She is a 13-year old girl attempting to sing Opera, and in her attempt wowed the crowds. But there is no way she can maintain a sustained performance in Vegas, which is one of the prizes, without causing long-term damage because of poor technique. The audience loved her, but they are ignorant about the underlying concerns.

      In colleges and conservatories, Voice/Opera singers do not perform until at least their 3rd year because their voices are not ready. As a junior, they only do a 30 minute recital. As a senior they do a one hour recital. This is all to protect their vocal health as they learn, grow, and mature.

  • Rodolpho says:

    Why can’t you people just enjoy this girl’s tremendous talent and let her be what she surely is, a “child prodigy”? I know these arias very well as a professional and I was moved. After all she just sang at a talent show and not at the Met or the Garden for god’s sake! I am actually thrilled that her singing has caused so many comments which means that she really touched all of us with her genuine and emotional interpretations for which there is no other accounting than the gift from G-d, like for Yehudi Menuhin at age 10! How she will manage this talent into the future is actually up to her, her parents and her teachers. I hope she will choose wisely. I am sure that the “Carnegie Hall Madame” who is “so worried” about Laura’s throat would’nt hesitate one moment to give her “extremely valuable” lessons for a very hefty sum!

  • Dianna says:

    She is 13 years old with no training just her God given talent. Be proud of what she and her mother have accomplished and I know I look forward to her future..

  • Paul du Plessis says:

    Let’s all sit back and watch this space. In four or four years’ time, we will know which of the commentators were correct. I plumb for Claudia Friedlander. And serious singers who have left the teacher’s studio early because they rely on talent have every right to be afraid, deeply afraid.

  • Pananer says:

    I agree with Bratschegirl and Joel Schroeder. The cattiness displayed by some people here is probably an indirect result of someone’s excerpting comments from context, thus changing the tone and the perceived intent of the writer of the original article in question. I am no opera singer, but I am a trained vocalist, and as much as I enjoyed Laura Bretan’s performance, I also share the concerns expressed by Friedlander and some other folks here–concerns that Bretand may damage her lovely voice rather than concerns that she will take jobs from professional opera singers. I do NOT believe that Friedlander is a pompous ass. I think she is expressing genuine concern for this child and the future of her vocal career. Friedlander’s critics should indeed read the entire article to understand Friedlander’s intent.

  • Pierre Clouthier says:

    Claudia Friedlander gave a reasoned, articulate argument that Laura Bretan will damage her voice by singing this material at her age. If I were Bretan’s parents, this would scare the bejeezus out of me, and I wouldn’t put my daughter on stage until she’s had another ten years of preparation.

    Laura Bretan is a prodigy with bright future. Let’s not squander it for short-term gratification.

  • Voice student says:

    I’ve been reading some of the comments here and elsewhere regarding Laura Bretan’s performance. It has been difficult to think of what to say on a topic so subjective and emotionally charged. In terms of aesthetic, no one can tell another that they cannot enjoy listening to someone sing. This is not what the classical community is seeking to do, even if it at times seems as though they are. What we can do is say when something is amiss vocally. We have heard from voice teachers and young aspiring opera singers on why Laura is singing in a way that could be damaging. I am speaking out because Claudia Friedlander is my voice teacher and seeing people ignorantly criticize and mock her is ridiculous. And I am speaking out from the perspective of someone who sang in a way similar to Laura’s in my early teens. I want to highlight the damage it did to my voice and the hard work and perseverance it took to rectify my technique (or lack thereof). I say all of this because the hard work and mental strength it takes to study to be an opera singer deserves to be recognized by the rest of the world. The dedicated teachers and performers seeking to bring honesty and authenticity to the public should not be berated for saying the truth. So here is my (rather long) story.
    I began taking lessons at the age of 14 with a family friend who was an opera singer. She had an amazing voice and had sung professionally, but decided to settle down and have kids. Her husband played in orchestra pits on Broadway and as a result she became a stay at home mom. She was a great singer, but not a teacher. It took me awhile to understand that these two things were very different. I began creating a sound she would describe during lessons as a replacement for her lack of pedagogical study. She would explain how the sound should be in a particular piece or exercise and I would find a way to create it with my voice. At the time, I thought I was just singing in a classical style. Because of the promise she heard in my voice, she gave me dramatic soprano arias. I sang things like O mio babbino caro and Glitter and Be Gay all while in high school. People around me praised my singing and told me how amazing I was. It felt so easy to sing these pieces, and I assumed I must have been born with this ability and would pursue undergraduate work in vocal performance. I had a heavy vibrato, like Bretan’s, and a large range reaching all the way up to a high E. When I applied to college, I was rejected from all but one of the music conservatories to which I applied. After starting there, I was instructed by my teacher to stop singing with my vibrato, which I had thought was natural, and sing straight tone. In a school filled with rich vibrating voices, I felt as if I sounded like a small child who had never sung anything. Suddenly, without the aid of my vibrato, I could not sing in tune on notes in my passaggio. My teacher suggested that I may be tone deaf. A future as an opera singer seemed far away and I wondered if I was cut out for it. Somehow, I plugged along for the remainder of my freshman year and then left the school. Once in New York, I tried again with a teacher from Manhattan School of Music. This teacher told me I had nodes, benign growths on the vocal folds brought on by incorrect singing. Who was I to say it wasn’t true? If a singer gets nodes, surgery is sometimes required to remove them, in addition to a long period of vocal rest (i.e., no singing). All I wanted was to be able to sing again, instead of seeing it as such a stress. A visit to the ENT revealed that I, thankfully, did not have nodes. So following this I found another teacher in New York and began rebuilding from the very bottom. Singing three note scales was a challenge. My voice was breathy and my range was barely an octave. Without the aid of my vibrato and fake resonance, I did not know how to produce sound with my natural voice. I enrolled in another university and was subjected to performing this way in Performance Class in front of a class of singers who probably wondered why I was pursuing music. I wondered the same sometimes. I spent long hours practicing vowels, elementary art songs and tongue and neck exercises to reduce tension that had been created through my old way of singing. Slowly, over the course of three years, things got better. Once I finished my music degree, I decided to seek out work with another teacher and I found Claudia. She has helped me to understand a great deal about vocal technique and artistry. Because of her help, I can produce consistent sound throughout most of my range, even in the dreaded passaggio. I have finally begun to learn about breathing, something not communicated effectively to me ever before. Instead of feeling as if I have to create a large sound in order to be a singer, Claudia has helped me to embrace my real voice and channel my emotions and thoughts through it in song. This is what opera is. It is not a spectacle – it is an arduous art form of which its artists are students of for their entire lives. I began singing because I wanted to express my emotions through music, but got sidetracked along the way with the misconception that all that mattered was how much vibrato I had and how high I could sing. I was preoccupied with being “good.” All of this is so irrelevant. I write this in hopes that those who are attacking Claudia and anyone else in the classical realm will realize that we are speaking out because opera is more than high notes and vibrato. It is also written with the hope that those who have never sung before can get a glimpse of how emotionally grueling it can be to truly learn how to sing opera. This is some of the motivation behind Claudia’s article, and it would do many good to understand that listening to what others have to say on a subject that one is ignorant in can go a long, long way.

    • Non-Opera Singer says:

      This should be posted as a main article someplace so people can understand. In a response on some thread about this topic I stated that given the way she is singing, she will be very hard pressed to get into a college/conservatory.

      That being said, I think Ms.Friedlander’s rate is outrageous as it does not include a collaborative pianist and she has no overhead (teaches in her apartment). But then again, I don’t live in NYC.:-)

    • Marcia Mason says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and I am happy that you found a teacher who takes utmost care of your vocal health and development. My daughter is a vocal performance major and I will always be grateful to her teachers/mentors who not only are teaching her well, but will not allow her to sing anything other than what is age appropriate.

  • Rodolpho says:

    What I find most disturbing in all this is the fact that a self agrandizing teacher like the “Carnegie Hall Madame” seizes the opportunity to get some free publicity under the guise of well meaning advice in a well known magazine by jumping all over a child who was actually singing for her grandfather in an amateur talent show! What a kill joy she is! Most unbecoming! I hope that she raises her fees accordingly!

  • Rodolpho says:

    I see now what all this fuss is about: the purpose is to stop Laura from winning the America’s got talent show by piling up enough bad comments about her and generate enough bad publicity in order to actually influence the jury! How very sad! I knew singers are very competitive but in my opinion this takes the cake!

    • Non-Opera Singer says:

      I think you are totally mis-reading this. Nobody cares about the show per se. They care that this girl with an amazing voice and huge potential may be undermined by what she is doing, which is really her mother doing it. According to one article, she has been only taking lessons from someone other than her mother for a year.

      • Piper says:

        And that is probably because that is the only resource available or affordable. These shows exist for several purposes, one of which is to sign talent and foster it as an investment. Let’s hope that happens for this talented and passionate young lady. She’s one to watch.

    • ronnie fletcher says:

      Oh goodness, such a rich assortment of items to comment on. I watched Laura’s performance and enjoyed it, stunned actually, 13 years old. There seems to me to be some mind games going on though, whether it is real, who is behind it, and whether the network is in cahoots with the girl and the family i am not sure. I’ll lay out my observations. On the one hand Laura presents as a shy innocent unassuming girl. On the other hand her confidence in front of the camera in talking with others reveals a powerful confidence and stage presence. Even Simon made comments about her sweetness and unassuming ignorance of her talent. I’m not buying that she is this shy and unassuming, when she can walk out on a stage and turn it on at will. Don’t get me wrong, i am a fan and adore her myself. Another observation based on youtube videos of Laura show her in concerts with full orchestras, church ceremonies, practicing at home, and often she is all dolled up, hair done, makeup, and gown and heels. Notice in AMT she isn’t wearing makeup, has her hair in a ponytail and is wearing frumpy slacks and top, comfort is one thing, staging the impression you are just a waif who wandered in off the street is another. Don’t kid yourselves folks, she isn’t a shy innocent inexperienced singer AGT wants us to believe. Simon is either ignorant or complicent of this girl’s history and experience. Ok, and as for motive. Well, stage mothers are notorious, but who doesn’t want more money? laura won 120,000 euros by winning the Romania Has Talent Show, to her credit it is reported she donated 1/3 of it to the poor of romania. Unless you are born wealthy, most of us would jump at the chance of shlepping our talented offspring to competitions for big money, I have no problem with it. As for concerns of her health, she’s 13 for heaven’s sakes, I do believe she will age and mature, and someone, mainly her parents and herself are responsible for making the decisions for her future. The voice teacher has a right to her opinion, as stoggy and arrogant as it is, but i have no problem with that either. Speaking of these shows, just what are the rules, and are they the same in every country? If you look at youtube videos, you’ll see many of the same people in different countries around the world. I have no problem with that, I just want transparency and accuracy. America, Britain, Australia, Romania, Canada Got Talent is either for citizens of each country or they should change the name to The World Has Talent in America, Canada, Britain etc. Ok, I am satisfied, stepping off my soapbox, be well, thanks for reading.

  • RobMcTenor says:

    You’re all probably right. She will have a huge opera career in front of her! Just like Charlotte Church did!

    • Non-Opera Singer says:

      Was this intentional sarcasm?:-)

      “When 12-year-old Charlotte Church and her fascinating, out-of-control chin burst onto the scene, everybody got terribly excited. And then what happened? She got older, and as it turned out it, didn’t have the goods after all.

      These should be serving as cautionary tales for the likes of Jackie Evancho, “soprano prodigy.” Seriously, try typing “soprano prodigy” into google – you’ll come up with pages and pages about this little girl. Terrifying. So much pressure, so young. Pretty little voice. Wonder if she can keep it up. Do you know what a real soprano prodigy is? Maria Callas singing at the Verona Arena at age 24. ”

      http://talkaboutopera.weebly.com/columns/we-need-to-talk-about-children-and-opera

  • Non-Opera Singer says:

    This open letter to Laura Bretan was posted on Facebook by Heidi Moss. Maybe this is worded in a better way to get you folk who think people are critiquing unfairly, Should this young lady should not have even sung this aria, a piece that Pavarotti could only sing every couple of years it was so taxing.

    An Open Letter to Laura Bretan, 6/1/16

    Dearest Laura,

    First, I want to say how brave and talented you are. It is clear you have a gift and a passion, and to put in front of the world like that on such a grand stage takes more guts than anyone can imagine. No one understands this more than so many classically trained singers who do this every day for a living.

    Right now, you are basking in this new found fame, receiving compliments and opportunities that any 13 year old girl would envy. There are people around you, including the judges at America’s Got Talent, who are promoting you and pushing you to continue in this direction. Their motives may be pure and good-hearted, but take it from a voice teacher and classical singer: this is not what you should be doing right now. And the future could breed more damage on your artistry and instrument if you continue down this path.

    First off, do you even know the background of “Nessun Dorma”? Yes, it is a beautiful aria. I can see why you (and those around you) are drawn to it. But it is in no way for a 13 year old girl to sing. (As an aside, there is SO much beautiful classical repertoire out there for someone your age. You should explore it!). It was written for a tenor character in Puccini’s opera Turandot. He fell madly in love with the cruel princess Turandot and wants to marry her. She has this rule that she will cut off the heads of anyone who wants her hand in marriage and cannot answer her three riddles (I once saw a production where said heads were all around Calaf when he sang this beautiful aria. That would have been cool if you had those heads on sticks around you when you sang it!). Well, he DID answer the riddles, but Turandot is so turned off by him she wants to do anything to get out of it. He tells her if she guesses his name she can behead him (nice!) but if she doesn’t, she has to marry him (that’s going to be a good marriage, huh?). She orders her minions to figure out his name or else THEY will be beheaded (“Nessun Dorma” is her line: i.e. “you will not sleep until you find out his name or else I will chop off your heads!” which he repeats at the beginning of the aria. Loosely translated (everyone should translate and know the context of anything they sing) the aria says:

    None shall sleep! None shall sleep! You too, oh Princess,
    in your cold bedroom,
    watching the stars
    that tremble with love and with hope!
    But my secret is hidden within me; no one will know my name!
    No, no! On your mouth
    I will say it when the light shines!
    And my kiss will dissolve
    the silence that makes you mine! Vanish, o night!
    Fade, you stars!
    Fade, you stars!
    At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!

    So you can tell me if you feel this was an appropriate song choice…I, and countless other classical musicians and fans believe absolutely NOT.

    Second, there is the point of healthy vocal production. My passion is vocal pedagogy and voice science. Your body is your instrument and it is essential to understand it so that you can have longevity in your craft. You love singing SO much that I am sure you want your instrument to serve you for years to come! You deserve that. There are things I heard in your sound (in addition to the repertoire choice, which didn’t help) that concern me. True classical training takes years of hard work, and forcing a sound that isn’t truly your own is dangerous. Your vocal cords are fragile things, especially at this growing age, and they need to be treated kindly with a knowledge of physics and physiology to maintain their health. Over time, the irritation of singing that way can cause swelling or even worse, nodes or popped vessels (think of a new shoe rubbing on your heel over and over again. You may not get a blister on the first day, but by the end of the week you may be bloody and in pain). Also, I fear this newfound fame will force you to sing even more, for longer hours, creating even more wear and tear on your cords.

    The good news is, upon listening your instrument, I can truly “hear” what healthy vocal production would do to your sound in combination with appropriate repertoire. And I can say that you would STILL impress the judges and America with your talent if you were guided properly in technique and songs.

    I am not the only one who feels this way: my incredible community of classical singers and voice teachers have expressed similar concern. We are here for you. Use us. This art form has a long history. Since you are in the spotlight and you made the choice to sing this music for the masses, you have the chance to educate yourself and America about singing and classical music. Actually, it is now your obligation.

    With kind regards-

    Heidi Moss soprano/voice teacher San Francisco, CA

    • Rodolpho says:

      Now this is a well balanced letter, caring and supportive of Laura, full of good advice and encouragement! While recognising her tremendous talent it puts in perspective her newly found success and gives her much hope for a brilliant future.
      Thank you professor Moss!

    • Bill says:

      “First off, do you even know the background of “Nessun Dorma”?”

      Such condescension! My god, way to make anyone take your comment with a grain of salt.

    • Mr T says:

      Bretan is Romanian and speaks it fluently.

      The lexical similarity of Romanian with Italian has been estimated at 77% and it would probably take someone who speaks Romanian about a month to learn Italian.

      I am sure she knew what she was singing.

    • ronnie fletcher says:

      Well, i know 4 and five year olds singing songs and repeating anthems and pledges at school everyday and they have absolutley no clue what they are saying or what the subject means. Based on your logic, there should be millions of people who shouldn’t be reading, singing or engaging in human endeavors at all.

  • Nils says:

    I am about to throw up! All this jealousy, pretense, and compulsiveness. Give yourselves and me a break. Go save a planet or something. I am sure this child is in good hands. Worry about your own kid’s or yourselves. You seem messed up enough to make the rest of the world worry.
    I’m outta here!

  • Out of the dozen or so teachers that have commented on Miss Laura, I have not seen anyone offer her an apprenticeship or extend a true hand of help. Words count for naught. Only a fool with a large ego would pass up a prodigy like that one. I would do it for free just to give something beautiful back to the world. Gone are those days though. Gone…..

    • Mr T says:

      I agree. What a teacher wouldn’t give to have a pupil like her? The gratification to be involved with something this beautiful alone would be worth it, not to mention a chance at fame for the teacher if Bretan’s success continues.

    • Non-Opera Singer says:

      An apprenticeship for a untrained 14 year old? I don’t even think older students get an apprenticeship.

      And I am sure a lot of teachers would love to work with her, but she is in Chicago and they might not be (I never saw the value of Skype lessons). She would have to go to them and pay for their time (it is a job) just like my daughter paid for a teacher’s time on a visit to NYC a couple of years ago.

    • Non-Opera Singer says:

      And Bretan won EUR 120,000 for her Romania win (about US$137,000), so I think she can pay for lessons;-)

      • John says:

        I am going to let someone else clear the things out when it comes to opera:
        “You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less of a fireworks. The artist is always there.
        I don’t need the money, dear. I work for art.
        When my enemies stop hissing, I shall know I’m slipping.” – Guess who?

        Maria Callas

  • Nils says:

    Get a life – all of you! REALLY!!! This is so pathetic! I am out of here.

  • Steve H says:

    Two things strike me as interesting here:
    1. The underlying assumption in both the article and many of the responses seems to be that Laura Bretan will obviously want to be an opera singer when she is an adult. I think there’s a better than 50:50 chance that she’ll be quite happy to be a crossover artist instead.
    2. The article itself focuses on the interesting topic of how opera singers and opera fans ought to respond to the enthusiasm of an audience for Laura Bretan’s performance. I think the article is pretty good in this respect, particularly in how it talks about what snobbery does and does not consist of in this area. It’s not been commented on here, however.

  • TheMerrySingle says:

    I think all of this discussion is a great boon and advertisement for opera. All but one of the professionals with whom I work cannot tell you the name of one aria from any opera. And I grew up like few listening to Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. Thank God someone is 13 and not doing another Brittany Spears gurgling mockup…If I were she I would definitely have done this brief stint on AGT in order to get a full scholarship and mentors for life!! One thing of note (no pun intended) which has not been mentioned is this child’s ability to sing on pitch – a skill America is fast becoming unfamiliar with.

  • Darius says:

    She has a canto teacher who sings at filarmonic in Chicago.!!!
    So , I supposse that she knows very well about such things mentioned here.
    I recognize a good voice in opera…she is really very ,very good!
    Seems me very pedant this article, a bit malitious,and is not the case to insist so much about tehnic.She has only 13 years old!
    The end of Nessun Dorma on Agt…was very good,excelent percution on very hight register and a dificult long note in final…few voices are able for such performance,and i lisened a lot of opera voices singing this song.
    I don’t feel an effort ,an exageration of her vocal cords(as aothers),she has obviously an unbelivable native potential!
    Bravo Laura!

    • Guy W Moorman says:

      If you search YouTube, you can see that this young woman has been singing difficult songs WELL since she was seven or eight. Why the sudden concern about her abilities and future just because she is on AGT doing exactly what she has been doing for years. Actually the ability to sing this well at a young age is not controlled by the vocal cords. It is controlled by the brain just as many prodigies are. She actually is not a child any longer and her progress through the years is obvious if you watch. It is true that most opera singers are not prodigies but persons with excellent voices who are trained to opera. That certainly does not preclude a prodigy like Laura Bretan from singing opera.

      I watch five and six year old prodigies playing the piano and no on seems to worry about their finger wearing out. A prodigy is an act of nature that exists in the brain and not in the fingers, hands, vocal cords, or any other anatomical part. She is simply an amazing talent just as Jackie Evancho and Emira Willinghagen are. Statements that Jackie is over the hill already are ludicrous because she is simply now singing what she enjoys or what is profitable for her professionally and monetarily…so what?

      These young singing prodigies are no different that the prodigies that play the violin or piano…why treat them differently. I think Laura Bretan will emerge as a success in any direction she chooses. He is an amazing, beautiful young lady. Let her live her life as she chooses with bashing her talent. It is God given and should be appreciated. GWM

  • R.R.White says:

    I simply enjoy raw talent trained or not. I thoroughly enjoyed the young girl and wonder if any of the voice experts in the opera world who are willing to critique her would meet the challenge of reaching out to train her professionally ( share your knowledge, experience, and training) with no ulterior motive other than love of a fellow young human and simply assist her to reach her fullest potential with no complicated strings attached monetarily or otherwise? I know this can be done because I seen and heard of this happening the world over when people are moved from the heart to do so. The common people including myself chose her voice and talent above the mainstream pop music which is so often toted. This is impressive in itself when so often little to no exposure nor support is given to ordinary children to pursue the classical arts. That she chose classical opera is amazing versus taking the easy route of singing everyday pop. Please give these thoughts careful consideration during your professional evaluations. It’s good to give constructive criticism if it is then followed with the long-term, encouraging/ upbuilding, well aimed guidance wouldn’t we agree? I hope we see Laura and other young ones take on such challenges for years to come while enjoying their youth in wholesome ways versus destructive ways. And that the various adults (expert or otherwise will reach out to share their talents, abilities, and experiences to strengthen the younger generation). I hope too that critisms here were not mainly motivated out of jealousy, self-promotion, and similar like negative attitudes that are so prevalent today.
    Finally to young Laura, opera singers, and opera teachers keep up the good work and continue to share with others your abilities for others to enjoy whether in the spotlight or behind the scenes. Thank you. (e.g. Leontyne Price, Ms. Battle, Pavorotti, Placido Domingo, Andre Bocelli, Susan Boyle, and so many others).

  • Laaine says:

    I couldn’t sing if my life depended on it, but even I felt concern when I watched Laura on YouTube. If she wants a career as a singer her mother needs to send her for proper singing lessons (from an opera teacher if opera is what she wants to do). And she definitely needs to wait before attempting arias far too demanding for such a young voice. I found the effort she had to put into her performance quite exhausting.

  • Dad says:

    She’s cute and a good singer.

  • Tim says:

    People , people ! This girls is just 13 years old and shows tremendous talent. She needs that great voice encouraged and developed,and not put down by what we have come to expect from the self centred , self serving smug elite of the sanctimonious opera elite. I wonder what Pavarotti or Caruso sounded like at thirteen ??

  • Steve says:

    For pity’s sake, give the girl a chance, from this point on, now she’s been discovered she will have the best vocal tutors money can buy so what’s the issue. Jeez!!!

  • Nick says:

    Wow. I didn’t know there were this many people interested in opera. I found this site when I googled “Is Laura Bretton good at opera?” Are people “good at” opera? Anyway, after a careful review of the article and all 80+ comments I rule in favor of the she is too young to sing this way crowd. However, depending on her goals, I agree with some posters who say she may end up having the last laugh at the en. She will likely get a deal for a pop classic recording that will sell much better than any opera album. Do they sell opera albums anymore?

  • Somecoach says:

    Who says that the little girl wants to last. Of course she says she wants to become an opera star, that’s what you say on those shows.

    All opinions are valid, some are pompous, right, wrong, annoying, stupid or valid. My feeling is that little girl could care less about the noise and those opinions.
    Who the hell do we think we are (so called voice professionals) to try to “save” a little girl from herself on a public forum such as this one. Sounds like self marketing and nothing else.

    Little girl is having her 5 minutes of fame and enjoying every minute of it. She is Cinderella right now. The network will milk it as much as they can. So far the transaction works on both ends.
    She will most likely blow her instrument very soon but that is not a priority for her right now. She is having fun. And so should all of us.

  • buzz baldwin says:

    She is only 14 years old, she will learn from accomplished teachers in due time. Just enjoy the beautiful noises that come out of this young very talented girl.

  • Cristina says:

    What is missing here is an offer to help. Kids go to AGT because they are talented, but lack the financial means and connections to build a career. Miley Cyrus didn’t go to AGT, she just told her dad that she wanted to be an actress, and daddy got her an audition for Hannah Montana. Laura cannot tell her dad that she wants to sing Puccini and get Carnegie Hall. The Bretan family are not opera singers; they just have an extremely talented daughter, and do their best to support her. The author probably makes some valid points, but she fails to mention that proper training of an opera singer with world-class canto professors not only requires a lot of effort, but is also very expensive; as with any proper education, the effort and fees are required upfront, the rewards – much later, and there are no guarantees. So, where in this article does the Carnegie Hall professor offer to work with Laura? Or help her get into some of the very exclusive performing arts high schools in New York? Nowhere. In fact, all over the internet, the opera community is making it clear that they have no intention to help. They are only too happy to criticize the choice of an extremely talented child trying to find her way. So yes, there is a real risk that Laura and her family might sign lucrative contracts that could endanger her voice, simply because they are not offered any other options.

  • Carl Shelton says:

    It is true that she doesn’t support the voice properly; the voice should “ride” on a steady column of air that is emitted from the lungs and controlled by the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle, and, like any other muscle can be slack and weak, or it can be strengthened by rigorous exercises, just as any other muscle can be strengthened via exercise. Laura doesn’t yet have a trained diaphragm; hers is not strong enough (or she just doesn’t know how) to ration the breath as the singer needs it. There are many opera singers who sing with bad technique (though they usually don’t sing very long). Also, Laura is trying to make too big a sound and she is forcing the voice. Opera singers do this also, especially when they sing things that are not appropriate for their voice. The most noted example is Maria Callas. Callas wanted a big voice and she forced it almost from the beginning. Plus, she had the hare-brained idea that she could sing anything. Well, she COULD and DID sing anything in the early years of her career. Brunhilde, for example. Armida another one. And the list goes on, all very heavy roles (she also sang some roles that were appropriate for her voice). Her technique carried her along for awhile, but during the last half or her career, she hardly had a performance that wasn’t affected in some way by the damage that had been done to her voice . She lost her middle voice, it turned hollow and metallic. She tried to correct that by “covering” the tone in the middle voice and it just turned kind of “wooly”. And she developed a HUGE tremolo on just about every high note she sang. If Callas could do that to her voice and with years of training and preparation, think of what could happen to Laura. You don’t hear Charlotte Church singing anymore do you? She destroyed her voice by listening to the adults around her who rushed her into everything when the voice was just too young and lacking in technique. A lot of these comments may sound like sour grapes and many are I guess. But there is a grain of truth running through them that shouldn’t be ignored.

    • Martin Joubert says:

      I can’t agree with you more. When I heard Laura sing the first time on AGT, I immediately thought of Charlotte Church and where her career went. Psychologically I do not believe that this child without very specific guidance can cope with what is coming and the unscrupulous exploitation of what can be (and is) a wonderful talent.

  • Chuck Boody says:

    I’m of two minds about weighing in here, but here goes. I am not a trained singer. I am a trained musician; a conductor who has worked extensively with young musicians, vocal and instrumental, in and out of school music programs. So, I do have perspective and experience to draw upon. I will leave out a rehash of previous comments and try to talk about some thing I don’t think have been mentioned.

    First, part of being a prodigy is having the right physical and mental equipment. I worked with 18 year olds who, even with proper training, could not yet sustain some phrases. They could not relax properly at least as much because their physical maturity did not yet allow it as for any other reason. On the other hand I had a 17 year old who sang effortlessly to the Eb above high C. I heard her, from the back of a large concert hall, sing a D at the close of a choral piece performed by an all state group. The singers had been instructed to “shout” that last note and not. To attempt to reach it. I know it was her because the singers around her reacted to her. She had her physical equipment in place. Consider Kevin Garnett who went directly from high school to All Star status in the National Basketball Association. That happened because he was exceptionally mature physically. My point here is that Laura Bretan may well have at least some of that physical equipment in place despite her age. Surely not all of it, but more than most her age. She should not be viewed and judged by the “normal” rules.

    Well, what about mental/emotional maturity. I suggest a listen to Laura singing Vissi d’arte. You’ll note two things I think: There is no question she knows what she is singing about and her vocal technique is much more secure when she isn’t under the absurd pressure of AGT. I would welcome comments from those more knowledgeable than I about the singing in that video.

    In sum, judge a prodigy as a prodigy and not by the norms.

    That said, I concur with those who felt Nessun Dorma was an inappropriate choice. It is written for a man. Would you have expected Paul Potts to come out and sing O milo babino cara? But that is, as they say, show biz. Time constraints require truncating the aria, meaning not only that the emotive content of the piece is lost, but also that the sections that allow the singer to warm into the huge ending are not there. Nothing is left but the glory notes. It is amazing to me that her technique allowed them to be sung at all given the stress of the situation. The vocal technique issues mentioned by many were certainly there, but I wonder if they were there because of stress and circumstance rather than because she lacks some of the vocal technique. Apparently she has a teacher. We can only hope a good one. And if she chooses the AGT route then she must give into to what it demands. Consider the truly inappropriate arm waving in her quarter final performance. She’s already being managed into what the producers want. I saw a fine yodeler who was produced into not yodeling in her final appearance. Thanks AGT.

    Finally comparisons to Charlotte Church and Jackie Evancho seem out of place to me. Charlotte ruined her voice through excesses in her lifestyle, and gave up singing for some years. Jackie Evancho seems to have happily become a crossover person. She seems to me to either not be developing her voice, depending too much on the mike, or just possibly being guided away from stressing the voice until she matures further. I hope the latter, and I hope the latter for Laura too.

    Trust the teacher, be awed by the talent, and hope she finds her way.

  • ekengsinstone says:

    Don’t bother what any so called voice expert, including proffesionals, say about her vocal technique. Instead of surrender and enjoy they just end up trying to keep their territory. They always compare with age normal developed larynx. Check out this girl larynx and you will find it is premature developed. Simple as that. I will guess minimum +17 years. If she is born in Romania it is also not a big deal to change age if big money lures around the corner. Most other girl in her age and voice category will, in voice strength ,catch her up. Still. A true great singer always is characterized primarily by singing with heart and without fear. Not the singing technique.

  • ekengsinstone says:

    I want to add.
    There are very few, for good reasons, true great singers in the opera world. The main reasons are the qualification required by the opera houses.
    1.
    Artist must be able to sing unnecessarily loud(come on the amplifier and mic was evented centurys ago) for an hour or so several days a week without damaging the voice. So the artist need to train to an unnaturally, contrived, voice technique which in return severely narrows the frame of expressing emotions in believable way. Why deteriorate a naturally beautiful timbre? The training even effects the singers laughter and speaking voice. When trying to sing even simple non opera songs they almost always ends up to sound just silly.
    2. Have the necessary vocal physic.
    3, Ability to memorize hours of lyrics.
    4. Rigid rules, conventions, traditions etc.. always goes before artistic creativity.
    5. The years spending to “achieve” all the above.

    These circumstances will discourage approximation 99,99% of the most talented singers. Left for the opera world there is almost only determinated, but less talented, opera lovers students. The truth is. True musicality actually is not the most important requirement to become hired by the opera house.

  • BEANMASTER says:

    It seems there are a lot of opinions on this page by people who know little about voice teaching techniques – and some irrational, baseless criticism of the “Carnegie Hall” voice teacher’s critique of young Laura’s technique. I’ve done some googling and I’ve seen a number of webpages that say basically the same thing that the Carnegie teacher said – that without proper training, a young singer can permanently damage the “vocal folds” and in some cases “vocal fold paralysis” can occur and it can be caused by over exertion. I did not read anything egotistical or self-serving in Friedlander’s critique.

    Laura’s “The Prayer” on AGT was a very emotional performance, especially the closing last 3 high notes that she hit. However, I noticed what in my layman’s opinion, was a break in legato/breathing just prior to the first of the 3 notes which indicates a possible lack of training and/or rehearsal with a professional voice coach.

    The opera singer Heidi Moss is also concerned about Laura’s technique and has posted a Facebook open letter to her saying: “There are things I heard in your sound that concern me. True classical training takes years of hard work, and forcing a sound that isn’t truly your own is dangerous.

    “Over time, the irritation of singing that way can cause swelling or even worse, nodes or popped vessels.”

    Laura’s performance of “The Prayer” will certainly cause more viewers to tune in for her future AGT performances and I doubt that the people around her will be overly concerned about her breathing technique and possible damage to her voice.

    She’s now a serious little cash cow.

  • Guy Moorman says:

    Why does everyone seem to think that we are all guaranteed a long carrier? We are simply guaranteed nothing. This young lady has an amazing talent today and is under the care of a voice coach in Chicago but it seems that some people have decided that that coach is incompetent. Also, she has loving parents who have taught her to be humble and appreciative. Why is no one concerned about Jayna Brown? This young woman will last a very long time. Charlotte Church is NOT dead. She is still performing and making records. Jackie Evancho seems to be doing well, though she is still very young. I think too many of these young talents see that big money is in the pop field and sadly leave opera. I hope Laura continues to love opera and keep her career in that path.

    • ekengsinstone says:

      Agree. Most talented singers nowadays rejects the opera career for many good reasons. Mostly left overs fr the opera. There is one partipicpant from the talent shows that right now actually seems to go for opera carrer. Listen to Patricia Janeckova latest FB and yoy will find out she aleady advanced very long.

  • Dr. Guy Moorman says:

    I think there as a tremendous amount of emotion as she seems to have every time she sings. Much of here previous experience has been with religious music. Also, she was extremely nervous if you notice here hands shaking badly after the performance. Part also may have been performance. She has great parents and a singing coach so people need to simply get off of the idea that she is being exploited. She is simply being presented to the world and I’m glad I’m around to see and hear her.

  • Thank you for your comments, Doctor Moorman. I agree.

    Am a 71 year-old disabled veteran, and think my mind is still fine.

    A few short points:

    The young lady has been singing for many years, and likes to sing.

    Number two, my innermost soul reacts very strongly, and very positively, to her singing. I have cried several times listening to her. Am 100% sure that many, many others enjoy her singing as I do.

    I flew electronic surveillance in Southeast Asia at an early age, and it was very dangerous. Many instructors told me I could die. Yet I persisted, because I knew I was doing what I could to help.

    Laura Bretan is the same, she is careful, and am certain she understands the risks. Personally, I think some of the several thousand mile long road trips to sing for her church placed her in far greater danger.

    Lastly, am not much of an opera fan, and yet, think Kathleen Battle’s interpretation of Schubert’s Ave Maria is one of the most enjoyable songs I have ever heard. But-I cry over Laura’s singing. Wouldn’t spend a dime on most opera singers, but have bought cd’s of Charlotte Church, Susan Boyle, and the “Pretty Woman” DVD because the opera scene is pretty nifty.

    Keep it up Laura, and I, and millions of others who enjoy your wonderful voice will continue to listen to you, and buy your cd’s when they arrive!
    Kindest regards,
    Joel Koch

    • Dr. Guy Moorman says:

      I listen to her performance of the prayer every morning because it makes me feel good. So how I knew “The Prayer” was going to be her choice for this performance.

  • Anonymous says:

    How stupid and jealous the opera people who thinks Laura is whatever. Stop being jealous because you can’t be on AGT. Dumb ass classical snob! Worry about your own vocal chords bitches! It’s always the cunt, money hungry bitches that makes such jealous comments. Ask yourself this: Why aren’t you famous or making real money with your so called talents?

  • Guy W Moorman, DDS says:

    Andrea Bocelli started singing just as Laura did and, if I’m not mistaken was singing opera publicly at that age of 14 also. Why did everyone not bust on Andrea. He seems to still be pretty successful, unless I’m mistaken. Is there a difference in male and female opera voices. I’m in the medical field and can find no research that says men can start singing earlier than women without injuring their vocal cords. As I said earlier, we are not assured of anything in this life. At fourteen she’s physically an adult and mentally she seems wise beyond her years. We need to simply enjoy this amazing talent and look forward to a career that may equal Bocelli’s. Remember, Bocelli does both classical and pop music. I think Laura will eventually move in this direction but, personally, I’d love to see her sing opera.

  • Eva says:

    All these comments (and the letter and article from the teachers) talking about the way she’s pushing her voice or whatever and the way she breathes, she’s not Florence Foster Jenkins! By what I’ve read, if she doesn’t have much training, then yes, she should have more training. I’m not a trained singer, but I am a musician, and I’ve heard recordings of some of the greats, and I can say that Laura does sound like she’s forcing her voice out like some of the others have said. However, she obviously can sing, and with the proper training, may very well be another Opera great in the future. I think the main point is it takes time to develop a full voice and the right technique , especially when it comes to Opera.

  • Mark says:

    Dear Mrs Mozart.

    We listened with rapt attention as your darling young 14-year-old son, Amadeus, played his way through that wonderful piano concerto in front of the huge and wildly appreciative crowd at the concert hall, and we want to compliment you on his fine performance, which was well beyond his years in maturity and excellence.

    However we also want to caution you against over-stressing the boy by allowing him to move too quickly into a field for which he is obviously ill-prepared and which may cause him mental stress and long-term problems with dexterity.

    As I am sure you know, a 14-year old boy’s fingers are not fully matured to where they can stretch between the distant keys required of this particular concerto. Amadeus’s attempts to stretch his fingers that far will causes him to permanently and irreversibly suffer from farfignugen, which is a distressing of the pinky meta-tarsel bone.

    Therefore, Mrs Mozart, we recommend you re-focus Amadeus out of the classical music arena for at least 20 years and into more conventional musical areas, such as perhaps the circus, until such time as his pinky fully matures and he has time to fully develop the correct classical piano technique, if he should desire to do so, that is. It’s in his own best interest, trust me. No composing either.

    In the meantime please leave the public piano concerts and the accolades of the music-going public to the professionals who know what they are doing, like me. By the way I’m available to perform next Friday night.

    Sigmund Schwarz, Piano Coach #4, Salzburg, Austria

    • A Classical Voice Father says:

      You really are showing remarkable ignorance of the subject being discussed and of the inherent dangers to the vocal chords of young singers if not properly trained and matured.

      No one is saying that she does not have a beautiful voice and a potentially huge future. But she needs to be trained and nurtured in a way that protects this instrument for the long term. There is a reason professional voice teachers will not touch a female voice until they are at least 14 years old, and that most Opera singers do not have a career until they are in their late 20s: the voice is just not ready.

      I watched her performance Tuesday and while it sounded beautiful, you could hear the strain on her vocal chords. And I also cringed when she was introduced as a “14 year old Opera singer.” No, she is a 14 year old singing opera, not an opera singer. If she were a true trained opera singer, she would not have had a microphone.

      All that being said, what she definitely has is the ability to convey emotion through her body and body actions (the acting component). This is lacking in many, many voice students and is not something easily trained. You either have it or you do not. With the proper training, and if she still has the desire, the sky can be the limit for her.

    • ab4qc says:

      You have to be kidding, right? No one in purpose could possibly reach such level of stupidity; you remind me of someone whose name escapes me right now, but with similar skills to yours currently running for president… If it was intended as a joke, it was hilarious.

    • Nisi Dot says:

      Exactly…love the Mozart analogy.

  • Joel Koch says:

    Looked again, and the first of the songs she has posted on the internet were when she was seven years old! Yup, in one of her earliest songs, she sounds great, except for a lack of “maturity.” By the time she was ten, the songs are “OMG,” is that possible? Folks, all I can tell you is that her voice does wonderful things to my soul, and I could care less whether you call it “opera,” folk songs, or whatever.

    Dad gave me a cruisers axe when I was seven. Told me to be careful with it. Cut myself with it one time, on the ankle. Still use it many days a year, when cutting firewood, even after 67 years. It is on its fourth handle. Betcha Laura is careful with her voice, too, and never has to replace it!

  • Sigmund Schwarz in Austria says:

    Everyone agrees a 14-year old needs to be protected from damaging her voice by stressing it before she’s prepared. Non-experts like me can easily agree on that and lots of other non-experts in this blog have already done so too.

    But the topic of this blog is “Why Laura Bretan is a worry for opera singers” and not “Let’s all protect Laura from vocal harm”.

    Opera attendance seems to be declining annually, whether from a lack of new works or maybe competing sources of entertainment or whatever. Efforts to raise revenue by increasing ticket prices have backfired in some cities and accelerated the decline in attendance. It’s obviously an expensive art-form requiring years of prep to produce a very few standouts with a short shelf-life, in a world where the audience seems to be declining.

    While I’m no expert, there doesn’t appear to be a current champion in the female operatic ranks (male either) who creates huge sales and draws in new crowds, or especially that energizes the the young crowds, or sells lots of recordings. Am I right?

    Along comes a 14-years old with an operatic-style voice that causes 3,000 mostly young people to bolt to their feet and scream with delight after a 1-minute aria. And that ovation is rewarded with the blog: “Why Laura Bretan is a worry for opera singers”.

    This blog should be entitled “Why the lack of someone like Laura Bretan has been a worry for opera singers for years – but now that she’s arrived let’s protect her and nurture her”.

    Isn’t there a role for a kid like this? Maybe 1 show per week with a part lasting 1 minute total? Maybe parts where she sings for 10 sec per hour? Things she can reasonably be expected to do while maturing? A re-write of some opera for a child-star but with a vastly reduced female part? Wasn’t Madam Butterfly supposed to be a 15 year old girl?

    Since you’re a classical voice father you’re going to be very concerned about the health and welfare of young singers everywhere and that’s really great, but maybe a little less observant of the drive toward the extinction of this art form, and with perhaps the slightest hint of jealousy.

    The rising water level raises all boats and in this case, the audience is the water level. Kids with voices like this seem to have the potential to raise the water level.

  • Shesh says:

    It is strange that some people think she is straining her voice. Actually the point which is irking a lot of people is that she’s doing this so effortlessly. If she was really straining, she would not be able to compete and speak the next day. She has been singing like this probably for close to a decade. Also, Opera is not Metalcore…just chill, and manage the nodes of 8yr olds just beginning to sing “classical”.

  • Guy Moorman says:

    Sadly, it seems that the American public does not enjoy her voice as much as many do. She only stayed on AGT to finals because of 3 to 1 judges choice. The acts that remained on the stage with her absolutely lack her talent but the fact that Susan Boyle came in second on Britain’s Got Talent to an animal act proves that allowing the public to vote does not give us a true view of talent.

  • Bozena Saint Germain says:

    Dear Claudia,

    If you wish to change the world with the Higher Wisdom as you state on your website, then please do not criticize Laura Bretan and/or anyone. God gave Laura an amazing Voice and a beautiful Heart. She does not mimic anyone, she sings with all her Heart and Soul. She is being herself, a beautiful Angel of Love. Don’t you see Laura’s innocence, gentleness, Unconditional Love, authenticity shining through her entire Being?

    Please speak only words of Unconditional Love, Higher Wisdom, encouragement, empowerment, appreciation and beauty to and about others, in this case about Laura and the Youth. Your criticism comes from your high ego.

    Laura Bretan will soon revolutionize the entire old fashioned and so uptight Opera world so the Opera once again can speak to the Hearts and Souls of the young audience. Laura Bretan and Amira Willighagen are the Catalysts of this very much needed and long awaited change.

    Thank you Laura and Amira for having the natural inner strength to turn Opera world up side down and bring it to its true and original power. We love you both, Beautiful Angels of Love.

    Sincerely and with Love,

    Bozena

  • Sal says:

    It happened to Charllotte Church.

  • Guy W Moorman says:

    Sure Bocelli is a crossover but so is Brightman. Does that preclude them from being extremely talented opera singers. Most opera singers who are known to the general public are crossovers who do both. I hope Laura Bretan becomes a crossover so she will be more widely appreciated. The vote on AGT shows that the US general public has no feelings for opera and it is a small segment of our population that appreciates a voice like Laura’s…sad but true. Obviously the panel of judges, except Mandel, appreciate the talent this young woman presents with.

  • Sal says:

    They are not opera singers. They use different techniques from opera singers and they use magnification and other enhancing techniques, live and in the studio.

  • Bel Canto says:

    Here’s the thing:

    Fledgling ballerinas are not encouraged to go “en pointe” before their bodies are ready.

    Singing operatically is a very similar physical and artistic undertaking.

    Everyone on here can deride the educated and/or trained musicians and singers, but this is a fact.

    Yes, a little girl can open her mouth and aim to create a lush, dark, “hooty” sound–as if she’s a big ol’ dramatic soprano–but vocally (psychologically?), it’s not good for her in the long run.

    Period.

    No one’s jealous. No one’s trying to be cruel.

    Just as a 7-year old would wobble “en pointe” and would almost certainly do damage to her bones, muscles and tendons, a 7-year old trying to sustain an operatic sound over the longterm will create vocal/muscular issues for herself.

    And as Sal wrote above, AGT is absolutely using magnification and enhancing techniques, via sound engineering.

    It is very much a “smoke and mirrors” act.

    I’m not saying Laura Bretan isn’t musical to whatever degree, or musically and vocally talented to whatever degree, but she is not some operatic vocal prodigy.

    Because it’s far too soon to determine that, folks. Accept it.

  • Joel A Koch says:

    Have listened to more than 100 songs with her demonstrating her ability, which has continually improved, starting around age 7. I must say, Bel Canto, you are full of sh**. No magnification on most all of those, no smoke, and no mirrors. Just plain wonderful singing. Her recent work with the Choir in Romania is superlative, IMHO.

    Put another way, some of her work is so good, I cry. Some of the other current AGT singers’ work is so bad, I cry for the other reason.

    Yes, I appreciate that we all have our own likes and dislikes. Have had over 70 years practice; know what I like, and the singing of Laura Bretan is among those I really like.

  • Don says:

    “The acts that remained on the stage with her absolutely lack her talent”

    What a risibly myopic opinion, Guy. I’m glad she didn’t make it into the top 5. Even on the night of the finale her technique was obviously outclassed by the professional opera singers on the stage with her.

    • Guy W Moorman says:

      Myopic am I? Wow, you truly think that this young woman did not deserve to be int he top five on AGT? I thought she held her own with the three professional crossover singers. I am truly concerned with the validity of your opinion if you did not. These men were pure professionals and even IF she had not held her own but continued with whatever level of skill you seem to think she exhibits, she was magnificent for a 14 year old. She may have the best and most powerful voice of all of the teenage wonders that we have seen on the talent shows in the past several years, including Evancho and Willinghagen. She is going nowhere but up and she will be soon signed by a major producer/director. She at the very least was third most talented and if we dump the emotions, she was at the very least second. America is simply not ready to vote for someone in the purest classical sense on these talent shows. America will appreciate her when she is put out there with the best composers and producers. Watch.

    • whocares says:

      The trio are not opera singers (Spinto tenor + Lyric Tenor + Lyric Baritone)

  • Toodalool says:

    If jealousy was illegal the person who wrote this article would be serving a life sentence in prison.Laura is a natural born professional opera singer. Means she can do more then what the old hags had to do back then when they had to train so hard and strain. All singers strain. This girl has already learned better control, and will also learn how to take care of her voice. It doesn’t take 10-15 years of training anymore douchebags. Laura has brought out a better way to bring culture to a new and old generation. I’m pretty sure can also sing without a mic because she is a dramatic soprano. She can dance circles around the jealous hags and make tons of money unlike these fake broads who have perverted the music industry because you think thats what you have to do to get a part these days is by parting your butt cheeks. Keep playing with your peepee’s and vags and you’ll never get anywhere with your talent. I love Laura Bretan she is god sent.

    • DadOfAVoiceStudent says:

      Let me respond to this, point by point:

      “f jealousy was illegal the person who wrote this article would be serving a life sentence in prison.”

      Could/would you please point out exactly in this article where there is any jealousy in this article? This is about helping people understand that while she has a beautiful voice, it is way to young for her, physiologically, to even be trying to sing some of the pieces she is attempting to sing. Untrained ears do not hear what the trained ear does.

      “Laura is a natural born professional opera singer.”

      She is gifted from birth with a beautiful voice that sings operatic songs. She is not an Opera singer. There is no way her young voice and vocal chords could sustain for an entire opera performance. It is very different than singing a song one off. She is not a born professional. Nobody is born a professional.

      “Means she can do more then what the old hags had to do back then when they had to train so hard and strain.”

      There is much more to being a professional than just being able to sing. Has she had intensive music theory training? (She may have, I do not know). Can she sing in multiple languages (Italian, French, Spanish, German, etc?) AND know what she is singing, including the context? Has she had acting and dancing training? etc etc.

      My child studies under a renowned Opera star (3 decades with the Met) who is old in years, but has so much wisdom and knowledge in her head than anyone else, including Ms. Brettan. And I guarantee you Ms. Brettan could not hold the shoes of her or any of her classmates vocally at this stage of her life. I will say that Ms. Brettan IS able to show emotion while singing than many of them.

      “All singers strain.”

      Not all the time if they are trained properly. She sang a song a couple of weeks ago that I cringed at every time her voice cracked and she took breaths at the wrong places. I am not a singer and could hear it. Yes all singers go through this and strain is minimized through proper breathing and vocal techniques. And I am sure she will get there, but she is not there yet.

      ” This girl has already learned better control, and will also learn how to take care of her voice.”

      Yes I am sure she will, but again she is not there yet. She just needs to make sure she has teachers who understand vocal health and make that commitment.

      “It doesn’t take 10-15 years of training anymore”

      Yes it does because training includes PROPER development of the voice as the vocal chords grow and develop. They are not fully cooked until an Opera singer is in their twenties (which a couple of exceptions). She may be a Soprano now, but after her voice changes she may be a Mezzo.

      “douchebags”

      Really do not know what to say about this one. Really?

      “Laura has brought out a better way to bring culture to a new and old generation.”

      Any more than Charlotte Church did? Where is she now with her damaged vocal chords and Opera no more popular than it was after she started singing?

      ” I’m pretty sure can also sing without a mic because she is a dramatic soprano.”

      I can sing (not well) without a mic too, as I am sure you can. But can she fill an Opera hall with her voice? It is a fairly safe bet to say “no, she can’t.” It has nothing to do with her natural born singing ability, but it is just not possible physiologically.

      “She can dance circles…”

      What do you base this statement on? How much dancing have you seen in her performances?

      “…around the jealous hags ”

      Again where is the jealousy? I have found that singers at this level, while competing with each other for roles, are also very supportive of other singers. They also want to nourish young talent so that the art can continue and flourish. This is a bad thing why?

      “…and make tons of money unlike these fake broads who have perverted the music industry because you think thats what you have to do to get a part these days is by parting your butt cheeks.”

      Again, what is your expertise for you to make a statement like this? Any arts program has standards, quirks, and hierarchies. Figure skating comes to mind.

      “Keep playing with your peepee’s and vags and you’ll never get anywhere with your talent.”

      What does this mean?

      “I love Laura Bretan…”

      I hope you mean her talent. Otherwise this sounds a wee bit creepy.

      “…she is god sent. ”

      I hate to break the news to you, but every human being is God sent. She has a raw talent, no one is saying she doesn’t. I hope she continues her passion, and if she does she may have the keys to any vocal performance program in a country. Unless of course these “old hags” you demean in a douchebag manner conspire against her.

      – See more at: https://slippedisc.com/2016/06/why-lara-bretan-is-a-worry-for-opera-singers/#sthash.1LSYlWsA.dpuf

  • Lauren says:

    I agree on the fact that her technique is not healthy and that what she is doing in general is not healthy. If she continues to sing heavy repertoire like Puccini often, yes, she has a very high chance of damaging her voice. Hopefully not forever. (For those who continuously bring up Jackie Evancho, I’ll have you know that she has always done classical crossover and now she is doing pop. Singing two famous songs from operas does not make one an “opera singer”. Anyway the term “opera singer” shouldn’t exist anyway, because opera is not a style of music- it’s a theatrical art form.)

    Yes, I agree that her Italian pronunciation was all over the place. The vibrato was produced by the trembling tongue and jaw and her “strong” sound was produced by pumping a lot of air through, ruining the legato lines of Puccini and potentially her vocal chords.

    Also, I agree that a young girl at the age of 14 should not be singing about begging her father to marry a man and threatening to throw herself over the Ponte Vecchio.

    However, this girl is free to do whatever she wants with her voice and with her life. I’m sure she and her parents are well aware of the long-term effects of singing like this, but most like to take advantage of their childhood and become famous and renown then. When you’re young, that’s the best time to go out there if your goal is to be famous.

    Even if professionals know about the long-term effects and post it online or anywhere else, this girl is still going to be popular and praised by the layman. That’s essentially her goal, because the laymen do make up the majority of the audience base. After all, it’s all these popular acts that make more money than a qualified classical singer who has trained all her life. It’s a fast and easy shortcut and if Laura Bretan wants to take her route, just let her do so.

    Many children, whether in Broadway, in the Pop industry or whatsoever are already damaging their voice by heavily belting. However no controversy is being brought up about them. The controversy only arises when a young girl sings classical, because it’s something more uncommon. All these children are damaging their voices, and we have already accepted it in the pop and Broadway world. Now in the classical word, I think it’s time we accepted it too. They enjoy doing it, and so just let them ride this wave of fame and adventure out. I don’t think any of them actually plan on having a career with opera companies, singing, acting and dancing in opera houses, anyway. Most of them, there goal is to be famous, maybe release some albums and hold their own concerts. And the like.

    And about her singing age-inappropriate songs, we see 9 year-old girls singing pop songs about sex and no one really minds. Of course, this is wrong, but the point is that singing O Mio Babbino Caro isn’t any different. Therefore I do not understand why it is such a fuss.

    Despite everything I have said, though, her voice does sound wonderful and I do not wish to sound like an opera snob. I am trying to be open-minded and please remember that this is just my personal opinion. You may agree, and you may not. But I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I hope I have not offended anyone in the process either.

    • Richard says:

      Are you willing to help her get the training you so desire that she have (or do you)? I see a talent like Maria Callas (who also began quite young), and with the proper support she will have a career matching or exceeding that of the great Callas.

  • Sal says:

    The main issue surrounding this girl is money by all involved. Making money quickly. The samething happened to Charlotte Church.

  • Derek Bampton,RSM says:

    Opinions are just that..opinions. In Vienna,we say that you don’t teach
    a fish how to swim.Most in the arts need years and years of study,
    and hopefully maturity…..then come the rare exceptions…….eg
    eleven year old Martha Argerich playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto
    so incredibly that Peron was persuaded to send her and her Mother
    to Vienna to study with Bruno Seidelhofer…..I was at her debut in
    Vienna when she was 17…no better or worse than at 11…but a much
    greater repertiore…eleven year old Yehudi Menuhin making his New
    York sensational debut withBeethoven’s Violin Concerto (how dare he,
    he’s only eleven….and the scandalous teenager Maria Callas,
    singing Beethoven’s Fidelio,eine schande! Lack of respect……
    and let’s not forget the twenty four year old baritone who had the
    unmitigated nerve to sing the world premiere of Don Giovanni,
    in the role of the Don,with Mozart at the helm! What cheek.
    At dinner in Vienna,with Hans Hotter at my side,he asked with
    whom I was studying….solo piano with Grete Hinterhofer,and
    vocal coaching with Kammersaenger Hans Duhan.Just one week
    earlier,he and his friend Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau ruminated on
    who they considered the greatest German lieder singer and both
    agreed it was Prof Duhan.Duhan explained that there were great
    voices with impeccable technique,but never moved one to tears.
    Laura Bretan had me weeping in spite of myself,and that has
    happened very seldom (regretfully.)I saw Callas’s Tosca in Paris,
    and since then have not watched it,although good singers have
    it in their repertoire.But they are not Callas,who I met because
    of her good friend,and mine also,Raffaello de Banfield.His opera
    “Lord Byron’s Love Letter” with text from Tennesee Williams,
    moved her so much,that she commissoned Raffaello to write
    an opera for her.Tennessee said that his play “Orpheus descending”
    was not a New York success,but would be a great vehicle for Callas,
    also because she sang no 20th Century works.He wrote me from
    Trieste that the overture and first act were finished.Then came the
    news from Tennessee that he had sold the film rights to Warner Bros
    for starring Anna Magnani and Marlon Brando,but in small print
    at the end of the contract was stated “no musical or parodied
    version permitted for the next fifty years.” It might interest both
    Laura and the various voice experts (whose names are new to me)
    that the legendary Lotte Lehmann was turned down by a couple
    of voice experts in Germany (we call them Tausend mal weise)
    when she was already an adult! And the wonderful Renee Fleming
    was reduced to tears in Germany when she attended a seminar
    with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf,who was less than complimentary.
    so,suma summaran,give me imperfection with tears,and perfection
    lacking tears not at all…….which is only the mechanics of perfection,
    because the inability to move one deeply is taking up time.
    Laura

  • christian lagerek says:

    Oh its a lot of sour grapes here. There is a vast difference between the real opera world and opera.
    Going back to Mario Lanza whos vocal abillities was extraordinary but he did chose to entertain rather then The Met or La Scala. Both Björling and Pavarotti hailed him as one of the greatest voices ever BUT he was never sort of accepted by the Operas so called ” in-crowd” who thought it being cheap to make films etc.
    Even a young Maria Callas had in spite of her fenomenal voice to work extremely hard to get accepted by the so called experts, she broke the classical rules and yet she is regarded as probably the greatest female opera singer of all time. and like Laura, small and tiny.
    Laura Brtean is totally unique, she sings from the heart and she is at 14 years old a vocal miracle regardless of where she demonstrates this, weather its at the stage of a talent show or an opera house. Who cares? as long as we can listen to her when she is 20 etc, etc. She can only get better.
    Also you can’t just walk in and say hey! Im an opera singer and thats that so what better opportunity then to demonstrate your abillity on a celebrated talent show?

    That girl is a phenomena. Period. So lets enjoy instead.

  • Richard says:

    For every posting I see comments that suggest that she has problems with certain parts of her voice. No where do I read someone offering to help to teach her and bring her talents to fruition. To my knowledge shes has NO TRAINING, how about volunteering to train a great natural talent instead of telling us what a untrained THIRTEEN YEAR OLD girl isn’t doing right. Afraid of a little competition maybe?

  • Ces says:

    She didn’t audition for Carnegie Hall. This is a very petty post, for a very talented singer. She might not sing “by the book” but the lady sings, there’s no mistaking it. If she tires out her voice from not doing the “proper” way expected that’s an issue SHE herself will have to deal with. HOWEVER, she won Romania’s Got Talent and it certainly wasn’t due to a Carnegie Hall Vocalist. I’m not aware if she has EVER been professionally trained or not, if not that’s AMAZING! Furthermore, some people are born with natural talent and blog posts like this one just looks pretentious and like a cry of flat out jealousy. She wasn’t auditioning for Puccini, she didn’t pretend she was professionally trained she simply went on a TV show to broadcast her talent to the world.

  • Veronica says:

    Read this entire commentary after watching a You Tube video of this talented young girl. I hope she gets the training she needs and is successful in all her singing endeavors . . . but WOW, the comments on this site are simply a “pissing contest” among music/opera snobs who think they are the “last word” in how a talent should be trained. If I had a child or grandchild with talent I would not want them to fall into the hands of some of the so-called “teachers/trainers” I have read in these posts!!

  • Dan says:

    Hi all, maybe the opera is on its death bed because all of you pompous , know it all , self apointed judges of talent , which great singer ,did Mrs Claudia Friedland help with her knowledge of music , to become an opera superstar? Here comes a humble , amazing little girl trying her best , pouring her heart and soul out through her singing and achieving what many of you , only dreamed of, that is , bringing everyone regardless of their status or standing in life to love and enjoy opera , A teacher , a real one , is a mentor , it is a pillar of strength for his pupil a role model to be followed , and trusted, the so called concern of all of you for Laura’s voice is fake , it is blatant criticism and your jealousy cannot be disguised .would you like to help her?? Meet her, nourish her ,cherish her giver advice , tutor her, embrace her, love her , guide her on the path of her destiny , blogs , twitter Facebook Instagram it is easy to hide behind a laptop screen and it is very easy to be nasty , and malicious, but it is easier much easier to be kind and gentle .just give her a chance and a helping hand

  • Tudor Anghelina says:

    Look, guys, as a Classical singer in training, I can say that her technique is damaging to her still developing vocal folds.

    I don’t think the author meant to bash Laura. Her singing is touching indeed, but I don’t think some subjective melomaniac is in a position to argue with a professional trained singer and teacher.

    We get it, you loved her performance on the talent show. Good for you, so did we.
    It is a fact that opera singers and musicians in general are very competitive and jealous of each other but this is not the case here since she is an innocent young child and she has a long road before she can steal our bread. Hell, most of us will be retired by then.

    Although her tone is quite consistent and mature, she has a vocal wobble… and vocal wobble is either incorrectly applied technique, and by that I mean pushing too much air through the vocal folds, or vocal fatigue.

    If this kid won’t learn how to use her voice properly with repertoire suited for the voice of her age, she will most likely ruin it and both you, the average untrained in classical singing melomaniacs, and her parents who supported this destructive form of singing for her age, will have to deal with it because you may never hear her sing again.

  • Lugann says:

    Jerry, you’re an idiot!

  • BA Davis says:

    Maybe this information will help all of this childish banter.
    What Really Happens When a Singing Voice Gets Old
    By Justin Davidson

    Where the top notes go. Photo: Christoph Wilhelm/Getty Images
    When a global pop star hits the road — as a conclave of elder rockers will do on October 7 at the Desert Trip festival in Indio, California, a.k.a. Oldchella — truckloads of cables, computers, instruments, lights, and audio gear follow along. But the singer’s most delicate and irreplaceable apparatus is the larynx, the object of immense care and constant torture. Like everything else in the body, that agile apparatus tends to lose its powers over time. Within the throat’s protective enclosure, two supple bands of tissue flutter over an opening the size of a penny like a pair of doll’s-house curtains. But that description doesn’t get across the repeated violence to which humans subject their vocal cords, even humans who don’t sing for a living. Every time a woman speaks, those tough little folds go slamming against each other around 200 times each second. If she’s a soprano and she sings an A above middle C (the note that orchestras tune to), the number of impacts rises to 440 Hz, or 440 impacts each second, so fast the human eye can detect that movement only in slo-mo. Over the course of a singer’s career, millions of collisions can leave the vocal cords scarred and stiff. If you want to get a feeling for what it’s like to sing through that level of damage, try plucking a few notes on an ancient rubber band.

    You can hear that inexorable process play itself out in singers who keep at it long past their prime. In his youth, Paul McCartney produced a wondrously pure schoolboy tenor, with a touch of sandpapery sexiness. At 74, he can still usually hit the high note on “night” in the opening line of “Blackbird,” but the lightness has been scrubbed away, replaced by an uncertain warble. There is almost always a trade-off between agility and age. Singers don’t want to retire, and fans don’t want to lose them, but the price of longevity can be steep. Paul Simon has kept his voice in remarkably good shape, but when he found himself in vocal distress singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the Democratic National Convention in July — a song Art Garfunkel originally sang, in his higher range, though Simon’s been performing it for years — Twitter reacted with a hailstorm of condescension and scorn.

    The voice is the most primal of instruments; it’s also among the most technologically advanced. A piano produces the same sound, in the same way, no matter whether it’s playing “Chopsticks” or a Brahms concerto. But a voice can swoop in milliseconds through a dizzying range of timbres and techniques. The modernist composer Luciano Berio pushed that versatility almost to the breaking point more than 50 years ago in his “Sequenza III,” but even the untrained voice is capable of astonishing acrobatics. Try speaking a short sentence, switching every few syllables from a Don Corleone rasp to a hooting falsetto, then to a nasal honk, finishing on a guttural, drill-sergeant bark. The mechanism responsible for that cartoonish variety — and for the ability to utter a monosyllable in tragic, comic, or ironic mode — rests in a dense bundle of musculature and nerves. “All the vocal muscles would fit into one corner of one facial muscle. Nothing else in the body moves with that precision or speed,” says Steven Zeitels, a Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center laryngeal surgeon and throat doctor to the stars.

    When people sing or speak, the lungs expel a column of air that travels up through the windpipe, where it is obstructed by the vocal cords. “As pressure builds up, it pushes the cords aside and makes them vibrate,” explains Milan Amin, director of the NYU Voice Center. “The sound stops when you run out of air, or when the cords are separated.” If the folds don’t join properly, or if a nodule interferes with their even vibration, then air leaks through. “You’re trying to generate pressure and you can’t,” says Amin. “So you have a breathy, weak voice or you push harder and get tired.” (For more from Dr. Amin about Bob Dylan, see here.)

    It’s not the vocal cords that give a voice its richness, personality, or depth, however. Adele’s brassy beam of sound, Renée Fleming’s iridescent pianissimos, and Tom Waits’s smoke-and-whiskey croak all acquire most of their character after the vibrating air has pushed past the vocal folds and goes swirling around inside the resonating chambers of the head. The size of the tongue, the palate’s curve, the shape of the nose — that whole internal topography changes little over time, which is why you may still recognize an old flame’s voice on the phone even if you haven’t heard it for 40 years.

    Fewer sopranos than baritones keep singing into their sunset years. That may be partly because menopause tends to dry out tissue and deplete collagen, though the science is not firm on this. The proteins elastin and collagen gradually dissipate, thinning the vocal folds and making them less pliable. The cords have a harder time vibrating at high frequencies, so the voice’s default pitch drops. Thinner, more sluggish vocal cords pull even the ordinary speaking voice down a notch or two and reliably cut off the high part of a soprano’s range. Few singers have been able to manage that transition with more aplomb than Barbra Streisand, who (with a little help from some clever arranging and a producer’s light touch on the volume fader) sustains a blazing B natural at the end of “Fifty Percent” in her new album, Encore. Some people battle age with potions and denial; Streisand has deployed a perfectionist’s technique, which allows her to regulate the air that passes through her pampered larynx with unequaled control. Her power lies in her breath, her timing, and the way she doses her energy.

    In every genre and style, some singers defy the years, thanks to wise artistic choices, good training, or plain luck. When Tony Bennett celebrated his 90th birthday with an appearance on The Late Show in August, he sang “This Is All I Ask,” a tune he had first recorded 53 years earlier, and though he strategically let his croon drift into Cabaret-style song-speech from time to time, the pliant warmth remained intact. Bennett’s a baby compared with the Brazilian chanteuse Bibi Ferreira, who at 94 can still rumble with style through “New York, New York” and caress a fado ballad with her husky quasi-baritone.

    Throughout their careers, McCartney, Simon, and Bennett have shared a couple of stylistic advantages: They confined themselves within a relatively narrow range, and they let the microphone supplement intimacy with volume. The same cannot be said of Steven Tyler, the 68-year-old Aerosmith front man who has required surgery to keep his voice in shape. The scratchy holler and crow’s screech that he pioneered in the early 1970s should have left him with a rattling whisper at 40; instead he still surfs over the octaves with the abandon of a dissipated teenager.

    Zeitels, the voice doctor who operated on Tyler, Roger Daltrey, and Adele, has a mantra about the cause of most vocal troubles: “It’s not senescence; it’s use.” Just as athletes can reach middle age hobbled by arthritis and concussions, so singers often hasten the end of their careers by abusing their gifts. Violinists, bassoonists, and ukulele players need to make sure the tools of their trade don’t get banged around or left in the sun, but they can’t generally damage them with too much practice. Singers, on the other hand, are constantly trying to find a balance between training their muscles and blowing them out. When your instrument is housed deep within the body, health and habit can separate singers who flame out early from those whose voices will last.

    Damage can start early. In June, 13-year-old Laura Bretan stunned TV audiences with preternaturally adult renditions of Puccini that sound like they should be emerging from a 35-year-old diva — and voice coaches of the world despaired. “Her sound is created by severe muscle-manipulation tension,” says the noted voice teacher Bill Schuman. What he hears is a talented little girl depressing the back of her tongue and unnaturally stretching her throat to the point that her muscles will never regain their tautness. He predicts that by the time she is 19, her voice will acquire an uncorrectable wobble.

    Cultivating the voice is a lifelong project. Operatic veterans pay regular visits to their teachers, and even for amateurs, a little advice never comes too late. The choral conductor Kent Tritle recalls having to tell a member of the Oratorio Society of New York in her late 80s that her pitch was sagging and maybe it was time to retire. Instead, she went off to work with a vocal coach and returned to the choir a year later. Newly secure, she sang for four more years before she died.

    Good technique and a lifestyle free of smoke, drink, stress, shouting, and desiccating intercontinental travel can help preserve the voice for the long term. That’s a tall order for a rock-and-roll vocalist or an international diva. And even properly trained singers can veer toward disaster. That’s when they call Joan Lader, a voice therapist who starts diagnosing voice problems with a barrage of seemingly unrelated questions: “I try to find out if they have arthritic joints, if they suffer from acid reflux, what their stress level is like, how they’re sleeping, whether they keep themselves properly hydrated, what their diet is like. Then I look to see if their jaw is tense, what their tongue is doing, and how firmly rooted they are on the ground.”

    Talking on the telephone is particularly dangerous, she says. We don’t feel the need to support or project, so we slump and let the air swirl inefficiently around in our throats. Lader interrupts a phone interview to reproach me for speaking in a flat croak. “Your voice isn’t sustainable like that,” she says. “Try leaning forward and dropping your head, then say, ‘Mmmh, yes.’ ” I do as instructed. “That’s better! Now thump your chest a few times and breathe out, then say it again.” I do, and I can instantly feel — and hear — the difference. A three-second voice lesson already had me sounding a tiny bit more stentorian.

    As the vocal cords lose their pliability, singers give up control over the top of their range and the voice tends to drop, finding little zones of persistent elasticity. Lower pitches vibrate more sluggishly and require less air pressure, which is why years of cigarettes have turned Joni Mitchell’s once radiant, gymnastic voice into a rutted grumble. Some singers figure out how to use the vocal version of gravity to their advantage. In the late 1960s, Plácido Domingo emerged as a lyric tenor with a bronzed tone and a killer high B. Over the years, he has forged into heavier dramatic roles like Verdi’s Otello and Siegmund in Wagner’s Die Walküre. While some singers fend off retirement by sticking to the familiar and allowing themselves plenty of rest, the workaholic Domingo plowed relentlessly on. As he entered his 70s and his voice continued to darken, he began a second career as a baritone, adding Verdi’s aging king Nabucco to his repertoire of 137 roles. That move puts him in the company of other senior low-voice singers like Samuel Ramey, James Morris, and the astonishingly powerful septuagenarian Leo Nucci, who as Rigoletto can still snarl and boom with the best of them. The response to Domingo’s switch has not always been enthusiastic — “He’s not a baritone, but rather a tenor without high notes,” the critic James Jorden wrote in the New York Observer last year — but it’s allowed audiences who missed the glory years to enjoy a live taste of that old romantic elegance.

    Singers who keep working long past their prime have dodged a lot of bullets. Broadway baritone Michael Cerveris, who at 55 has hit the sweet spot where sonorousness combines with experience, points out that the theater world’s punishing routine of eight shows a week comes bundled with oscillating doses of stress. Learning a role, doubling up on rehearsals and performances during previews, managing the adrenaline of opening night, impressing voters during the Tony-nominations period, singing a benefit on your only night off, recording a cast album — this ceaseless barrage of worry and obligations can have a toxic effect on the voice. “The whole business aspect is set up and designed to the detriment of the performers,” Cerveris says.

    Because so many shows depend on their stars, singers like Cerveris rarely have the luxury of taking the night off when they feel a cold coming on — or two weeks off when a vocal coach advises rest. “I pretty much have to be bleeding from an open wound not to go onstage. I don’t feel I have to sound perfect every night. If my top notes aren’t ringing out and my voice feels stuffed up, I figure, well, that’s just how my character sounds today.” Singing sick is always a gamble: Swollen vocal cords can get more inflamed, blood vessels can burst, scars can harden, and polyps can be aggravated. But Cerveris has figured out a range of techniques to protect himself: “If certain parts of your vocal cords aren’t meeting properly because they’re inflamed, you can use other parts. If you move the voice forward into your sinus cavities, you’re going to get a more nasal, slightly harsher sound, so you can be equally audible with less work.”

    Time has it in for singers more than for other musicians. Daniel Barenboim began his professional career as a pianist at 7; nearly 70 years later, he still plays and conducts all over the world, on a schedule that would exhaust a decathlete. Singers’ careers start later and end earlier, which means that their voices begin to go just as their wisdom peaks. Sometimes that hardly matters. The German lieder singer Peter Schreier continued to record and perform well into his 60s, confident that though age eroded his timbre, it also deepened his musicianship. Even with some of the color bleached out of his voice, he could still find a shade of sorrow in Schubert that lay just shy of sentimentality.

    The dream of merging long experience with the fresh timbre of youth has prodded Zeitels and other scientists at the Mass General voice center to focus on developing a synthetic biomaterial that might restore elasticity to worn-out vocal cords — first for the voiceless, but eventually, perhaps, for performers. “If we were to succeed, we would ultimately create super-singers,” Zeitels says. That prospect excites and unsettles me. I love the singing voice, with all its personality and imperfections. I imagine, with dismay, a post-surgical future in which young singers can never get their start because companies of ageless voices never go away, like an electronic bell that never fades but just keeps tolling on and on, until one day it stops.

    *This article appears in the October 3, 2016, issue of New York Magazine.

  • Don says:

    Thanks for reposting that article, BA.

    Tonight’s AGT “opera singer” will have classical music fans begging to have Laura Bretan back!

  • Victor says:

    Говоря о феномене этой девочки, мало кто видит главную причину её необычного гениального пения. Мало кто обратил внимание на то, что он пришла на большую сцену не из детского шоу бизнеса и не с улицы, где бы она, как сейчас принято, безвкусно наряжалась, задирала коленки, махала руками и пальцами веером. Она пришла из церковного хора. Она не напрягает свои силы и связки сверх меры, как об этом говорят профессиональные певцы. Она просто поет сердцем. И пока это сердце будет таким же чистым, как сейчас, в ней будет эта сила, и её пение будет таким же восхитительным и превосходным. Если в ней появится азарт, стремление быстро сделать карьеру, если её будут привлекать высокие рейтинги и слава, из её пения исчезнет то, что сейчас всех поражает. Она просто будет хорошо петь. Но и это “хорошо” ей придется “удерживать” многочисленными многочасовыми репетициями. Бог – Он не только Мудрый и Великий, Он ещё обладает совершенным чувством юмора, которое проявляет и таким образом тоже. Он этим примером нам говорит: “А подумайте-ка, друзья мои, как это подросток, совсем юная девочка, может петь как взрослая оперная певица?”…

    Google Translate: Speaking about the phenomenon of this girl, few people see the main reason for her unusual genius singing. Few people noticed that he came to the big stage not from a children’s show of business and not from the street, wherever she was, as usual, dressed up in a tawdry manner, tore her knees, waved her hands and fingers with a fan. She came from a church choir. She does not strain her strengths and ligaments in excess of measure, as professional singers say. She just sings with her heart. And while this heart will be as pure as now, it will have this power, and her singing will be just as delightful and excellent. If there is excitement in it, the desire to quickly make a career, if it attracts high ratings and fame, from her singing, what is now striking is disappearing. She will just sing well. But even this “good” will have to be “restrained” by numerous many-hour rehearsals. God – He is not only Wise and Great, He still has a perfect sense of humor, which manifests and thus also. He is telling us this example: “And think, my friends, how is this teenager, a very young girl, can sing like an adult opera singer?” …

  • Christian Winther says:

    I love her good voice nice person also i like Amira Willhagen from the Netherland both are very very good

  • Skip says:

    In the world of baseball from which I come, there are many examples of players who took new players ‘under their wings’ and helped them develop, even where the new player obviously was destined to replace the older player. Examples are Frankie Crosetti training Phil Rizzuto; Joe Girardi breaking in Jorge Posada; Lou Gherig training Joe Dimaggio. Where is the camaraderie among Opera Singers? I love that little girl’s voice and believe with some professional training she will develop to be another Maria Callas, Birgit Nilsson, or Joan Sutherland, who knows? Don’t knock her, help her!

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