By now, everyone has heard of Jackie Evancho, the 10 year old operatic product of America’s Got Talent. Howie Mandel recently said that Evancho “…has the voice of a well seasoned star”. Of course, the million dollar question is: Since when has Mandel been qualified to offer an opinion about opera singers? Yes, Evancho has a fabulous voice. However, she still has the voice of a 10 year old child!
I am very impressed by her talent. You can practically see a blinking, neon sign above her head screaming “Potential!” I was, in particular, struck by her fabulous sense of pitch. However, it should be remembered that, right now, Evancho only has potential. Potential should be cultivated, not marketed.
When I was first taking voice lessons, I was tortured by teachers who held me back and told me that I would ruin my voice if I sang anything but Mozart before I turned 35. Needless to say, I ignored their advice at the time and I still do not agree with it. True, some things are harder to sing than others. But, if you are going to ruin your voice, you are going to do it whether you are singing Italian art songs or O Mio Babbino Caro. However, I do not, and never will, support the idea of singers performing professionally before they are vocally, physically, and emotionally mature.
As I have already said, Evancho’s voice is wonderful. However, it cannot even remotely be called mature until she is, at least, past puberty. Also, if she really is serious about Classical and/or Crossover music, she has gone about it in completely the wrong way. One does not start a musical career simply by getting lucky on a talent show where thousands of wanna-be’s perform before judges who are really not qualified to offer an opinion. There are plenty of musical programs that produce well-rounded artists and would accept Evancho in a heartbeat.
The immortal Maria Callas was another operatic child star. Pushed along by her dysfunctional family, she began singing professionally at the age of 15. She quickly began giving more performances than was healthy and ended up destroying her voice while she was still in her 30s.
The moment Evancho stepped out on that stage, she said good-bye to being a normal kid. From now on, everything will depend on her looking pretty, acting grown-up, and being constantly in prime vocal condition. This is simply too much to ask of a 10 year old child. Not only is she risking the possible destruction of her voice, but she may very likely turn into the operatic version of Drew Barrymore.