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'AGT' phenom Jackie Evancho to perform with BSO

MusicCultureAmerica's Got Talent (tv program)The Company You Keep (movie)Jackie Evancho

In 2010, a blond-haired girl with a sweet smile stood before the "America's Got Talent" studio audience and millions of TV viewers. The 10-year-old proceeded to sing about asking her daddy to grant her request.

So far, so normal.

But if the words had an appropriately childlike nature, the music was anything but juvenile — it was the aria "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi," ordinarily sung by sopranos who have at the very least reached their late teens, and who have gone through years of operatic training.

Jackie Evancho, who makes her local debut Saturday in a concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, took "America's Got Talent" by storm, delivering the lyrical Puccini aria in Italian and in a voice far more mature than her years would have suggested.

The singer made it to the final round of "America's Got Talent," losing out to Michael Grimm. Losing is a relative term, though.

Evancho became a global sensation, much like Susan Boyle, the awkward Scottish woman who bolted to fame after startling the heck out of everyone on "Britain's Got Talent" in 2009. (Boyle, too, came in second.)

Today at 13, Evancho, her voice even fuller and warmer, is a seasoned performer who can boast multi-city concert tours, four strong-selling albums and numerous TV guest appearances.

Oh, yes, and a blossoming movie career. Her film debut is opposite no less than Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon in "The Company You Keep."

Indications are that early fame has not harmed Evancho. She certainly sounded well-adjusted during a phone interview from her Pittsburgh home.

"I've got the best of both worlds," she said. "I get [to perform] and I still get to be a kid."

Evancho keeps up with seventh-grade school work in between gigs, although her schooling is done online, and she will get at least some summer vacation.

"After a couple concerts in June, I get to take the rest of June and July off," she said.

Last month, Evancho was in Taiwan for a concert with Jose Carreras, the Spanish tenor who, with Placido Domingo and the late Luciano Pavarotti, formed the now legendary "Three Tenors."

A YouTube clip captures Evancho and a frail-looking Carreras collaborating on a soft-grained "Ave Maria" that earns cheers from 30,000 people sitting outdoors in the rain. In a pre-performance news conference, Carreras said that his young colleague had "a beautiful sound, which is not the sound of a girl."

For Evancho, who has sung with the likes of Tony Bennett, the Taiwan experience proved memorable.

"It was an amazing honor to perform with such a legend," she said. Their duet-ing "was really fun and thrilling."

Same for working with another legend, Redford. He happened to see Evancho performing on a PBS fundraiser and thought she would be good for "The Company You Keep," in which he plays a former Weather Underground radical. Evancho has a modest role as his daughter.

The movie newcomer found Redford pleasant and encouraging, but Evancho is not ready to set her sights on Hollywood just yet.

"I'd love to be an actress when I'm older," she said. "But if I had to choose just one [career], I would definitely choose singing. That's my main thing, my passion."

Evancho, whose musical tastes include the English rock band Muse, does not seem fazed by the pressure of performing before large audiences, concert after concert.

"I usually get a little bit nervous before a show," she said, "but once I start to sing, I feel really comfortable."

Since her sudden arrival on the entertainment scene, Evancho has developed a devoted fan base, won over by her confident vocalism and unpretentious manner.

She has also received plenty of feedback, not all of it glowing, from critics, who have been known to question her understanding of the music she sings (especially the classical selections), or to wish for more distinctive touches in her phrasing.

Evancho is well aware of all the unsolicited advice from those professing to know what is best for her, or what she needs to do next.

"It does get annoying at times, but I just ignore it," she said. "Of course, there is always room to improve."

Given that she has sung "O mio babbino caro" many times — it's an inevitable encore at concerts — and has an aria from Handel's opera "Serse" on the program she will sing in Baltimore, has Evancho considered studying for an operatic career someday?

"Not really," she said. "I think what I'm doing now I will continue doing for a long time to come."

tim.smith@baltsun.com

 

If you go

Jackie Evancho sings with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. May 18 at Meyerhoff Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. Tickets are $49.60 to $129.05. Call 410-547-7328 or go to ticketmaster.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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MusicCultureAmerica's Got Talent (tv program)The Company You Keep (movie)Jackie Evancho
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