Posted by: operatheaterink | September 14, 2010

Kid Singing Sensations – But Are They?, Sept. 14, 2010

It Takes Time to Bloom.

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

Every time I turn around, I hear about a new young singing sensation. There was Aria Tesolin of Canada who first performed when she was 8. The following year she was singing “Vissi d’arte,” which she duplicated on her first CD — “Baby Soprano.” But mind you, she didn’t stick to her Fach. She was also singing “La donna è mobile,” “Nessun dorma” and “Una furtiva lagrima.”

Tesolin is 16 years old now. Her website calls her a “Song Enchantress” and she is described as a “contemporary soloist with soprano overtones.” So much for the opera career. I wish her well.

Then a friend of mine sent me a link to Mark Vincent’s video. Vincent won Australia’s Got Talent in 2009 at the age of 15. His “Nessun dorma” was impressive, but his voice is caught somewhere between baritone and tenor. He ought to study more before being cast in the limelight. I mean what is the rush?

And now there is the angelic Jackie Evancho from Pittsburgh. Her claim to fame is her rendition of “O mio babbino caro” on America’s Got Talent in August. A light lyric soprano, Evancho is polished and mature beyond her 10 years. She reminds me of a young Deanna Durbin-type. If this were the old Hollywood, she’d be snapped up with a contract tomorrow and we’d be watching and hearing her nonstop. She’d be Hollywood’s little sweetheart. I miss the old musicals. Maybe it’s time for a resurgence.

As for Jackie’s hopes of a career in opera, the competition is fierce and many lyric sopranos would like a place in the sun. It is far too early to determine Evancho’s future in opera. Her voice hasn’t developed yet, and she could find herself burned out without proper training. Again, what’s the hurry?

YouTube, TV contests and Reality TV have given parents the impetus to seek instant fame for their youngsters.

Another such child is 9-year-old Oliver Richman, who doesn’t sing opera, but has a new, expensively produced slick video out that will rock your socks off. His “Defying Gravity” defies gravity.

It is totally impossible to determine how this youngster’s voice will mature. One thing is evident, though: He has musical talent, seems to comprehend what he is singing before he probably should, and already displays keen phrasing and rhythm. But if you go back a year and watch him sing the national anthem on his website at OliverRichman.com or on YouTube, you realize that he is just a little boy, that technology can do amazing things, and that maybe his “Defying Gravity” will catch up with him by the time he’s 10.

All of these children have talent. But as a former teacher and counselor, I question their parents’ motivations. Many of these children may find fame, but their careers may fizzle; they may have missed out on a normal childhood; and the rest of their lives could become a slow-moving dénouement.

On the other hand, I would like to name a few great talents who are doing everything the right way.

Tenor David Lomelí was 25 years old when he was the first-prize winner of Plácido Domingo’s 2006 Operalia contest, which is not like a television talent show with judges who know nothing about classical voice. Serious competitions exist for young opera singers with world-renowned opera legends as judges. The BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition brought Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Bryn Terfel instant recognition. The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is another example. There are many such competitions, and Lomelí has placed in some of the best: the Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition, the Montserrat Caballé International Singing Competition, the José Iturbi International Music Competition, the Loren L. Zachary Society competition, and the Nicolas Urcelay National Tenor Competition.

I first heard David (pronounced Da-veed with the accent on the second syllable) when he was an artist in Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program. While hearing him sing in a small rehearsal hall during a master class in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, there were moments when I thought I was hearing Björling.

David has also participated in San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Opera and Adler Fellowship programs.

He hasn’t hit the big time yet like the youngsters have. He is learning his craft from the bottom up, being nurtured and mentored by the professionals who know how to lead him, and is beginning to sing the major roles now, although he still sings comprimarios and often acts as a cover (understudy). He has performed with smaller companies and is working his way up, gaining the requisite experience he needs to be successful. This season he is singing the Messenger in San Francisco Opera’s “Aida” and is a cover in the company’s “Werther.” He is singing Edgardo in Pittsburgh Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” Alfredo in Deutsche Oper Berlin’s “La Traviata,” Nemorino in New York City Opera’s “L’elisir d’amore,” and Rodolfo in Santa Fe Opera’s “La bohème.” He has the best representation in the business and is personable and appreciative of his mentors and audiences. David is a great, great talent and is doing everything the right way to secure a longlasting, distinguished career in opera.

Soprano Angel Joy Blue, another former participant in Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, is also a gigantic talent. With a master’s degree in opera performance from UCLA, she has always had her feet on the ground, has studied with the best vocal teachers and coaches in opera, and is on the road to success. Please see www.AngelJoyBlue.com.

I will never forget when I heard Angel sing Antonín Dvořák’s “Song to the Moon” in UCLA’s Royce Hall a couple of years ago. Her sound was glorious; her stage presence, arresting. This season she is the cover for Countess Almaviva in Los Angeles Opera’s “Le nozze di Figaro” and for Manon at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain. In October, she will be a soloist with the American Youth Symphony in Royce Hall. She will be the Female Chorus in Benjamin Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia” at the Theater an der Wien in February, and will perform Verdi in Paris in March.

Other incredibly talented alumni of the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program include mezzo-soprano Ronnita Nicole Miller and baritone José Adán Pérez. Pérez, a seasoned singer-actor, will sing Belcore in New York City Opera’s “L’elisir d’amore”; and Miller, with her voluptuous Wagnerian sound, will sing Erda and the First Norn in San Francisco Opera’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen.”

These young people are doing it the right way.

I sincerely hope that parents who are blessed to have gifted, talented, musical children will read this commentary and will subscribe to Classical Singer magazine before they enter their children in television contests that they think will give their small protégés instant fame. I hope that the aspiring protégés will read this article as well — to better understand the pathway they should take if a career in opera is their goal.

I am a bit more lenient regarding youngsters who show promise in the popular music or acting fields, although I believe that all children should grow up normally with normal friends and should spend their childhoods learning and perfecting their talents outside the public eye in their schools, churches and synagogues, and by performing in recitals.

For those who have dreams of becoming opera singers, participating in and even winning these amateur television contests could prove detrimental to your progress. Becoming a teen idol might seem glamorous at the onset, but without proper guidance and preparation, that stardom could soon fade away.


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