From Jackie Evancho’s first few notes, the “America’s Got Talent” audience starts to go wild.
At first glance, Evancho looks like a simple, Ivory-Soap-ad version of a little girl, with her blond hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks. Then she opens her mouth to sing and, the first time you hear her, you nearly fall out of your chair. Her uncannily mature-sounding soprano voice is expressive, rich, thrilling.
“You are like an angel from another planet,” said judge Howie Mandel “We have got, in you, a superstar,” said the other judge, what’s-his-name. “Your life will never be the same again,” intoned the third judge Sharon Osbourne, somehow managing to make it sound like the curse the evil witch puts on the infant Sleeping Beauty.
Many fans are over the moon about Miss Evancho, calling her singing angelic, a heavenly gift in a stressed-out time.
Other observers worry. Message board commenters fret that she’s losing out on her childhood. Singing teachers fear she may be doing damage to her “vocal folds.” Music mavens point to the Welsh singer Charlotte Church, who in 1997 was an 11-year-old opera-singing sensation (name of debut album: "Voice of an Angel"). Church's first few albums made her really rich, but many say her voice has been ruined.
Some of us, hearing the words “child singing sensation,” can only think, “Michael Jackson.” His performing certainly brought joy to his fans, but the whole superstar thing didn’t work out too well for him personally.
We seek in vain for a happy precedent. Did you ever see clips of a young Judy Garland? She knocked moviegoers’ socks off with her rendition of “You Made Me Love You” (sung to a photograph of Clark Gable) in 1938’s Broadway Melody. She was 15, and by then already on a roller coaster of amphetamines and barbiturates, according to biographers.
It’s also not reassuring to remember that Britney Spears was, in 1992, a 10-year-old singing sensation on the "America’s Got Talent" of the day, “Star Search.”
Fame and fortune, and the pressure they bring, can be brutal for child stars. We’ve read the story a thousand times. So what should Jackie Evancho’s parents do? Should they rein her in, keep her under wraps and living a “normal” life until she’s more mature?
My strictly un-insider surmise is that her parents may not have much of a choice, really. They’ve got a tiger by the tail. Watch the child's passion as she sings. Look at her glow with joy in her pretty party dresses as the crowd cheers and cheers. She’s not, of course, an angel, but she does seem to have the divine spark of the born performer.
This is a talent that will not be denied, even if her parents wanted to. So I think we'll be seeing quite a bit more of Jackie Evancho.
Let's hope her parents are a lot wiser than many who have walked this road before them. Because success for this "angel" will probably, alas, prove to be a mixed blessing.