When a 10-year-old singer belted out a Puccini aria with the polished voice of someone thrice her age on Tuesday night’s episode of America’s Got Talent, the “next Susan Boyle!” superlatives flowed across the mediascape. But so did the question: Is Jackie Evancho for real?
The precocious soprano, a Pittsburgh-area fourth-grader who auditioned for the NBC show with a YouTube video, wowed the panel with a live performance of O Mio Babbino Caro. But a video clip appears to show that her lips are ever-so-slightly out of sync with the audio.
Fremantle, the company that produces AGT and Fox’s American Idol, makes contestants available only to local media. But “there was no lip-syncing,” says producer Jason Raff. During rehearsals, “the whole crew was saying it looked like she’s lip-syncing,” he says. “And on the close-ups, her mouth is moving a different way than the sound coming out. It is weird, but it’s just how she sings.”
The voters embraced her happily: On Wednesday’s results show, Evancho advanced to the semifinals.
Further testimony to her true talent comes from her track record: Her self-released EP, Prelude to a Dream, has sold around the world, and she has performed with David Foster, sung the national anthem at the Pittsburgh Pirates home opener and appeared on PBS.
“She is just truly blessed with a voice that’s phenomenal,” says classical-crossover composer/conductor Tim Janis, who is including Evancho in his American Christmas Carol show (Dec. 2) at Carnegie Hall.
A film producer had alerted Janis to Evancho two years ago, and he put her in one of his Celebrate America specials for the Pittsburgh public television station WQED. “Jackie just stood out and shined,” he says. Her voice “totally captivated me and sent me to a place that was uplifting and inspiring.”
Even if listeners don’t know that it’s a child singing, “the voice stands on its own. It’s a big sound that fills the room.”
The reaction recalls the Cinderella story of Boyle, who became an Internet sensation after her Britain’s Got Talent appearance and went on to record an album that has sold 9 million copies worldwide.
Evancho trains with at least two vocal coaches, which is essential at her age “to make sure you don’t abuse the gift,” Janis says. “A young vocalist is in the process of developing those muscles, and you don’t overdo it.”
He won’t speculate whether Evancho, who sings both pop and classical, will choose one specialty. “She has a rare gift to speak to many hearts. In my mind, the classical setting is a really nice match for her voice. But someone who doesn’t follow that genre can still appreciate the beauty.
“Whatever she picks, she will do well.”