POSTER: EDITOR, BEST OF JACKIE ON THE WEB
FORUM: BEST OF JACKIE ON THE WEB
DATE: MARCH 16, 2013
[Ed’s note: for her Toronto concert, Jackie attracted an audience of 2,071, which is 87% of the venue’s capacity of 2,376. The concert generated $149,391 in ticket sales.]
On Thursday night this past week I attended Jackie Evancho’s concert at Roy Thomson Hall, in Toronto. It was the second time I had seen Jackie on stage. The first was in Los Angeles last July at the taping of her second PBS concert at the venerable Orpheum Theatre, where Judy Garland started her career.
Jackie’s performance in Toronto on Thursday may well be overlooked when her history is written, not because it was unworthy, but because it will seem to have been unexceptional. The problem is, Jackie has given dozens of concerts in the last couple of years, and all of them have been exceptional.
Exceptional because Jackie is a little girl with marvelous gifts, so her every astonishingly mature performance, her every bewitching rendition of every song she sings, her every confident measured pace of her petite frame across the stage, before thousands of men and women three or four, even five times her age, is, by definition, exceptional. But there are degrees of exceptional.
While Jackie’s least is better than most other artists’ best, among her body of work there will be greater and lesser masterpieces. The Toronto concert is not likely to enter the Jackie Evancho pantheon, but Jackie gave her Toronto audience many wonderful moments and one in particular, her captivating rendition of The Music of the Night.
Torontonians and residents of what locally is called the Golden Horseshoe–the megalopolis between Oshawa to the east of Toronto and Hamilton to the west of the great city–did themselves proud by almost filling the theatre.
There were a few empty seats in the loft, and a few more toward the front, but the latter were no-shows, and it would have been unusual if the upper balconies were full.
When I passed through the lobby before the performance, I was happy to see a goodly number of children and their parents. All the little girls were dressed like Cinderella on her way to the ball.
There were of course the usual complement of over fifties, but as my friend noted, it was a young crowd compared with the audience the Toronto Symphony Orchestra usually attracts.
Speaking of which, I doubt Jackie has sung with a finer orchestra. Several of the musicians my friend recognized as members of the TSO. As for their conductor that evening, Maestro Di Costanzo, I thought he conducted dramatically and with aplomb.
The first half of the evening, Jackie wore her dazzlingly sequined blue dress. She moved about the stage in it with ease.
Following the intermission, to the audience’s delight she emerged from the wings wearing her incomparable red dress. Audacious is the word that comes to mind.
The thing is so extraordinary it’s worth dwelling on. My friend brought the subject up on our way out of the theatre. To her, no less than to everyone else, the dress is arresting. It shines and dazzles almost blindingly, so much so that my friend wondered if it is wired with LED lights.
It has a beautifully complimentary pink petticoat (if that’s the correct term). We know that because the ensemble with its train is ungainly enough that as she moves about the stage she has to raise the skirts so as not trip on them.
When she lifted her gown her little bare feet were visible, bare, apparently, so she can tell if she’s stepping on the dress.
Jackie’s admirers have been heard to say–it’s a sentiment I share–they are glad to be alive to see and hear Jackie Evancho. Many in her Toronto audience will underline last Thursday night in their own private history.
For me Jackie’s Roy Thomson Hall concert deserves to be remembered no less than her performance at the Orpheum in Los Angeles.
But if truth be told, her accomplishment in Toronto was not the equal of what I saw her accomplish in LA.
There were brief moments, a phrase here and there, where her portamento was not pristine, where she ceased to interpret the music but merely sang it.
But those were moments only. When I whispered to my friend that Jackie was uneven on an early number, she replied with a laugh, “if that was a weak performance, I can’t wait to hear a strong one.”
Throughout the evening it was obvious that we were in the presence of a musical genius. She is, nevertheless, a genius who is twelve-years-old. Despite her herculean energy and diamond cutter powers of concentration, she’s no doubt as subject to weariness and as capable of lapses in attention as anyone else might be who had traveled and performed as often as Jackie has in the past two years.
Besides, as all entertainers do, Jackie feeds on her audience’s enthusiasm, and there was little of that in evidence on Thursday night. During the regular program, only her last number garnered a full standing ovation.
Otherwise, following many of her numbers the applause was tepid and unsustained. It was a friendly audience, no doubt , and many had come a long way to see her, but Jackie can be excused if she thought us as cold as the Canadian winter outside.
Jackie’s Toronto audience was punished, unintentionally no doubt, by there being no second encore.
Were some in the audience bored, one wonders? At one point that evening, I considered a criticism I’d read about Jackie, that all of her songs sound the same. While I listened, it dawned on me why some people have that impression.
I think it’s because Jackie is so good she dwells on finessing the fine edges of a song, the dramatic deep notes, the exhilarating highs, the opportunities for lyricism, fullness and volume. She forgoes the flashy and faux dramatic in favor of a subtle artfulness that takes patience and familiarity with her work to notice and appreciate.
She displayed that artistry in some of her numbers Thursday evening, Ombra Mai Fu in particular, and even more so, her closing number, Music of the Night (click to see an amateur video; the audio is very good).
If it were possible to issue a single of one of Jackie’s greatest performances, or to compile from her concerts a selection of highlights, I believe Jackie’s presentation that evening of Music of the Night would head the list.
She sang slowly and deliberately, she moved purposely across the stage, first to stage left, then to stage right, she gestured elegantly and meaningfully. As I listened, enraptured, her eyes appeared to me no longer Jackie’s eyes but those of the character she was inhabiting.
The performance was intoxicating, transporting, a masterpiece. For a moment the audience, the colored lights, the orchestra, the dazzling dress, all receded and I was alone with the most beautiful singing I had ever heard.
When it was over, my friend and I looked at each other and together we said, “That was astonishing”.
The friend I attended the concert with had never watched Jackie on YouTube, she knew nothing about Jackie having been on America’s Got Talent, indeed she knew nothing about Jackie at all.
My friend is intelligent and, what’s more, opinionated. I knew that before the evening was out I’d hear some honest, insightful comments on the child and her performance.
“I suppose her parents are having her do these concerts in case she grows up to be just another singer,” my friend remarked before Jackie appeared on stage.
“That girl is amazing,” she told me when Jackie finished her second number.
“Did you see that, she was barefooted? That’s delightful. What a confident and determined girl she must be. I can see her telling her mother, I think I’ll just go barefoot. I bet she’s a handful at home!”
Her last words before we parted: “I know what I’ll be doing for the rest of the evening. Watching Jackie videos on YouTube.”
For those who are interested, here is the evening’s song list:
Pure Imagination, The Impossible Dream, The Summer Knows, My Heart Will Go On, Ombra Mai Fu, The Lord’s Prayer
When You Wish Upon a Star, Imaginer, When I Fall In Love, Se, and Reflection
Music of the Night