Dream With Me in Concert
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Jackie Evancho's Dream With Me In Concert is the perfect video companion to her chart-topping album, Dream With Me, which was produced by the legendary David Foster.
David Foster has worked with the biggest names in music, including Beyoncé, Prince, Josh Groban and Celine Dion, but he admits that Jackie's talent astonished him. "Her natural ability and the depth of her understanding of the musical process left me speechless," he says. Foster has mentored Jackie and appears on Dream With Me In Concert as the show's host.
The concert was recorded inside and on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, which includes the stunning mansion Ca' d'Zan, known as the last of the Gilded Age mansions built in America. Ringling was the impresario behind the iconic Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. "This is a big, beautiful place," said Jackie after she toured the grounds. "My favorite part is the Peter Paul Rubens [art] gallery," where she performed the haunting song "Dark Waltz" accompanied only by Foster on piano and Conrad Tao on violin -- and surrounded by four of Rubens' largest, and most striking, canvases.
The DVD features two songs ( Mi Mancherai and To Believe ) that were filmed during the live concert but not included in the PBS show. Bonus features include an interview with Jackie and David Foster as well as a photo gallery.
Also available as a CD/DVD combo pack.
DVD Track Listing:
1. When You Wish Upon A Star
2. Nella Fantasia
3. O Mio Babbino Caro
4 To Believe
7. Dark Waltz
10. Mi Mancherai
11. Ombra Mai Fu
12. All I Ask of You
13. The Lord's Prayer
14. Dream With Me
15. Nessun Dorma
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It's an interesting question because while Ms. Evancho's appeal reaches fans of many musical genres, that's also true for those who won't enjoy this DVD.
Judging from contributors to many music forums, fans of Classical Crossover are most likely to appreciate this DVD. Classical Crossover is music drawn from many sources--popular, musical theater, folk, classical, opera--performed in a classical manner. People who mostly like pop music sometimes mistake this for singing operatically, but opera singers generally sing without a mic and learn to project their voices over a pit orchestra to fill an auditorium. CC singers don't do this, even when they sing opera arias. They use a softer, more intimate sound that has to be mic'd in a concert hall.
Before Ms. Evancho burst on the scene, the biggest CC stars were folks like Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Sarah Brightman, Hayley Westenra, Celtic Woman, the Canadian Tenors, and Charlotte Church. If you like them you're likely to like Ms. Evancho. Ditto New Age singers like Enya.
However, because of her quiet intensity and total sincerity, Ms. Evancho also has fans from genres as unlikely as Heavy Metal, Jazz, Country, and World Music.
You're least likely to appreciate Ms. Evancho's DVD if you don't like her "classical" sound and/or you only like one genre, such as Rock & Roll, or Jazz, or Country, or--surprisingly--Opera. If you only like one genre, instead of hearing what Ms. Evancho is doing with the music, you may only hear what she isn't doing with it--namely performing it the way singers in your favored genre normally perform it.
Take the first song on the DVD: "When you wish upon a star," from the Walt Disney film Pinocchio (Two-Disc 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition). In the movie it's sung by Disney regular Cliff Edwards (who also provides Jiminy Cricket's voice in the film, with the typical girls singers ooohing in the background. Key word: sentimental.
Ms. Evancho's rendition is unsentimental. She treats it as seriously as if it were an aria from a Handel opera (more on that later). Her pacing and the phrasing invite you to take in every word as great aspirational poetry, even though in any other performance of this song the lyrics seem kind of sappy. She doesn't seem to have an ironic bone in her body, but neither does she have a cutsey-poo one. Look at her singing. You can tell she means it. She doesn't play to the camera; she doesn't mug or simper or dimple at you. She waves her arms as she sings, but it looks less like she's doing something for the viewer than that she's simply conducting herself.
I've seen a lot of singers singing in a lot of genres, and the greatest of every genre share this trait with Ms. Evancho: when they sing they're "inside the music."
Music professors have said Ms. Evancho shows no signs of unusual physical equipment. Her larynx looks like a normal 11 year old's larynx. Ditto her lungs and everything else. They said what's different about her is her brain. She hears music with a depth few others can achieve, and that depth combines with a nearly unique ability to express her musical ideas with every aspect of her physical equipment. Sports docs call this somatic integration, and Ms. Evancho has a kind of this integration, just as an elite gymnast does.
So if you buy this DVD of an 11 year old girl singing, don't expect to hear a child singer. Because she doesn't sound like any other child singer. She sounds like a 30 year old professional singer at the top of her game. Not in every aspect of technique, but certainly in the most crucial aspects of her art: perfect pitch, great transitions from chest to head voice (called passagio), great (and greatly restrained) note-bending (called portamento), great tone (assuming you like a classical, adult tone), and above all, great emotional connection with the listener.
This is why I didn't list fans of child singers as one of the groups most likely to appreciate this DVD. She sounds so unlike other children singing that some actually find it disconcerting. They'll claim she's been taught to do this (she hasn't), or that she's damaging her voice (she isn't, according to voice experts who examine her regularly), or that it's freakish. I attribute this to those who can't accept the fact that some humans are geniuses. They seem to believe that all human differences are due to environment/experience. This is a folk belief--no reputable behavioral scientist would agree. And Ms. Evancho's existence is the proof of the pudding. Her extreme talent even shows in You Tube performances of her at age 8, singing acapella in her living room.
Then as now, when she sings you believe her. Not that she has personally experienced everything she sings about (which includes drug addiction, suicide, mad love and more), but as a wise storyteller who can take you into the story of the song with her.
I should add that in many forum entries I've read about her, people also agree that seeing her perform adds a lot. It doesn't hurt that she's a pretty child with great stage presence, but honestly, there are lots of children just as pretty, with just as much stage presence.
What's different is seeing her skip onto the stage, looking every inch like an ordinary 11 year old child--and then, at the moment she starts to sing, seeing the musical genius inside her suddenly appear, only to vanish just as abruptly as she finishes the song. Ms. Evancho herself says, in effect, that this whatever-it-is possesses her when she's singing.
The irony is that she herself doesn't hear what we hear. She has stated in interviews that when she sings she just hears an 11 year old girl singing. Nothing special. I don't think this is false modesty. It's more that to a genius, what they're a genius at comes so naturally to them they don't see it as something special. It's hard for them to imagine it not coming to everyone just as easily. Instead they admire people whose genius is expressed in areas where they themselves are not geniuses.
So far I've just talked about her singing. But this DVD captures a performance with an orchestra, featuring the arrangements of David Foster. And while her renditions are straight ahead, her accompaniments on this DVD tend towards the "Wall of Sound" David Foster treatment, with swelling orchestras and choruses at every turn. Many will find this very appealing and professional; others will find it overdone--"gilding the lily."
Personally I lean toward the "overdone" reaction, but it's not so much as to ruin my pleasure at listening to her. So may I suggest to those who also would like more restraint in her musical settings, David Foster's treatment may be what's required t0 launch her career to the broadest musical audience. Her "Dream with me" CD, with the same treatment and many of the same songs, just went Gold. No other Classical CD of any sort has enjoyed anywhere near that success lately.
If I had my druthers she'd be doing a more classically focused repertoire, with more like her performance of Handel's "Ombra mai fu" on this DVD. But I'm certain such a CD/DVD would also garner far fewer sales, and since she can't tour like adults can--she still has at least seven years of childhood ahead of her--she's more dependent on CD sales than an adult. And she needs the sales because her father had to close his security system franchise to support her career, while her parents also need to parent her three siblings as well as her. And the profit margins on CDs and DVDs are much slimmer than for concerts.
So for the time being, her music needs to be as broadly focused as possible. Relatively sophisticated listeners should accept this with good grace. There aren't enough of such listeners to keep Ms. Evancho's career going successfully. Plus, arranger/producer David Foster has done a lot for Ms. Evancho, helping her and her family learn how to navigate the jungle of the music industry, so all of Ms. Evancho's fans owe David Foster a debt of gratitude, even if some would like him to ease up on the accompaniments sometimes.
I imagine that most people who are reading this review have seen the PBS special it's based on, recorded at the Ringling Brothers' estate in Florida. You may not know that this audience was not a paying audience, but rather was mostly Ringling employees roped into making up an audience. Consequently their reactions are more muted than those at her "real" performances, in which she normally gets prolonged, standing ovations after every song. She really does move many people profoundly, and it would be hard to find a performer who'd more cared-about by fans than her. This isn't like "Biebermania" and its ilk. It's something altogether different, and Ms. Evancho's fans are mostly people who aren't and haven't been active fans of any other performer.
As I've said, people's reactions to Ms. Evancho can be complicated by the fact that she's still a child. Let me suggest that when you get this DVD, don't play it for people you want to introduce to Ms. Evancho. Instead, play a song from her CD "Dream with me" without revealing anything about her. I've done this repeatedly, and each time I've asked them to describe who they see in their mind's eye. Usually it's a tall (to support the big voice) professional singer in her late 20s or 30s (to support the maturity of her interpretation). Then their jaw drops when I show them one of the performances on this DVD.
Those of us who are worldly (I've traveled in 17 countries, for example), musically sophisticated, and more than a little skeptical about politics and a lot else besides, might be predisposed to reject the music of an 11 year old soprano out of hand. You'll be making a big mistake if you do in this case. Nearly every "child singer" I've heard before Ms. Evancho made me think "OK, fine--I'll listen again after you grow up." This is different. I've listened to opera singer Beverly Sills and also Julie Andrews as 11 year olds, and while their voices are more agile than Ms. Evancho's they can't hold a candle to her emotional connection and gorgeous sonorities. I don't believe there's one other singer I've heard at Ms. Evancho's age who can compete for your music dollars against the best adult professionals, if you listen to both without giving Ms. Evancho any kind of special consideration due to her youth.
She's that good.
If she were an adult, I would still buy this DVD, but her being only 11 makes it all the more interesting. What will the young woman sound like when she's 16? 25? I can't wait to hear.
I think one of the most interesting aspects of being able to watch her (rather than listen to the CD) is that you can see that she is almost possessed by the music. While many singers sing to the audience, Jackie seems to sing to something higher, almost like she's allowing the music of heaven to come through her. And after the last note, that beautiful 11 year old girl smile returns.
This is a talent without peer. I almost feel privileged just to see and hear her.
I got this DVD on Tuesday and have played it at least 10 times; it is out of this world beautiful by a talent that will only come along once in (my) lifetime. This is the first time l had seen this PBS Great Performances Show (do not think it was shown in Arizona in June but may be wrong). The setting and production is outstanding; shot in April at the beautiful Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida the week that Jackie turned 11 years (yes 11).
This collection will inspire all ages and is very diverse in taste and genres, but each performed in such a wonderful way by this amazing girl. The mentorship and interactions with the great David Foster were nice touches; you can tell he admires her. Of note were the touching homage to Jackie's parents and her uncle Matt, who were in the audience at the beginning of the inspiring "To Believe" that had a child backing choir. This piece was composed by her uncle. The performance of "Dark Waltz" will be new to most viewers as it was not on the CD Dream with Me or performed during the summer shows. It was a hauntingly beautiful song. The finale performance of "Nessum Dorma" was breathtaking. As David Foster prefaced, this is usually a "man's song" but l can say that Jackie's performance is the best l have ever heard (even when compared to Pavarotti). When you consider this is from an 11 year old girl, this is more amazing.
I was lucky to catch Jackie's live performances in Chicago and Dallas; these were wonderful but now just memories, this DVD performance will be there when the memories have faded. Catch a live show if you can but buy this DVD; you will not regret it. It deserves 10 stars. Can not wait for the new Christmas CD due l believe early November.