Diana Belchase

Risen from the Dead; America's Unacknowledged Secret Love

I don’t know if you’ve been watching America’s Got Talent recently.  For me, some of these talent shows are a hit or miss affair.  I want to watch them, get involved in the stories and talent of the participants, root for my favorites, but life gets in the way and I’m not always able to tune in.

Luckily, last Tuesday was one of the nights I made it.  All I’m going to say is one word:

FORTE.

Wow.  As Howie Mandel said, “A Hispanic, a Korean, and a New Yorker walk into a bar and record a giant hit record.”  Three guys with incredible voices and obvious operatic training come together days before an audition, perform for the first time — on TV no less — and blow everyone’s socks off.

This story resonates with me for more than one reason (and I’ll post about reason number two hopefully later this week).  As an opera fan, I’m always troubled when people think of it as an almost dead art form.  It’s considered snobby and boring.  But, these three guys, in their baggy jeans and schlumpy outfits, were the “Three Tenors” (Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras) reincarnated for a modern generation.

Opera is making a sneaky comeback – but shush, don’t let anyone know or the anti-opera snobs will put the kibosh on it faster than you can blink.  While the Forte rendition of Webber’s Pie Jesu brought audience members to their feet, Susan Boyle took the world by storm with her operatic voice, and Jackie Evancho, age ten, did the same a few years ago.  And remember that breathtaking performance during the concert scene in Fifth Element performed by Inva Mula-Tchako? Who could think Donizetti or opera is boring after that number?

So perhaps the joke should be, what do a trio of nerdy guys, a frumpy housewife, an angelic child, and a blue alien have in common?  The ability to sing songs so complex and timeless they transcend language and appearance to touch hearts everywhere.

Operatic music is so powerful that even when badly sung – as in one finalist contestant on Firework Congratulationsthe Voice, or in the Les Miserables film, its innate beauty comes through and moves us as nothing else.

All I can say is hooray.  Opera is back!

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY EVERYONE!

9 replies »

  1. I was there watching AGT when Jackie Evancho made her first appearance and I have been enthralled and following her ever since. I was there watching AGT when Forte made their first appearance and I was lifted out of my chair at the wondrous beauty of their performance about which I later wrote that “there is yet hope for humanity – God has not forgotten us – and if Jackie and Forte got together, the gates of heaven would open up and the heavenly choir would join in”.

    Since the age of six, when I joined a church choir, music has been my life, although not in the way it should have been: life got in the way. But over the years, because of the garbage that invaded the waves, the concert scene, the social strata and show business in general, especially the loud, hateful sounds from hell, music and I became estranged.

    In spite of all the other singers that have come along in interim, like the Three Tenors, Bocelli, Groban, Lara Fabian, the music of David Foster, Enio Moricone, and not too many others, I still was not convinced that humanity was salvageable, until the night I heard Jackie Evancho. Her voice is like no other. And the way she uses it is incomparable. She has invaded my soul and lifted my spirit to a level I never thought possible.

    She is a crossover singer and is able to sing very complex music that some much older and very seasoned performers can’t hold a candle to. Such was the case, in my opinion, when she appeared with Sarah Brightman on AGT, and more recently with Carreras in Taiwan, and a few others. However, “opera” is another mater completely.

    There is opera then there is opera. Most operatic works and performances are rubbish. I compare them to Shakespeare being performed today as it was at the time of Shakespeare to maintain the snobbish “class” of the theatre, when in fact, for Shakespeare to have any relevance it must be performed to suit the times and acting techniques of the day and not belted out with grand, exaggerated gestures and over pronunciations, while the audience swoons over “the great performance” of some exalted actor with an exaggerated sense of self importance.

    The same goes for most opera. Most operas feature fat singers, male and female, because of their over indulgence in the good life, due to their exaggerated sense of self importance, who belt out the music of tragedies and dramas written and composed in another era where such was the way of expressing oneself, perhaps, by people who were more interested in outdoing their musical competitors than they were in producing musical works of quality. Operas are usually attended by people who are more interested in the social aspects of being seen at the opera than they are in music, good music. Most of them probably don’t know a “C” from an “F#”. They just love to dress up for the occasion and be seen in the company of the rich and famous.

    Good opera is rare. Very rare. That is why it has lost its appeal. And I hope Jackie Evancho and Forte and the others, remain cross over singers and never, ever contemplate the operatic scene of pretentious socialites. That way, they will contribute much more to humanity than if they were the exclusive property of the “operatic” world.

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    • There isn’t much I can add to your Iconic -so very true comments Sebastian-statements about opera-I agree totally with your analysis-you hit the nail on the head so to speak. I don’t listen to any music or any singing artist if they can’t move me or inspire me-it is a waste of my precious time. I am a little like David foster in this sense: He only works with great singing artist–well I only listen to great singers and their music-the rest I leave to others-they may like it! Thank you so much for your timely post–very well thought out….

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    • Forte has replaced the young Korean man with someone else. No explanation so far. Fernando and Josh have both worked with David Foster in the past. You can see them on YouTube. I agree ht as a trio they may be the new Operatic trio for a new generation. I’m also over the moon for Jackie Evancho. My daughter is her PR Rep. When I first herd Jackie on AGT I sent my daughter a link so she could hear Jackie and told her she should represent Jackie. She does and that makes me very happy.

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      • Wow, now that’s a great parent! Turn your child onto a great artist and get them a client in one fell swoop. LOL. I’m sorry to hear of the change in the group but hope things work out for all concerned.

        Hope to see you back here again! Please let your daughter know I’d love to feature Jackie here, too!

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  2. Thank you, Diana, for your delightful words about Forte as well as Jackie Evancho, and for sharing your excitement over the resurgence of opera that music such as theirs may portend. It is interesting to note, though, that neither Jackie nor Josh Page of Forte (who toured briefly with Jackie in 2012) consider themselves to be opera singers, but rather classical crossover artists.

    I also appreciate Sebastian’s exuberance over Jackie and her music. I share those sentiments, having been overcome by what many of Miss Evancho’s fans call “The Jackie Effect” – the inexplicable impact she has on many of us who will attest to her ability to move us to such a degree that we can safely say that she has changed us, made us better people. But then, that’s what music – what any truly great art – is supposed to do. It’s just that there is such a dearth of good music lately, as Diana has so rightly observed.

    But perhaps, Sebastian, we should be careful that our exuberance as Jackie “Evangels” (a nickname for her fans that Jackie herself said she liked, but never really stuck) doesn’t come across as our own brand of snobbery. Even though I was trained in the classical tradition, I have, like you, never developed an appreciation for opera. And, in the earlier months of Jackie career, I was quite upset at the snobbery that came from some opera fans who expressed disdain for Jackie’s music. But she, through her consistent artistry and her kind demeanor, won over many of them and silenced the rest. It’s over, and Jackie has won. So have Josh, Hana and Fernando. They have all won, because they never wanted a fight, and there really is none.

    One of the real wonders of the emerging Classical Crossover genre is that it builds bridges. The traditional classical fans and those who enjoy good quality popular music have found a kind of music that they all can enjoy. And in the best of classical crossover, they have found music that touches their hearts and moves them in unexpected ways. In that, we have a kinship that we can all celebrate and enjoy.

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    • Craig, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I think you are correct about both the classical and crossover nomenclature. However, I believe opera is a living, breathing, thing. Like all great art it evolves, as it certainly did in its heyday. In time, fanned by such great talent, it may be that this “new name” is recognized as opera’s newest transition. It cannot be disputed that part of the reason young artists and composers, like Lloyd-Webber, label their styles as crossover, or as classical, or merely not at all in an effort to not to scare off fans.

      I hope I do not offend anyone by saying that both Les Mis. and Phantom strike me as modern opera more than Broadway Musical. But again, shush, we wouldn’t want the general, prejudiced against and scared of opera public that queued around the block to know!

      Thanks for stoping by. Hope to see you here again.

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  3. Sorry for the delay approving and replying to your kind posts. For some reason they only appeared in my box today.

    Big hugs to all the music fans who reached out here today. I am so pleased that there are people like you out there.

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