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The God-Child Myth: Are Child Singers Jackie Evancho, Amira Willighagen, Angelina Jordan Astar, Etc. Actually Talented?

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on May 07, 2014 04:33 PM EDT

The appeal and draw that lies in young talent far exceeds actual understanding. It just seems to be interesting to most folks, and the way that the internet trends these days makes way for these prodigies to become but a blip on your computer screen.

Beyond our ability to hear such wunderkinds live and in person, lies the obsession that viewers have, especially in classical circles, with youthful genius.

In short, what does virtuosity mean in the young? Moreover, is that notion alone justification for arbitrary acceptance, unhinged from looking at the performance objectively and placing it, fairly, in line with others--even though they are much older?

Bottom line: Is it acceptable to say that some of these child phenoms just don't have it?

Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Rubinstein and Daniel Barenboim gave their debut recitals at tender ages, none exempt from serious accolades and long-term, fruitful musical careers.

But as Norman Lebrecht duly notes, these were seeds of a very rare talent, a unique gift that isn't dealt to just any one child or singer.

Jackie Evancho, too, seemed to be above the tongues of critics. And the successor to her throne, the nine-year-old from Holland's Got Talent Amira Willighagen, may be toeing a similar critical line. What to make, however, of the most recent phenom: Norwegian sprite Angelina Jordan Astar?

"The noun places them in an ethereal realm, above criticism," writes Lebrecht.

"Writers who review child performers by means of rational analysis, and voice teachers who use genre comparison, find themselves abused online for the twin sins of denying a heavenly being and attacking a vulnerable child. The God-child myth is alive and well in 21st-century America, operating in an informal coalition with the child-protection lobby."

"Our critical faculty has been dangerously disabled," he continues.

So, wherein a child does not possess the talent beyond his or her restrictive age, fair criticism may not be a bad dose of medicine--at the very least, a mindful lesson in grace.

Taking it back, here's Amira's audition from 2013. You be the judge.

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TagsJascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Rubinstein, Daniel Barenboim, Jackie Evancho, Amira Willighagen, Angelina Jordan