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Where was Jackie?

jackie.evancho_8col

Jackie Evancho didn’t show up Sunday night for her scheduled concert at the Saroyan Theatre. The promoter notified management at the Fresno Convention Center of the event’s cancellation on Friday afternoon by sending an email. But because city servers were down, that communication wasn’t received until Saturday, says Claudia Arguelles, director of sales and marketing at SMG. No news release was sent out.

I was on vacation at the time and was enjoying a digital-free couple of days, or I would have done more to spread word about the concert’s cancellation. As (bad) luck would have it, we timed a big Jackie story to run Sunday with her appearance — a lengthy essay in which I used the occasion of Evancho’s concert to dig into the meaty issue of the age-old divide between critics/academics and fans. The Spotlight section is prepared in advance of the Sunday paper and printed on Thursday nights, so there was nothing we could do other than note in the front section of the paper that the concert had been cancelled.

Why didn’t the concert take place? The reason given by promoter John Low: “production reasons outside the artist’s control.”

I have my suspicions. Ticket demand for the concert did not seem to be high. Weeks before the concert, the promoter had gone into deep-discount mode, offering 60% off through The Bee’s dealsaver.com website.

Weirdly enough, the otherwise proficient official Jackie Evancho website didn’t update readers about the concert cancellation until Monday, a day after the concert was to occur. I don’t know how many ticket holders actually showed up at the venue expecting to hear her sing, but it sure doesn’t seem the promoter made much effort to get the word out. I find it very odd that the sole way of letting a venue know that a concert involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in ticket sales has been cancelled is by a quick email. Wouldn’t a phone call at least have been in order?

There’s a lively discussion of Evancho — it seems like there always is — and the Fresno cancellation on Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog at artsjournal.com. Some of the debate has to do with the timing. One reader writes:

The listing of the event was removed from her official website on Thursday the 14th, but fans weren’t notified of the cancellation until ticket buyers were alerted by the ticket agencies just two days before the concert was to occur.

My condolences to all those fans who spent their hard earned money travelling to Fresno, believing that the concert was still on. Apparently Jackie’s people who knew to remove the event from her site several days early didn’t know enough to show some consideration and give an early heads up to fans instead of letting them find out later from the venue and ticket companies, when for many it was too late. Unlike with the Loveland, Colorado concert that was cancelled earlier this month, such short notice prevented many from getting refunds on their travel expenditures since those services were already used by the time they were informed of the cancellation.

As for reaction to my column, which was circulated by Evancho fans, I did get some flack, which I expected. Some took particular offense for me suggesting that Evancho is marketed to audience. One North Carolina reader called me an “elite, pompous prig”:

Ms. Evancho is not “marketing” herself as anything other than a remarkably talented teenager. She nor her handlers promote her in any other way. In this she delivers in spades. Her poise, modesty and genteel demeanor are not a “package.” They are genuine. As in your first article you come across as mean spirited and short sighted. In other words, a douche nozzle.

That’s a new one to add to my list of Interesting Things I’ve Been Called by Readers.

By the way, in my column I quote a blog post by Washington Post classical music Anne Midgette in which she writes about the trend of disassociating all vestiges of an operatic aria’s original meaning or style. She calls the trend “crossover pseudo-operatic sound.” It’s an excellent read.

And if you want to watch and listen to the latest little-girl viral operatic sensation, here’s the much-viewed YouTube video of 9-year-old Amira Willighagen singing on “Holland’s Got Talent.” In the child singer ranks, even 13-year-olds could start feeling old.

Responses to "Where was Jackie?"

Barbara Ulman says:

I was happy to read your column. The first time I saw Jackie Evancho on YouTube I was put off by her gestures, and decided never to attend a live performance. I wonder if by singing the way she does now, she might be ruining her voice for the future. It would be better if she sang songs with messages more appropriate to her age, and didn’t try for notes she can’t reach accurately.

JD says:

The concern over how the cancellation was handled is warranted. However your snarky comments in your articles about how she is “packaged” does not go a long way toward cooling the heat and is distracting from the important issue of how Jackie’s concerts are being managed.

Joel says:

While I would agree that the cancellation seems to have been mishandled by the promoter and possibly Jackie’s management, that does not justify your snarky comments about Jackie’s “packaging”.

Darryl says:

Donald Munro sounds like Tim Page in disguise, something just not “right” with either. At least Tim admits to being ill, better than hiding a not so pretty agenda.

DFW Texan 42 says:

Really, Mr. Munro, must you be so insufferably rude and haughty?

Your disdain for the Classical Crossover genre overall and Jackie Evancho in particular is all too obvious. Do you really have so little faith in your Opera and Orchestra that you fear they cannot survive the changes inherent with popularity? Or is it the very idea of change itself that you find threatening?

People who enjoy Classical Crossover are not out to destroy older art forms. We do, however, insist on a presentation applicable to our modern tastes. I find a concert presentation of an Aria more enjoyable than a full Opera, just as I find a movie soundtrack played in a fresh manner by an Orchestra more enjoyable than most staid performances of established composers. You find this insufficiently authentic? Too bad. It was not intended for your delicate sensibilities in the first place.

I find it impossible to believe you would be as gleeful at the unexpected cancellation of an Opera. Nobody wants to cancel an event, but these things happen. Could people have been better notified? Yes. However, your condescension is both unwelcome and unproductive.

ShaolinMaster says:

Well said, DFW.

Have read elsewhere that columnists, such as Mr Munro here, need to stir up the pot from time to time, in order to drive traffic to their columns. That is understandable because, after all, their livelihood could have been depended on their columns getting enough readers.

Jason says:

I think you’re spot-on with your opinion of her marketing. I tried watching quite a few of her more recent videos, and from what I heard they all sound alike, and not in a good way. Something sounds very fake about her sound. Not to mean it’s not her that is singing, but that it sounds like a very contrived voice she’s using. The same is true with the way she pronounces so many of the words. It just sounds so wrong.

That’s where the marketing comes in, because people aren’t going to gobble-up something that sounds like that for very long, so her management needs to find something to keep the hooks into the buying public. They can’t milk the “little girl” slant for very much longer.

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