Today, I wish to begin a new short series on Great Opera Singers, dedicated to current child singers whom I see as “on the rise,” which is to say either already established or in the process of becoming known, such as Elena House, the subject of today’s presentation.
One of the truly refreshing things about Elena is that she presents herself for exactly what she is—a 14-year old girl who is multi-talented and making her first tenuous steps into an extraordinarily demanding profession. She is not yet a fully professional singer, although some of her performances equal what some young professionals do. She is at a tender stage, both in her growth and her training. She is being very wisely taught by a teacher who knows what he is doing and does not push her one little bit past what is prudent and appropriate for a young teenager. Children of this age are all about growth and tender first steps. I’m sure we have all heard the horror stories—promising children pushed too hard, too fast, in an attempt to sound older than they are. Near-toddlers trying to sound like Marilyn Horne; exercises in self destruction. Some astonishing artificial effects can be created in such cases, and they draw an instant curious attention. However, what they are is vaudeville acts. A few fast dollars, a few rave notices, and then oblivion. This applies not only to child singers, but very young musicians of all kinds. Elena’s voice is very light, with a certain attractive breathy quality—at least at the moment—but one where growth and potential are everywhere to be seen and heard. She is very light in the lower and middle register, which is appropriate, and then, with no strain whatsoever, can soar (as much as is appropriate for a 14 year old girl) and she suddenly lights up in the high register. We will hear a fine example of that in the first video, where we see a hush grow into a very convincing high B natural at the end of her song.
Her first presentation is a sultry femme fatale rendition of Giuditta’s aria “Meine Lippen Sie Küssen So Heiss.” Well, as fatale as a femme can be at 14, I suppose:) Some might see this as a bit on the far side of propriety, but theatrically, I would say that it is justified by her exceptional beauty and marked acting ability. She also moves with a dancer’s grace. When I first saw this video I was reminded of words I wrote in this space when discussing the young ballerina Diana Vishneva and spoke of her “spunk and sparkle.” Here is Elena House:
Talk about attractive! I call your attention again to the perfectly in-line B natural and the sudden appearance of the potential coloratura sound at the end. Not yet developed, obviously—she’s 14 for Heaven’s sake—but I hear what is on the path to development in another 4 years! And the acting and looks speak for themselves. She captures the essence of the young seductress, both visually and vocally. The breathiness will disappear on its own in a few more years. Or, she may wish to cultivate it for pop music. No law says she has to become an opera singer. At the moment, there are many possibilities. Here is an attractive rendition of “Think of Me,” from The Phantom of The Opera”, complete with her own little promotional ending, directed to an obviously very young audience. Not only is it as cute as can be, but listening to her drives home just exactly how young she is, and can make us appreciate even more the sophistication of some of the presentations for one so young.
That’s quite charming! What calls my attention, again, is the ease with which the light, admittedly breathy low and middle registers blossom, with the first rise of the voice, into the legitimate sound characteristic of the transitional and upper register. To my ear, this is proof positive that her teacher knows what he is doing. All the vocal musculature is poised, ready to spring into action when called upon. A little more age, a little more work, and a different voice is going to start to emerge, one that will be solid and well protected from harm, because not a bit of strain will have been introduced during the earliest preparatory years, where Elena currently finds herself.
Finally, a single operatic piece which will stylistically tolerate the light treatment which can be given by a child at this stage of her development. I hear real potential here! I can see this kind of repertoire coming on faster than one might think. I call your attention especially to one passage and one note. Check out the phrase leading to the A natural, starting somewhere around 2:20, when she stands up and the music swells. All of a sudden, at that point in particular, I hear an older girl, and the beginnings of vocal drama, and this is where I hear the genuine operatic potential. Here is “Poveri Fiori.”:
This is a talent that bears watching closely over the next several years. We need to remember that children grow up, and that every great singer was once a child! Miss Elena House!
[Positive, constructive or informational comments may be accepted, at my personal discretion. Please be understanding if any particular comment, however well intended, is not published. I have very strict standards where children are concerned, both as a critic and a parent!]