Jackie Evancho Festa Italiana Concert Review from the BMO-Harris Bank Pavilion ~ June 24th, 2016
I had been booked to perform at Festa Italiana (Milwaukee) 2016 last year, to perform with the great Italian tenor, Micheal Castaldo (who I also performed with at the Festa in 2013) and to be a Judge for Italian Idol 2016 and perform as their special guest, as I Won Milwaukee’s Festa Italian Idol in 2012.
So... you can pretty much guess my surprise and great disappointment when I heard Jackie Evancho would be performing at the Festa as well - my disappointment was due to the fact I didn't think I would be able to go to her concert ! I was busy EVERY night of the festival so I assumed I wouldn't be able to go and that was that. Eventually the times for all of my appearances were finalized and I realized I could probably make it to at least the first half of her concert, but I wasn't banking on that chance.
Each time Jackie has had a concert in our area we where unable to attend. And by our area I mean the three surrounding states. Either I had a gig of my own, or we had the State Indoor Track & Field Meet, etc. We were a bit disappointed when those circumstances came about, but as always - our previous commitments to school, sports, etc. come first.
Some incredible Jackie fans and Lovers of Classical Crossover Music stepped in at the Italian Festa and graciously provided us (My Dad, sister, brother, and I) tickets right before Jackie's show-time. Not just any tickets but Premier Seating in the first few rows. In my case, I was within say 10 feet of the stage, front and center as well. Seats could not get any better!
The venue was an absolutely lovely and huge place - we walked across the Festa grounds, through security, and directly into the BMO Harris Bank Pavilion which was in the closed off South Section of the grounds. I was already dressed in a red ball gown, as I wouldn't have time to change and make it back to the Italian Idol stage. I was escorted with my brother Randy Jr, to our seats in the 5th row - dead center - and folks around us started saying, "Oh it's Anastasia !"... "Are you Anastasia Lee?"... "I get to tell my friends I sat next to Anastasia Lee at Jackie Evancho's concert !", etc. I knew I was friends with a good number of these Jackie Evancho aficionados from Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube), but there were several that I did not recognize.
We took our seats with about 30 minutes till Concert time.
Ms. Evancho’s SET LIST:
1. Pure Imagination
2. Made to Dream
3. Music of the Night
Nessun dorma (Instrumental)
4. Impossible Dream
5. Your Love
6. What a Wonderful World
~ 20 minute Intermission:
8. Ave Maria
9. Nessun dorma
10. Writing's on the Wall
11. Safe and Sound
12. O Mio Babbino Caro
13. Think of Me
~ Encore: The Lord's Prayer
Let me digress to begin the Concert Review
Jackie entered from audience left onto an open air pavilion stage with a clear mesh background through which we could see the lake and sky behind her. She was accompanied by Peter Kiesewalter, her music director and conductor for the Festa concert. Also backed by eight string accompanists from Milwaukee.
She was wearing a very colorful, floral mid length, off the shoulder dress, rather perfect for the incredibly stifling heat that evening. I would guesstimate around 90+ degrees with very high humidity as well.
Jackie started our concert with hauntingly beautiful, ‘Pure Imagination’ which is a song from her "Songs from the Silver Screen" CD. With lyrics like, "come with me, and you'll be in a world of pure imagination" it is an excellent song to start her concert’s with. Judging by the audience's reaction.. I'm guessing they thought much the same.
Ms. Evancho lightly discussed the weather and her Thanks to all for attending her concert. This then segue into her performing “Made to Dream”, a favorite song of hers.
Jackie's first standing ovation came when she performed "Music of the Night", the great solo performed by the "Phantom" in the musical and movie "The Phantom of the Opera".
It's amazing how so many young female singers actually started singing because of their love of the Andrew Lloyd Webber movie/musical "The Phantom of the Opera" - Jackie obviously, myself included, as well as many of my other musical friends and contemporaries. It is a very beautiful musical with a great story line based off of Gaston Leroux's classic novel, which is actually a much darker scenario.
It seemed to me that Jackie 'truly felt' this song more than any up to this point in the concert. One visual thought that stuck me.. was about her stage mannerism's was her great eye contact. She seamlessly floated looking from person to person in the audience, holding eye contact with what seemed like everyone. This was particularity so with the first say ten or so rows from my vantage point. (Brava)
My personal favorite song in the first half of the concert was "The Impossible Dream" which she dedicated to her Mother (Lisa) who helped her begin her musical career and has recently been ill. She truly portrayed the meaning of this song well and it's a song with lyrics, I think that all people can relate to.
In the end most people end up looking on the dreams of their youth like the Bruce Springsteen classic "Glory Days", but there are a few people who are given the opportunity to live out their dreams - Jackie admitted she was one of them and was thankful for that. At this point in her concert, she started squinting as the sun was setting directly into her eyes and much of the audience had a similar problem with the sun reflecting off of the piano. However Jackie, being the true entertainer that she is did not hinder her vocal abilities in the least.
Following “The Impossible Dream”, where “Your Love” from the “Once Upon a Time in the West” and then closing the first set was the Louis Armstrong venerable classic “What a Wonderful World” dedicated to her father Mike Evancho. One of his favorite musical pieces as Jackie humorously informed us.
After Jackie had performed the above 6 songs, there was a 20 minute intermission.. at which point, I left my seat in the front and went to sit at the back of the pavilion, so that I'd be less of a distraction when I had to leave the concert in order to make it to the Italian Idol stage on time.
Jackie re-entered the stage as the intro to the song "Lovers" was played. I've always enjoyed her rendition of this song - the drums and string instruments really make for an epic intro. This was also my sister Tatiana Marie’s favorite song from the entire concert.
The second selection in this set, that she performed was the always fan favorite “Ave Maria” to the gratitude of the eager audience, they seemed on the edge of their seats awaiting this piece. Earlier in the day, she performed Ave Maria at the annual Festa Italiana mass and procession held in the Marcus Amphitheater at 11 a.m.
Her pianist Peter, had played Puccini's "Nessun dorma" as an instrumental solo in the first half of the concert, but in the second half Jackie performed her own version of this operatic classic. My father was surprised with her flourish at the end of the 4th "Vincero". Both he and I, stood even before the conclusion of the song, in which she received a standing ovation from the audience.
A special point of interest is when she made light of tripping over her dress and said something along the lines of, "You see, that's the problem with being 5'1", no matter how much you alter or hem your dresses you always trip over them. And it’s really frustrating, ‘cause that’s all I ever do when I’m onstage. I’ll run into a wall, I’ll trip on my dress, and it happens all the time." All I could think was, "Girl, I feel your pain." (I'm 5'). She has the guts to wear high heels though, which is something I don't plan on attempting anytime soon.
At this point in the concert, she performed a couple of her newer cover Pop songs - that will be included on her next album, Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall" and Taylor Swift's "Safe& Sound". Unfortunately, I had to depart after she sang "Writing's on the Wall" which she performed very well and definitely to the satisfaction of the audience. I picked up the skirts to my red ball gown and made my way to the exit and heard her begin "Safe & Sound" from "The Hunger Games" - which sounded wonderful - as I walked down the street. Of all the pop songs she's released lately with this new direction she is taking, "Safe & Sound" is my recent favorite of hers. During these more modern songs she filled the stage with her flowing movement back & forth. At this point, my father, sister and brother had the charge of reviewing the remainder of Jackie’s concert.
While I wasn't there for her last three songs my younger brother Randy Jr. tells me "O Mio Babbino Caro" was one of his favorites – of course we all remember Jackie had her musical 'break-out' moment on America's Got Talent (2010) singing this very song. Apparently, she hasn't lost any of her shine from 6 years ago. :D
My father’s favorite of the evening was in his words “His musical highlight of the evening” was her rendition of “Think of Me” from of course Phantom of the Opera. Jackie truly performed this song masterfully as he said. She concludes the Festa Italiana concert with a standing ovation as she delivered another sterling performance!
Re-entering for her encore, Jackie performed "The Lord's Prayer" which is from her Gold selling album "Dream With Me" - she received a standing ovation for this as well.
My only complaint about the whole concert? How short it was ! 14 songs ! Yes, I had to leave early which did not help in my case, but my statement stands. :)
All in all ~ It was an incredible Concert and I Wish to Thank all of those great Jackie and Classical Crossover music fans for this special opportunity for my family and I. Those of You all know who I am Thanking !! If you have any questions or want to leave your thoughts please leave a comment below !