Close your eyes and hear Jackie Evancho belt out an Italian aria, and she sounds like an opera singer twice her age. But as viewers of NBC’s America’s Got Talent and legions of YouTube fans-4 million hits and counting-know, she’s a Pittsburgh fifth grader. Her grown-up sound has drawn comparisons to fellow Internet insta-star Susan Boyle-and stirred up rumors that she’s lip-synching. The voice is hers, and she’s a little concerned about it. “I woke up sick, because I’m not getting enough sleep,” she says amid rehearsals for Talent‘s $1 million prize.
Team Evancho says Jackie’s no flash in the pan. “When I heard her, I started weeping-it’s that beautiful,” says vocal coach Paula Signorino-Richter, who began working with her in 2009. The daughter of a fashion-business-owner mom and security-company-owner dad is also a self-trained pianist (“I taught myself the Titanic theme because it moved me”) and songwriter who favors tunes about “heartbreak.” At 10? “From watching movies,” she clarifies. Mom Lisa insists she’s a typical tween: “She loves Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus. But we don’t let her belt that stuff because it would damage her voice.” She needs to protect it if she makes Talent‘s Sept. 15 finale, when she could face the likes of performance troupe Fighting Gravity and fellow opera act Prince Poppycock. If she wins, don’t expect her to splurge on a trip to La Scala. Declares the pint-size soprano: “I want to have a pony!”