Photo: David Andrako

Spring finally arrived in full force this past week in Manhattan. It seemed appropriate that celebrated singer Jackie Evancho would make her Café Carlyle debut at the same time. All of 17, she seems to encompass all of the youth, freshness and beauty that one associates with the season. And by the way, she can also really sing.

I have to admit I was not very familiar with Ms. Evancho’s career before I attended the event, but she had me won over within eight bars of her opening number, “Viva la Vida.” It is something of a cliché that youth is always in a rush. I found the opposite to be true with Evancho’s vocal style. The phrasing was often relaxed and leisurely which had a tendency to augment the natural beauty of the melodic lines she performed, particularly in such selections as Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” or Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “The Music of the Night.”

In addition to singing an intriguing song of her own composition – “Pedestal” – Evancho spoke of her admiration for Barbara Streisand and sang one of Streisand’s signature tunes – “The Way We Were.” Throughout the evening, Evancho’s sensitive, stately musical delivery called up internal visions and the relaxing effect of watching a white cloud gently go by against a beautiful blue sky. After a harried day in Manhattan, the effect was entirely welcome.

Evancho rose to fame at the age of 10 when she appeared on America’s Got Talent and performed the above mentioned Puccini aria. She has sold over 2.5 million albums in the U.S. alone and recorded duets with such notables as Tony Bennet and Streisand herself. She also performed twice for President and Michelle Obama.

And Ms. Evancho also has the credit of being the youngest entertainer to ever appear at the Carlyle. Her banter with the audience and performance was full of poise and charm. She celebrated her 17th birthday two days before her opening night and a lighted birthday cake was brought to her towards the end of her show. Already an accomplished artist, it will be interesting to see how she evolves.

As an encore, Jackie sang “Nessun Dorma,” one of the last great arias that the musical magician Giacomo Puccini composed. The last word of the aria is an exclamation of “vincero” which in English obviously means “victory.” Based on the warm response of the audience, I would say that Evancho’s debut at the Carlyle was a victory for her as well.  She is appearing at the Café through April 22.

Upcoming performers at the Carlyle include John Pizzarelli who will return to the Carlyle from April 26 through May 6. Pizzarelli’s engagement will celebrate the great American song writer Johnny Mercer. In addition to creating 20 albums as a solo artist, Pizzarelli has also appeared as a guest on recordings for such major artists as Natalie Cole and James Taylor. Broadway great Chita Rivera will be returning to the Café from May 9-20.

And Woody Allen plays his clarinet with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band every Monday evening through June 19.

The Café Carlyle is located at 35 East 76th St. in Manhattan.

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