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Arts & Entertainment

Jackie Evancho makes the 'America's Got Talent' finals

| Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010

Jackie Evancho has a chance to make her dreams come true.

Jackie, the 10-year-old Richland soprano who has captured the hearts of people across the country through her performances on "America's Got Talent," was selected Wednesday by viewers as one of four finalists on the NBC show.

Part one of the finale airs from 9 to 10 p.m. Tuesday. Part two is scheduled from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, when the winner of $1 million, a national tour and a headlining show in Las Vegas will be announced.

"I'm very excited," Jackie told host Nick Cannon. "I want to thank Pittsburgh and everyone else for voting for me. I really hope they enjoy my next act."

One of the show's three judges, Sharon Osbourne, replied: "I know I'm going to enjoy your next act, so I can't wait to hear your next act."

Moments before the vote was announced, another judge, Piers Morgan, said, "We have in Jackie, in my mind, the best singer we've ever had."

Jackie's father, Mike Evancho, said he has lost weight over the last month from the stress of his daughter's sudden success, but should breathe a little easier when the entire family -- including Jackie's two brothers and sister -- reunites next week in Los Angeles for the finals.

"It's going to be great to have the family back together again," he said. "I know that both Jackie and her mom are looking forward to seeing us again too."

Jackie sang "Pie Jesu" by Andrew Lloyd Webber, a composition well received by the live audience Tuesday night. The rendition earned Jackie her third standing ovation since arriving on the show last month.

It was an unusual choice: The composition traditionally is part of a Catholic Requiem Mass, or service for the dead.

"Merciful Jesus, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them rest," she sang in Latin. "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them rest, everlasting."

A song praying for mercy touches something deep inside of us, said Ronald Cole-Turner, professor of theology and ethics at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Highland Park.

"It doesn't matter if you're Christian or not," he said. "We all have deep feelings for comfort and mercy."

Each song Jackie performed on the show was in Italian or Latin, languages that use vowel sounds that translate nicely in operatic singing, said Christopher Hahn, general director of the Pittsburgh Opera. She performed "O Mio Babbino Caro" by Giacomo Puccini on Aug. 10, and Andrea Bocelli's classical "Time to Say Goodbye" in her second performance.

Producers and vocalists together choose the songs for the show, said Meredith Fitzpatrick, press manager for NBC Entertainment Publicity.

Hahn called Jackie's performance Tuesday strong, with seamless delivery. "Her phrasing was lovely, which she needed for that piece."

Draped in a flowing gown, backed by a choir and seemingly floating in a layer of mist that blanketed the stage, Jackie looked angelic, he said.

"It was a smart move to go with the angelic thing," Hahn said. "The production supported it."

Osbourne called her performance "heavenly."

"I think it's wonderful when religion enters the public arena," Cole-Turner said. "I'm often amazed that sometimes people won't go to synagogues or churches, but they'll turn out when Broadway focuses on religion."

The Pine-Richland student's popularity skyrocketed following her first television performance. As of yesterday, she had more than 12,000 "friends" on Facebook. Her 2009 album "Prelude to a Dream" sold out on Amazon.com.

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