Soprano sensation

first_imgThere was a time when Gwyneth Mackenzie enjoyed the sound of her mother’s singing. That era, alas, has passed. “When I was little, I liked it,” the 8-year-old San Fernando Valley third-grader says. “Now, it’s just off-pitch.” Gwyneth, to her credit, may know a thing or two about singing: She’s scheduled to perform an aria from Mozart’s “Magic Flute” on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Monday. Listening to mezzo soprano Denyce Graves sing “Haberna” on “Sesame Street,” a 2-year-old Gwyneth was mesmerized. Shortly before age 4, when she heard Al Jarreau sing a duet of “My Favorite Things” with soprano Kathleen Battle, she decided that the musical style was for her. “I think it was just the purity of the sound,” Gwyneth says. “I wanted to sing like that. My mom thought I was going to hurt myself singing. She made me stop for a while, but of course I didn’t stop.” And “sing like that,” she did. In her young but strong soprano voice, Gwyneth belted out everything from “The Ants go Marching One by One” to self-composed arias. Fearing that her child would injure herself, Mackenzie resumed Gwyneth’s voice lessons but switched the focus to opera. Gwyneth now takes private voice lessons and is part of an opera workshop. She also studies classical piano through the Colburn School of Performing Arts and has won several competitions and awards. “I have nine trophies, three medals and one plaque,” Gwyneth says, noting that they include achievements in spelling and soccer. News of Gwyneth’s unusual abilities has spread. She appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in November, and various agents have expressed interest. Kid time comes first Her mother estimates that Gwyneth performs once every couple of months with events scheduled around her school commitments. “Her first priority is schoolwork right now,” Mackenzie says. “People approach us about putting her in commercials. No. We want her to be a kid. “At the same time, she has this ability, and she needs to be comfortable being who she is and performing, since it’s most likely that’s what she’ll do.” While Gwyneth loves to sing, she doesn’t much care for the vocal warm-ups that help get her voice into aria-ready shape. Many of her pieces are performed in German or Italian. Gwyneth listens to recordings first, then decides which ones she wants to study. Her performance piece for Winfrey’s show – the Queen of the Night’s Revenge Aria from “The Magic Flute” (“Der Holle Rache Kocht In Meinem Herzen”) – is an aria Gwyneth has focused on since she first heard it four years ago. She doesn’t get pre-performance jitters, but she doesn’t like to watch recordings of herself. “The tone’s not as clear,” she says of her voice. “It’s like: `Cover my eyes! Cover my ears!”‘ She has never seen a full opera, only portions of DVD performances and the opera-theme events at the Hollywood Bowl. But she’s scheduled to see the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “The Pirates of Penzance” in May. “That one’s in English,” her mother says. “Thank God.” Ask Gwyneth whether she envisions a future for herself as a professional opera singer, and she quickly replies: “Yes.” It’s an answer that takes her mother slightly by surprise. “No more being a chef?” Mackenzie asks. “That was last week.” “A singing chef,” Gwyneth declares. Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651 [email protected] A star is born The San Fernando Valley third-grader will appear Monday on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which airs at 3 p.m. on KABC (Channel 7).160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Even her mother, Loretta, concedes she may be right. “I’m vocally challenged,” she says with a laugh. “That’s a nice way of saying it.” Gwyneth, the only child of attorney Peter Mackenzie and Loretta, a homemaker, sang before she spoke and started playing an invisible table-top piano when she was just a year old. She has perfect pitch, studies voice and piano and – with the exception of heavy metal – loves all forms of music. Especially opera. last_img

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