Romanian-American soprano Laura Bretan first captured the hearts of the audience in the sixth season of “Romania’s Got Talent”, from which she emerged as the winner, and later in the 11th season of “America’s Got Talent” when she ended in sixth place. In both competitions she was described as a child prodigy, since she was only 13 years old when she brilliantly performed the famous Puccini opera arias “Vissi d’arte” and “Nessun Dorma.” Her performances, while captivating, spurred a huge debate in the world of opera, if belting out these difficult pieces at her age could cause her physical injury. Seven years later, fans wondered if she’d pursued her dreams of becoming a popular professional opera singer.

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Posted by Laura Bretan on Friday, December 21, 2018

Get to know Laura Bretan

People with undeniable talents, especially the young ones, often surprised viewers. Laura’s voice was quite rare, her range was incredibly amazing, and the music genre that she chose to focus on astonished everyone.

Early childhood and family

Laura Bretan was born on 7 April 2002, in Chicago, Illinois USA, to Romanian parents Petru and Rahela Bretan. She and her siblings, Estera and Petru Jr., were raised in a Pentecostal Protestant middle-class household in the suburb of Northbrook. Her religious belief had a strong influence on her life, as could be seen in her convictions that she started to uphold and advocate, even as a child. She started singing gospel music in Church at the age of four, and at the age of seven, she realized that she had the talent to sing Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” in a different manner. However, it was only when she was 11 that she discovered that her voice was highly appreciated by people who heard her sing.

Her greatest musical influence growing up

Laura’s mother was her biggest influence, as she introduced the young Laura to pop singers with supreme vocal ranges: ‘Though she wasn’t a singer, she loved listening to Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, etc. I’ve also started researching and started listening to artists like Celine.’ However, when she was a bit younger, she preferred singing Christian songs.

Laura shared in an interview that she taught herself to sing opera, and she also found it weird that as a young teen, it was the genre that she became accustomed to. She said that it just happened, and that she didn’t even know that what she was singing was opera. Initially, she learned everything from watching YouTube, and then at the age of 12 started to take voice lessons from Nicole Roman, a professional vocal coach and a Romanian lyric artist from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. From then on, her love for classical and timeless music developed into a passion, and she enjoyed singing operas, especially those which were written by her favorite composers, Giacomo Puccini and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Started her singing career in “Romania’s Got Talent”

Her grandfather grew tired of watching her win in local amateur singing competitions, including “Super Top Dog” and “Stars of Tomorrow” in 2014, and encouraged Laura to join the reality television talent competition, “Romania’s Got Talent,” in 2016. It was unfortunate that her grandfather passed away in January 2016 before he could witness her wowing the audience with her audition piece, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro.” One of the judges, Florin Călinescu, immediately stood up mesmerized after Laura had just sung the first line. The audience then gave her a standing ovation, as well as the other judges, who had to explain why they couldn’t give her the golden buzzer that she so richly deserved. Judges Andra and Florin told the audience that they had all used up their golden buzzer options. The other judge Andi Moisescu exclaimed, ‘Nici acum nu imi vine sa cred ca e real ce am vazut,’ which meant that he still couldn’t believe that what he’d heard was real. The only thing that they could do was to go up on stage to give her a hug and compliment her outstanding performance.

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During finals week, Laura belted out Puccini’s “Vissi D’Arte” from the three-part opera “Tosca”, as she competed with 15 other contestants with differing talents. She made it to the final three, as she bested out a dancing duo and a pole dancer. In June 2016, at the age of 13, she was crowned “Romania’s Got Talent” winner, with a prize of 120,000 Euros.

Her door to international stardom opened in “America’s Got Talent”

While she was declared the grand winner of “Romania’s Got Talent,” people around her knew that she needed international exposure to reach her full potential, and there was no better way of doing that but to join “America’s Got Talent.”

All about “America’s Got Talent”

“America’s Got Talent,” also known as the “AGT” series, was the brainchild of Simon Cowell, who was responsible for putting “X Factor” on the map when he was still an executive at Sony Music. Instead of just focusing on singing, he opened up a competition for all types of talents. The TV show was supposed to initially air on British TV after the pilot episode was approved for broadcasting, however, the chosen host of the show had a dispute with the ITV network, and went to a rival network. Simon decided to defer it, and opted to launch the American version in June 2006. It had a successful first season, which motivated ITV to launch their own. In May 2023, the 18th season of “AGT” will premiere with a new set of talents.

Laura’s audition day, the Golden Buzzer

Viewers of the 11th season of “AGT” were pleasantly surprised by an incredible performance from 13-year-old Laura Bretan – she chose the popular yet extremely difficult opera piece “Nessun Dorma” as her audition song. Just as happened in Romania’s competition, she blew the minds of the audience and the judges, such as Simon Cowell, Mel B., Howie Mendel, and Heidi Klum. Everyone gave her a standing ovation, however, this time around she received the elusive Golden Buzzer from one of the American judges, which automatically sent her to the quarter- finals round. Simon even said, ‘I have never heard anything like that in all the years I’ve been doing this show.’

After the audition episode was aired on TV, she was overwhelmed by the attention she received from everyone, and was excited that her audition clip garnered over 20 million views in just a short period of time.

Her AGT Quarter Finals performance

While most of the fans knew that Laura would undoubtedly move on to the next round easily, as she possessed such a rare gift, it was still nerve-wracking for her family, as there would be times when a contestant was sent home due to a lackluster performance. Sometimes it would boil down to a wrong song choice, which could undermine someone’s skills. Even the producers of the show knew that fans were waiting to hear her vocal prowess once again, so they put her in the last spot. The young opera singer just turned 14 years old when she went back to the “AGT” stage, and performed “The Prayer” originally sung by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. She received another standing ovation, and Mel B., the judge who gave her the Golden Buzzer, was completely thrilled that she chose a contestant most deserving of its benefits. After the performance, she commented, ‘Where does this voice come from? It’s incredible and powerful.’ Laura was already in tears from the appreciation that she received especially when Simon Cowell said that the reason why they made the show was to find people like her. She moved on to the next round.

Laura’s unforgettable Semi-Finals round

Before Laura performed her chosen piece for the Semi-Finals round, she shared a brief story about her grandfather whom she considered her best friend. The grandfather used to live with their family, and each time she would go home from school, her grandfather would be waiting for her, and they would listen to opera music together. In 2015, about a year before she joined “AGT,” he became quite sick, and died before the show started. Apparently, he was the one who encouraged her to follow her dream, and she knew that he would be so proud of how far she had come in her journey.

That night, she said that she would imagine him sitting with the audience watching her sing one of his favorite songs, “Pie Jesu.” The Latin lyrics of the song came from the hymn “Dies Irae,” a medieval poem describing the Last Judgment which was set to music created for the Requiem Mass, dedicated to those who have passed on. Her haunting rendition was welcomed with rousing and thunderous clapping that had everyone on their feet again for another standing ovation. Simon Cowell even said that if she wouldn’t be included in the Finals round, then something seriously wrong would have happened. Another judge, Howie Mendell, said that he hoped that viewers at home did not only hear the fantastic voice, but also felt the sincerity of the performance through their screens. He encouraged everyone to vote for her, because it was an OMG night for him. Laura didn’t get enough votes from viewers, but was saved by the judges’ vote, so she went to the Finals round.

The Finals Round in which she finished sixth

Just like Laura’s three previous performances, she received another standing ovation, and the judges were all in agreement that they couldn’t imagine that the one who performed that night with a huge voice was just a skinny little teen. Someone said that it was hands down a million-dollar performance. Heidi Klum said that Laura looked like a princess that night, but ruled the stage like a Queen. Her song choice for the finals night was Puccini’s composition, “O Mio Babbino Caro,” the same song she sang during her audition in “Romania’s Got Talent.” Her fans thought that she already had it in the bag, but during the results night, she only managed to end the competition as the sixth placer. Some of them already had an inkling that she wasn’t as popular as her competitors, due to what happened during the Semi-Finals round. Many were disappointed, but her fans knew that it was only the beginning of her career as a professional opera singer.

The huge debate on Laura Bretan’s choice of opera pieces

There were some vocal coaches and professional opera singers who voiced their concerns after they watched the viral videos of Laura’s performances; apparently, some of them believed that she was pushing herself too hard to reach those difficult notes. For instance, the song, “Nessun Dorma” was originally written for a certain tenor voice and was so demanding that it could damage the singer physically if the body hadn’t fully developed yet. Those who were “in the know,” were outraged that someone as young as Laura was being exploited on TV.

An experienced opera singer, Heidi Moss, wrote an open letter to Laura on her social media account, telling the young singer that she might have been forcing some sounds that could later on turn out to be dangerous for her health, and her potential to become something more, because true classical training would take years. She wrote, ‘Over time, the irritation of singing that way can cause swelling or even worse, nodes or popped vessels.’

Another opera singer, soprano Catherine Bott, gave her two cents as well to the topic, saying that it would be best to allow young Laura to let her voice grow and settle just like Mirella Freni, the iconic Italian soprano, did with her talent. Mirella also participated in several competitions when she was young, but limited her singing until she was 16 years old. It paid off, as she became one of the most successful opera singers in the world.

However, not all opinions were light-hearted and logical, as some critics produced sarcastic and nasty statements such as starting a GoFundMe page so people could donate to send Simon Cowell to the MET. Most Laura and “AGT” fans felt that those criticisms came out as plain snobbery. Some of the opera purists perceived the audience who gave Laura a standing ovation to have poor taste, as they didn’t understand the true meaning of opera. In the end, even if the intention was good and would benefit Laura in the long run, they also immediately dismissed Laura’s performances as ‘not opera,’ which was regarded by fans as jealousy. Some people said that if only these critics welcomed the new opera enthusiasts, even those uneducated ones with open arms, then this genre would gain more fans instead of haters.

Laura Bretan’s life after “AGT”

With a great support system, people need not worry about how she dealt with not being the winner, as she took everything in stride, and her faith in God Almighty strengthened even more. Not winning “AGT” wasn’t the end of her singing career, as Laura became busier with all the invitations for interviews and performances not only across the US, but internationally as well. She went to Rome to perform just a month after “AGT.” It was the start of many travels to different cities, performing in music festivals and featuring in concerts of popular artists including David Foster, Chris Botti, Yiruma, and Jose Carreras. She even landed a major role in a short film called “An Aria for Albrights,” which was an entry for a film fest.

It was reported that her parents made sure that she continued her studies through online schooling. Laura posted photos on her Facebook account in June 2020, of herself dressed in a toga and holding her certificate from Alpha Omega Academy, a classic Christ-centered school. She also had a huge smile on her face as she held a car key, and her fans assumed that she was given a vehicle as a gift, and was officially allowed to drive it.

In March 2021, she released an album entitled “World I See,” of nine songs which were a mix of contemporary and classical music. She featured guest artists such as The Tenors for the song “Believe”, and Alberto Urso for “Miracoli”, and co-wrote the music and the lyrics of the title song. All of the songs in the album were made available digitally through major music streaming sites, and a physical album could also be purchased. In 2022, she had over a million streams from 176 countries on Spotify.

As for those who worried about her voice when she was singing arias, when starting in the business, she only had this to say, ‘We shouldn’t underestimate someone because of how young they are, but by the way they work and the time they invest into doing what they do.’

Her team had been planning for her to release a new album that would feature Italian classics and original music. In between her travels and performances, Laura had been busy writing and recording songs. She knew that it would take a long while before her new album would be finished, so she release a single entitled “Higher Place” in which she again co-wrote the lyrics and music. To celebrate her 21st birthday in April 2023, she also released her version of a Christian song entitled “Via Dolorosa.” The fans can listen to it through different social media and streaming platforms.Clearly, his career is anything but over – quite the opposite!

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