• Laura Bretan is a 13-year-old Romanian-American opera singer who rose to fame after her performances on AGT and Romania’s Got Talent
• She has won the hearts of fans worldwide and gained a following on her socials
• Her performances have been praised by many, but some opera singers have expressed concerns about the technique she uses
• She has released two albums, one of which contains her own original work
• She is currently training with a mezzo soprano from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to improve her sound and prevent vocal fatigue
In 2016, a 13-year-old Romanian-American girl walked onto the set of “America’s Got Talent”, often referred to as “AGT”, to audition for the 11th season of the show. After a nervous conversation with Canadian comedian and game show host Howie Mandel, the teenage girl launched into a performance that would have the name Laura Bretan etched into the brains of every person who watched her performance live. Less than a minute into her performance, Laura had the fastidious Simon Cowell in awe, asking his fellow judges whether the soprano voice was really coming from a 13-year-old. His fellow judge, the songstress Mel B, was smiling and swaying her head in appreciation throughout, clearly wonderstruck by the electrifying performance. By the time Laura sang her last note, Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum were on their feet, applauding the magical performance they had just witnessed, before Mel B and a still awestruck Simon got to their feet to give the star-in-making the standing ovation she earned and deserved.
As the audience erupted in cheers and tears over the raw power and emotion in her voice, and passion on her face, and the host marveled at Laura’s voice, Mel B was contemplating pressing a button that would change Laura’s life forever. With one push of the Golden Buzzer, Laura Bretan joined other musical prodigies who started their musical journeys in “AGT”, and began her journey to stardom. Fans often wonder, ‘How did Laura Bretan get into one of the largest talent show competitions in the world? Did she live up to the potential that Spice Girl Mel B saw in her? What happened to her and what is she doing now?’
Early Life and Development of Musical Talent
Laura was born on 7 April 2002 in Chicago, Illinois USA, to migrant Romanian parents. In her conversation with Howie on the day the whole world started regarding her as a musical prodigy, Laura traced the origin of her interest in music to her mother, revealing that she had accompanied her to the audition, and loved to sing. As a child, Laura would sing with her, who recognized her daughter’s passion for music. When she was four years old, Laura began to sing Christian music with her mother’s encouragement, and within a year, Laura had also learned to play the piano.
Before long, her very supportive parents, Rahela and Petru Bretan, were entering their talented child in music contests and competitions across the state and then country – she won several. Eventually, Laura recognized opera as the one genre of music she was passionate about, and began to focus her training, practice, and energy into it. The hours of practice paid off, because eight years later, a screaming crowd was cheering on the teen opera singer on the stage of one of the largest talent competition shows in the US and the world.
Two Talent Shows in One Year
2016 was a pivotal year in Laura’s life and musical journey. Early in the year, she auditioned for a spot in the sixth season of Romania’s Got Talent, walking onto the stage an unknown teenager. The moment she let out the first note of one of her signature opera covers, “O Mio Babbino Caro” (“Oh My Dear Daddy”) by Giacomo Puccini, one of the judges was on his feet, while the rest clutched their chests, amazed and moved by the incredible voice of 13-year-old Laura. Close-ups of the crowd showed several people in tears, members of the audience on their feet, and the rest swaying in synch with the notes she belted out. A video of the performance on Laura’s YouTube channel has close to 500,000 views, and has been uploaded to several other channels – it has over two million views and over 300 comments on one channel.
— Laura Bretan (@ItsLauraBretan) November 1, 2021
From that first performance, Laura established herself as the contestant to watch in the competition, particularly after she was sent straight to the finals when one of the judges pressed the golden buzzer. Her performance at the finals was just as electrifying as her first, made even better by the audience’s anticipation, having already heard Laura’s magical voice in the auditions. For her final performance, Laura’s voice as she performed “Vissi d’arte” melded perfectly with the orchestra, and the crowd remained silent, savoring every note before erupting in applause as soon as she sang her last note. At the end of the evening, no one, besides Laura, was surprised when she was announced the winner of Romania’s Got Talent 2016.
Later in 2016, Laura flew back home to the US with one win under her belt, and ready for her second win of the year. She immediately put in an application for “America’s Got Talent”, and was given the opportunity to audition – you already know the result of that effort – her second golden buzzer of the year, sending her straight to the finals on a bigger stage and even larger platform.
On 13th September 2016, Laura put on another performance of “O Mio Babbino Caro” for the finals of “America’s Got Talent” – the video of her performance has almost 4.4 million views on YouTube, and close to 2,000 comments praising her musical prowess. In addition to her usual standing ovation from the crowd and judges, Laura received high praise from the latter – Simon Cowell called her an extraordinary talent who has perfected the art of pacing herself and delivering perfect performances. Howie Mandel called Laura’s performance a “brilliant million-dollar performance.” Mel B, the Spice girl who became Laura’s fairy godmother at the auditions, marveled at Laura’s ability to hit every note perfectly. Heidi Klum said that Laura, who was dressed as a princess, ruled the stage like a queen, and implored every American to vote for the teen opera singer.
However, Laura finished sixth in “AGT”, but although she didn’t win, she did win the hearts of her live audience, and drew a large following on her socials. She has 72,000 subscribers on YouTube and has accumulated millions of views for her collective uploads, which include covers of multiple compositions, videos of the live performances she’s staged over the years, and the official videos of the original songs she’s composed and released.
Singing Technique Controversy
When Laura’s voice first went viral in 2016, several opera singers came out expressing concerns over her voice. On 5th June 2016, Claudia Friedlander, a voice teacher at Carnegie Hall, wrote her assessment of Laura’s voice and performance in an opinion piece in the Summer Issue of Classical Singer Magazine, that experienced opera singers and voice coaches were deeply concerned about Laura’s voice. They acknowledged her musical instincts and the promise in her voice, but considered her sound too mature for a girl her age. Their verdict was that Laura is manipulating her sound, and exerting too much effort to produce the signature voice her fans know her for. Eventually, the pressure Laura is putting on her voice could cause vocal fatigue or damage her vocal cords.
Heidi Moss, a seasoned opera singer, shared Claudia’s concern that Laura was damaging her voice, and addressed Laura in an open letter, in which she cautioned Laura against forcing her sound, and reminding her that becoming an opera singer requires years of training and hard work. Heidi warned that if Laura continues to strain her vocal cords, she is putting herself at risk of irritating her nodes, which could lead to irritation or ruptured vessels. However, all opera singers who came out to evaluate Laura’s performance and share their concerns agree that her voice is promising.
While most opera singers warned Laura against straining her voice in her performances, some applauded her sound. For example, Laura received a positive review from Andres Andrade, the founder and director of Citywide Youth Opera, who was confident that Laura is developing her technique well, shows clarity of tone, and manages to keep her throat relaxed throughout her performances. Her supporters claimed that a section of opera singers was just jealous of the public’s enthusiastic response to an opera aria – a rare occurrence outside of the theatre genre. The controversy was fueled further by a campaign started by opera singers to send Simon Cowell to the Metropolitan Opera to witness first-hand what makes a great opera performance. Meanwhile, Laura has kept up performances of various arias.
Events and Performances
Since her win, Laura has appeared in interviews with NBC, WGN, CBS, WCIU, and Windy City Live, and appeared in features were published on Today’s Show, People Magazine, CNN, Chicago Tribune, and Country Living. She’s performed classical music and her own original music on various stages across the world; in 2019, Laura had the honor of performing “The Prayer” alongside the legendary Michael Bolton at the Sala Palatului in Bucharest, Romania; the soulful performance has over 700,000 views on Laura’s Romanian fan channel, as well as having earned the admiration of Michael Bolton during their collaboration.
Laura’s performance in Bucharest, Romania was part of her European tour, which opened in March with the Sunday performance at the Sala Palatului with Michael Bolton, before leaving for Timisoara for a performance at the Universitatea de Vest. The following month, Laura traveled to Belgium for a performance at the Marche aux Poissions in Brussels, followed by a performance at the Patidar House in Wembley, London UK. For her final leg of the tour, Laura headed back to Romania, and honored her Romanian heritage with a performance at Oradea. One of her final performances in the tour, in which Laura sang “Ave Maria” at a concert in Bucharest, has almost 200,000 views on her YouTube channel.
In the US, Laura was in the line-up for the Anniversary Gala of Project Harmony at Opera Omaha. Before that, she performed alongside David Foster in Beverly Hills, California. She’s since toured Australia and New Zealand. and staged performances on TV shows in China and Europe alongside Andre Rieu.
As a child, Laura sang worship music and released an album comprising covers of such popular songs. The album had 10 tracks, “You’re the One,” “Song of a Prisoner,” “Mighty to Save,” “Jerusalem,” “The Story that Never Ends,” “Jesus Messiah,” “Let Your Glory Fall,” “I Will Rise,” “City of Refuge,” and “Gospel to the World.”
In December 2020, Laura released her first album featuring her own original work entitled “World I See” after years of performing the work of other composers. Laura is proud of her collaborations with global artists on the album, which was recorded and produced by Universal Music Group. The album has 9 tracks, “Miracoli,” “World I See,” “Breathe,” “Adagio,” “Arrows,” “Believe,” “Wide Awake,” “La Luce,” and “Dear Father”, and featured two collaborations – “The Tenors,” a Canadian Opera pop group were featured on “Believe” while Alberto Urso, an Italian singer who won the 18th edition of Amici di Maria De Filippi, an Italian talent show, was featured on “Miracoli.”
Following a successful album launch and reception, Laura has continued to work with writers and composers on original songs, both individually and in collaboration with other artists. Second, she listened to the seasoned opera singers who advised her that training would improve her sound, reduce the risk of vocal fatigue, and prevent her from injuring her vocal cords. She’s currently training with Nicoleta Roman, a mezzo soprano with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As she continues training, Laura’s new music promises a more seasoned sound that reflects her passion for singing, the results of years of experience and training, and the authenticity that her fans love.