America's Got Talent has discovered something Romanian Pentecostals have known for years: Laura Bretan can sing! On last week's pre-taped "Auditions Week One" show, judges—including Simon Cowell—gave the 13-year-old two standing ovations and the first Golden Buzzer of the amateur talent show's 11th season. They were wowed.
"You are born with such a gift," judge Heidi Klum raved after Laura performed a flawless rendition of "Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep)," from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot. Yes, she sings opera.
Bad-guy judge Cowell was flummoxed and bowled over: "I have never heard anything like that in all the years I have been doing this show. Seriously. It was unbelievable. What made it better is the fact that you are such a sweet person. So humble. Not even aware of how amazing you are. Thank you so much for coming on this show. That was really special, amazing."
Judge Mel B agreed with Cowell. The former Spice Girl hit AGT's cherished Golden Buzzer, catapulting Laura into the semi-finals. Judges usually vote on whether a contestant will advance or not. The Golden Buzzer prize means Laura skips initial voting and jumps past the judges' elimination rounds to the live rounds. Only five contestants each season can receive this fast-track ticket (one Golden Buzzer per judge), and receiving it instantly makes Laura a favorite to win the entire competition.
Visibly shaking with excitement, after the performance Laura told AGT host Nick Cannon, "This is like a dream come true. I have been waiting for this for so long."
Laura hails from Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Romanian-American parents and active members of the Romanian Pentecostal community. When Laura was 6, she watched Snow White, and sang along. Recognizing talent, Laura's mother helped her select songs to sing, first at church, then at other talent venues, including the Apollo Theater amateur night, which she won.
Laura was about 8 years old when she first sang publicly at her home church, Elim Romanian Pentecostal in Chicago. She has been singing worship songs, Christian pop and opera nonstop ever since then. Laura has been featured at Romanian Pentecostal national conventions, a commemoration service for Romanian martyred Pastor Richard Wurmbrand and the Logos School of Music, where she sang "Shine on Us" at Moody Church in Chicago.
How does this unpretentious 13-year-old describe herself? On Laura's Facebook page she wrote: "Hi! My name is Laura. This is a list of things about me: 1. I love to sing; 2. I love to help others; 3. I love to praise the Lord!; 4. I'm happy to be a Christian. These are some things about me!"
Hear Laura sing the Hopper's "Jerusalem" at her home church in 2011; Celine Dion's "Prayer" at a wedding; "I Will Praise Your Name Forever" and a worship song at a Romanian Pentecostal convention in Seattle in 2012.
Yes, Laura Bretan can sing, and this gifted 13-year-old gives God the glory.
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