He sang the national anthem before a stadium full of roaring fans at a University of South Florida game. He delivered a soulful rendition of Amazing Grace for the National Day of Prayer at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. He starred in leading roles of local productions of Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland and Mulan. • And, he accomplished all this before reaching a double-digit age. • Now, Dover 10-year-old Julian Silva will take his vocals on a tour of North America, showcasing his talents for audiences as far away as Canada in his role as Gavroche in Les Misérables.
Julian has prepared for this moment since he started singing opera at age 5. His inspiration: Il Divo, an operatic pop group formed by Simon Cowell. Silva actually got the chance to meet Cowell last year.
"I started mimicking them when I was 5," Julian said.
"He started singing in Spanish, a song by Il Divo," added his mother, Maria Silva. "So we got him singing lessons to find his own voice."
"Neither one of us sings," she said of her and her husband, Daniel Silva. "So it's a pure gift."
Two years later, he enrolled at Music Showcase in Brandon. Joy Rodgers, the theatre director, saw a star in Silva from the beginning.
"He was adorable," she said with a smile. "He never appeared nervous. He was a happy, secure little boy. He was at ease on stage. He totally immersed himself in the character."
They worked on stage presence in class. But for Julian, it came naturally.
"He would climb into the laps of the older kids," Rodgers said, noting the confidence Silva possessed, even at a young age.
That confidence comes through in his performances. He's not concerned about what others think, which is admirable for someone his age. When asked about stage fright, he said, "I get nervous, but once I get started, it goes away."
Back in the theater room, Rodgers chuckled as she told stories about the precocious young man with the spiked brown hair.
"He was so cute in his little red costume," she said recalling Silva's role as Mushu in Mulan. "It's not work to Julian. It's the pure enjoyment of being on stage."
Julian confirmed the same.
"Being on stage in front of everyone, acting, I love that," he said.
Before every show, Rodgers and the students get pumped up in the upstairs practice room. She has each student say something good about someone else.
Silva has his own warmup method, saying a little prayer before each performance.
To get into character, he does his research. He studies by watching movies and television shows. Even though Silva played Gavroche in a Les Misérables production put on by Riverview and Newsome high schools last year, he did see the new Les Misérables film, to perfect the character.
Gavroche, a street urchin sent to the streets of Paris by his parents, is Silva's favorite role to date. The character eventually dies. How hard was it for Julian to get into such a serious role?
"My character isn't afraid to die," he said. "I'm an actor, so I'm just acting it out."
This role in Cameron Mackintosh's stage version of Les Misérables marks the beginning of future success.
"I always wanted to be on Broadway, and here I am," he said. "I really want my own music on CDs, and someday I want my own tour."
He's almost there, too. After winning the title of overall child singer at the Actors, Models and Talent for Christ contest, talent scouts were eager to talk to his parents.
Once he finishes touring with Les Misérables, they want to sign with an agent.
You can already catch Silva in commercials for Networks Presentations' Les Misérables on local television. Then, beginning March 5, you can see him in the touring production at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.
Arielle Waldman can be reached at [email protected]