Teen Opera Singer, Southwest Side Choir Vie for Spots in ‘America's Got Talent' Finale

From Laura Bretan’s show-stopping performance to Musicality’s powerful message, Chicago-area acts fought furiously Tuesday for their chance at making it to the “America’s Got Talent” finale.

Bringing the judges to their feet yet again was the 14-year-old opera singer, Bretan, who gave what Simon Cowell called her “best vocal performance” as she sang “Pie Jesu.”

“If you’re not in the final something has gone seriously, seriously wrong with that,” Cowell said.

Bretan’s performances have made headlines since her remarkable debut on the hit show, but Tuesday night’s stunner meant more than just her shot at the $1 million prize.

The song was a nod to grandfather, one of her biggest supporters, who passed away in January.

“Growing up my grandfather used to live with us. Every day I’d come home from school he would be waiting for me at the doorstep,” she said in a video shown before her performance. “He listened to opera and he really encouraged me to sing with him. He was like my best friend.”

She goes on to say that when her grandfather fell ill, he told her to “keep on going with your dream and do what you love to do.” Shortly after that, she went on to win Romania’s “America’s Got Talent” in honor of her grandfather.

“He wanted to see me following my dream. I think he would be so proud that I’ve made it so far,” she said. “The song that I’m about to sing it was one of his favorites.”

And she did not disappoint.

“You feel her heart and I hope that translates through the screen,” said Howie Mandel. “This was an O-M-G night.”

Bretan wasn’t the only Chicago act to vye for a slot in the finals Tuesday, with high school choir group Musicality taking the stage as well.

The group from the city’s Southwest Side received mixed reviews from the judges for their cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

“We’ve been fighting low expectations every day of our lives,” said student Reggie Woods in a video before taking the stage. “This is our chance to write our own story. It’s shown us lives that we never thought we could live.”

The singers from Curie Metropolitan High School have fought through tragedy after one singer’s sister was murdered during their time on the show. They come from an area their director described as “pretty rough.”

“These kids are afraid to even come to school,” director Michael Gibson said in an earlier episode. “That’s when I came up with the idea to start an after school program.”

The judges continued to praise what the group stands for Tuesday.

“You make me feel great,” said Heidi Klum. “I love your story, I love your message.”

But for Mel B, the performance fell short.

“For me tonight, that just felt like a well-rehearsed school performance it did not feel like a big ‘Americas Got Talent’ performance,” she said. “I just wanted something better.”

Arguably the harshest vocal critic, Cowell noted the group’s improvement.

“You’ve come a long way from when we first saw you and you are one of those acts that every time I see, like Heidi said, it makes feel good,” he said. “It makes me feel good that you’re here and I think I’d feel even better if you were here in two weeks time.”

The two groups were among 11 acts to compete in Tuesday’s episode. Five of those acts will advance to the final in two weeks. The results are slated to be revealed during Wednesday’s episode at 7 p.m. CT.

Another round of semifinal acts will compete next week.

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