14 incredible classical performances on reality TV talent shows

3 May 2019, 10:04 | Updated: 3 May 2019, 10:06

From Sephy Francisco and Jonathan Antoine to dubstep violinists and goths singing opera: Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor have brought some great – and some bizarre – classical performers to our screen.

Here are just a few of our favourite classical audition tapes...  

1. Jonathan and Charlotte

The operatic duo wowed the Britain's Got Talent judges as soon as they began to sing in 2012 and came second in the competition overall. Simon Cowell famously (heartlessly) suggested Jonathan ditch Charlotte and go it alone in the competition. The pair split in 2014 and Jonathan Antoine released his debut album, Tenore, in October 2014.

2. Lucy O'Byrne

Back in 2015, young Irish opera singer Lucy O'Byrne wowed The Voice judges with her performance of the fiendishly difficult 'Un bel di' aria from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Kudos to anyone who can sing this, to be honest.

3. Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle's rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream' from Les Misérables went viral after she completely took the judges and studio audience by surprise. Here it is – and we defy you not to shed a tear. As Ant and Dec said "Youse didn't expect that, did ya?"

4. Paul Potts

This ex-manager of a mobile phone shop made Puccini's 'Nessun Dorma' when he performed in the Britain's Got Talent final in 2007. He won the competition – and, be honest, our hearts – and his life has since been the subject of a film starring James Corden called One Chance. But it's his first audition on the show which gets us every time... even if Amanda does call him a 'little lump of coal'.

5. Sephy Francisco

Sephy, a 27-year-old singer from the Philippines, used her X Factor audition to show off her extraordinary range, by singing both the male and female parts of ‘The Prayer’ – made famous by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. It’s fair to say that Sephy struggles with a bit of pitchiness in her upper range here, but she still gives one heck of a surprising performance.

6. Martynas

Who can follow that? Well, how about this winner of Lithuania's Got Talent? There's not a dancing dog in sight, just some mean accordion skills.

7. Amira Willighagen

It must get pretty tiring being a talent show judge. A performing dog here, a dance troupe there… until, occasionally, you stumble across a Puccini-loving nine-year-old who taught herself to sing on YouTube. Seriously.

8. Sung Bong Choi

He's never been to school, he lived on the streets for ten years, and now he's on a talent show in a bid to change his life. It might sound like just another TV sob story, but stow your cynicism and grab your hankie for Sung Bong Choi's incredible rendition of Morricone's Gabriel's Oboe.

9. Only Boys Aloud

Just a couple of well-turned out schools boys singing a Welsh hymn? That's what the judges thought too… turns out they were in for a surprise.

10. Andrew De Leon

Where to start? Meet Andrew-De-Leon. He's a 19-year-old leather-clad eyeliner-sporting goth, who wears bright blue contact lenses while singing Puccini. This incredible rendition has to be seen to be believed. (Oh, and did we mention, he's a countertenor?)


11. Lettice Rowbotham

Classically trained violinist Lettice Rowbotham didn't do herself any favours when she bumbled, hungover, onto the BGT stage in a massive fur gilet. That is, until, she wowed the crowd with an unlikely Flo Rida performance - all played on a bright pink electric violin. She's since brought the public round to her way of thinking thanks to hypnotic performances like this Skrillex-fuelled masterpiece:


12. The Arrangement

Simon Cowell's not convinced by these light-hearted youngsters, but we are: at least the singer is supporting fully AND projecting his voice as he carefully enunciates will.i.am's libretto.

13. Gruffydd Wyn Roberts

It didn't all start out smoothly for Gruffydd: when he first went on stage, he was planning to sing Josh Groban’s ‘Un Giorno Per Noi’, but Simon Cowell stopped him and asked him to sing something else. Luckily, he had Puccini’s aria ‘Nessun Dorma’ prepared as well. And he impressed the judges so much that Amanda Holden hit the golden buzzer.

14. Laura Bretan

Laura Bretan, 13, set season 11 of America’s Got Talent alight in 2016 after she performed ‘Nessun Dorma’ in front of a gobsmacked Simon Cowell.

Simon Cowell sent her through to the next round, adding: "This is ridiculous, how old are you? You perform with such passion and you pace yourself and you always hit that big moment, and I’m sitting here thinking you can’t really be 14."