By ELISABETTA POVOLEDOJUNE 6, 2014
ROME — She trilled and thrilled millions of YouTube viewers with songs by Alicia Keys, Cyndi Lauper and Bon Jovi. She belted out a duet with Kylie Minogue, both of them clad in black, albeit with vastly different approaches to style.
And just after midnight Thursday, Sister Cristina Scuccia, the Sicilian singing nun who has become a worldwide sensation, won the second edition of the TV talent competition “The Voice of Italy” after singing a rousing version of “What a Feeling,” the Oscar-winning song from the 1983 film “Flashdance,'’ accompanied by a chorus line of dancers dressed as monks, who threw off their habits to reveal pastel-colored suits.
“My dream is to recite Our Father together,” she said upon winning, intoning the Lord’s Prayer, while the show’s judges shuffled their feet and mumbled, visibly embarrassed. The show’s host noted her “very original way” of accepting.
On the wave of the global success of her video singing Ms. Keys’s “No One,” viewed online by 51 million people since it was posted in March, Sister Cristina’s victory — with more than 60 percent of the votes cast — came as little surprise, even as Italian media unfailingly jibed that she may have had a little help from above.
The bigger question mark in a country where some polls suggest that a majority of Italian women aspire to television fame is whether success will go to the head of the 25-year-old nun, possibly leading her astray from her calling. Winning the competition, after all, comes with a recording contract.
“There are plenty of people guiding her who will help organize her artistic activity. I think she has a lot of support,” said Claudia Koll, an actress who enrolled Sister Cristina at the drama school she runs at a nunnery in Rome after hearing her perform. “She is supported by prayer and by people, so she’s not as much at risk as people think,” Ms. Koll said in a telephone interview.
At a news conference on Wednesday with the finalists of ‘'The Voice,'’ Sister Cristina said that she would follow the orders of her superiors regarding her future, which could include tours or recording contracts. She said that if asked to, she was ready to return to the church choir where she sang before becoming a sensation.
A spokesman for the show said Friday that Sister Cristina would not be giving interviews.
Sister Cristina beat out four rivals on Thursday to arrive at the title, and the final came down to the diminutive nun and a 28-year-old rocker channeling a 1970s heavy metal look.
“I want to thank everyone who has helped me during this difficult period, thanks for having protected me many times, " Sister Cristina said after winning, citing her fans; the middle-aged nuns who have religiously followed her performances in the audience; and her coach J-Ax, a 41-year-old rapper. The odd couple was redubbed “the devil and the holy water,” an Italian idiom for a most unlikely alliance.
“I hope you can make a change out there, and be an example,” said J-Ax, although he professed that he remained an atheist.
In an interview in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, J-Ax expressed his hope that Sister Cristina would make a record. “It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “But the earnings, all the earnings have to be earmarked to build a hospital or an orphanage in Brazil,” where Sister Cristina worked with poor children. “No one can earn a penny from it,” he said.