Pretty Yende, South African Soprano Opera Singer

Pretty Yende is a South African soprano opera singer who developed her incredible talent to become one of the world’s most sought-after sopranos. Born in 1985 in the small remote town of Piet Retief, about three hundred miles from Johannesburg, South African soprano Pretty Yende was initially introduced to singing in a manner familiar to many South Africans in her church choir.

At the age of sixteen, she heard the Flower Duet from Lakmé on a British Airways television advert, and was so enraptured by its beauty that she became determined to find out more about it. On learning that it was opera, she decided at that moment to abandon her plans to become an accountant, and to train to become an opera singer instead.
She gained a scholarship to study at the South African College of Music in Cape Town with Professor Virginia Davids, the first black woman to appear on opera stages during the apartheid years in South Africa. With Davids’s help, Yende’s extraordinary talent blossomed, and she triumphed in both the International Hans Gabor Belvedere (2009) and Operalia Competitions (2011). In both, she gained first prizes in every category and was the first artist in history to do so.

She also attended and graduated from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. Her successes did led to an offer to join the prestigious young artists’ programme at La Scala in Milan (2009–2011), where she made her stage debut in 2010. In the same year she further won first prizes at the Leyla Gencer Voice Competition and Concours International de Belcanto Vincenzo Bellini.

Yende first came to international attention in 2010 when she became the first artist in the history of the Belvedere Competition to win First Prize in every category. She also won First Prize in Placido Domingo’s Operalia Competition in 2011. Yende made her professional operatic debut at the Latvian National Theatre in Riga as Micaela in Carmen and has since been seen at nearly all of the major theaters of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Covent Garden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and many others.

Pretty Yende at Richard Tucker Gala .New York 2014
She is credited for her vocals in Andrea Bocelli's Concerto: One Night in Central Park (2011), and as a primary artist for the "Ode À L'Humanité" (Ode to Humanity, previously called Aria) track on the Yanni/Plácido Domingo collaboration Inspirato (2014). Pretty Yende has appeared at all of the major opera houses of the world, and has been widely lauded in the press. ‘Possessed of diamanté tone and a megawatt smile… a soprano of real musical intelligence,’ said The Telegraph after her debut recital in London.
In 2013, she stepped in at a month’s notice to sing in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory opposite Juan Diego Flórez (replacing Nino Machaidze) at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, she gained rapturous acclaim. ‘Her voice has a luminous sheen combined with steely resolve … she delivered some of the most difficult coloratura passages with scintillating precision,’ said The New York Times after this sensational Metropolitan Opera debut. Later that year she also replaced an indisposed Cecilia Bartoli at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in the same opera. ‘A sensational Vienna debut,’ said

             Pretty Yende on Stage at Le Nozze di Figaro, Los Angeles Opera

Yende has already appeared at major opera houses in Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Hamburg and Paris, and has frequently sung at her ‘home theatre’ of La Scala. Her roles include Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor), Juliette (Roméo et Juliette), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Adina (L’elisir d’amore) and Elvira (I puritani).

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In January 2013, she made her New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera performing the role of Comtesse Adèle in Comte Ory alongside Juan Diego Florez, a role she performed again at the Theater an der Wien. During the same season, she made her debut in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in Cape Town. The 2013 / 2014 season saw her first performances at the Los Angeles Opera (as Micaela) and at the Hamburg Staatsoper (as Fiorilla in Il Turco in Italia). It also saw her return to Milan’s La Scala in Le Comte Ory.

During the 2014/2015 season, she sang Pamina in The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera, Rosina in The Barber of Seville at the Oslo Opera, Lucia di Lammermoor at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Norina in her debut performance at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro in Los Angeles. Last season, she played Adina (in L’Elisir d’amore) at the Staatsoper in Berlin and Pamina at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. She also made her debut performance as Elvira (in I Puritani) at the Zurich Opera and appeared at the Paris Opera for the first time in The Barber of Seville. Her first CD, Pretty Yende: a journey, has just been released by Sony Classical.

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What’s not to love about Pretty Yende? Her voice is delightful, her personality sparkles, and her story is inspiring. Just 31, Yende has gone from life in a South African township to stardom on the world’s opera stages. Now her first album, titled “A Journey,” documents her impressive lyric abilities, her lustrous tone and especially her mastery of coloratura. Runs and trills are tossed off with seeming ease, and she can soar to a high E natural without sounding strained. At a Gala reception on May 7 in London, Pretty Yende’s Sony Classical release titled “A Journey” was honored with a 2017 International Opera Award for Best Recording – Solo Recital.

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