- Pretty Yende comes from humble beginnings in Piet Retief
- She has made a name for herself in the international world of opera
- She will be performing at the New York Metropolitan Opera in January
Born in the small town of Piet Retief in 1985, Pretty Yende began singing in her church choir, with plans to become an accountant after finishing school. Instead, at the age of 16, she heard the Flower Duet on a British Airways advertisement, and enraptured by its beauty, she immersed herself in the world of opera.
Gaining a scholarship to the South African College of Music in Cape Town, Yende studied under Professor Virginia Davids, the first black woman to appear on stage in an opera during South Africa’s apartheid years.
Winning first place in every category in the International Hans Gabor Belvedere (2009) and Operalia (2011) Competitions led to Yende being invited to the prestigious young artists’ programme at La Scala in Milan (2009–2011), where she made her stage debut in 2010.
Since then, she has been praised in The Telegraph, The New York Times and on Bachtrack.com; a local talent achieving international recognition. Her second solo album, Dreams, released internationally in November 2017. She describes the album as “an exploration of dreams in operas and of living in one herself.”
It’s not all fun and games for Yende, though. Rehearsals, shows and concerts take up most of her time. Being an opera singer calls for utter dedication and versatility. Most operas are written and performed in foreign languages, so singers have to act and perform in them.
Yende speaks four South African languages, is fluent in French and Italian, and is currently learning German.
Travelling the world, Yende spends some of the year in New York and Paris, which are quickly becoming her “artistic homes”. She still calls South Africa home though, and looks forward to returning here as often as possible.
She wants to cultivate classical music in South Africa and the rest of Africa and set up the Pretty Yende Foundation in 2013 which has since donated musical instruments to a few schools in her community.
Yende currently lives in Milan, and is preparing for L'Elisir d'Amore, opening at The Metropolitan Opera in New York in January 2018.
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