Had it not been for a random encounter with a British Airways television commercial when she was 16, soprano Pretty Yende might be crunching numbers in an office today rather than performing at some of the world’s most famous opera houses.
The South African singer recalled in a recent interview that she was home watching TV when she came across the commercial, which featured music she had never heard before — something strange but also weirdly beautiful.
“It didn’t sound human at all,” she said. Later, she learned that the score was the popular Flower Duet from Delibes’ “Lakmé.”
And so a love of classical opera was born. Starting Saturday, Yende will star as Susanna in Los Angeles Opera’s production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” which runs through April 12 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The 30-year-old last appeared with the company in a 2013 staging of “Carmen.”
Yende said that becoming an opera singer first meant convincing her parents, who wanted her to pursue accounting. (Her mother is a teacher, and her father drives a taxi.)
The singer grew up in a Zulu-speaking family in the town of Piet Retief, in the northeastern part of South Africa on the border with Swaziland. For her, “opera was completely foreign and never existed until that ad,” she said.
Read the entire feature via the Los Angeles Times