“In the role of Leïla, suppressed erotic longing is sublimated into pure vocalism lavishly ornamented with arabesques and grace notes. Ms. Yende’s singing has itself much of that birdlike quality, her pert and fresh soprano seeming to alight on each note with dainty precision.”
New York Times
“As the priestess Leila, Pretty Yende displayed the many beautiful facets of her jewel-like voice, thanks to the exotic melodies of Bizet’s score. The audience first sees Yende as a projection upon a wave during the act 1 duet, before making an auspicious, veiled entrance on a tiny metallic boat. As Kwiecien’s Zurga swears her to her new duty, Yende’s responses of “I swear” seemed to melt into the line of the flute. Her numbers toward the end of the first act provided ample moments for Yende to pour forth enchanting tones like a beckoning siren. When met in secret by Nadir, she recoils at first from his advances, with Yende turning away in sync with the sudden beat of a drum from the orchestra.
During her Act two aria “J’etais encore enfant,” Yende sang while holding her veil over her head, towards the audience and away from Nourabad, as if emphasizing her hiding of the fugitive man. She allowed the veil to fall over her head when singing of the promise made with the fugitive; while this prevented the audience from seeing Yende’s face as she continued to vocalize, it was interesting to hear the many sounds coming from her veiled figure.
After her arrest, her exchanges with Elliott’s Zurga were made all the more jarring given the contrast between the modern-but-damaged office and the oriental costume of Yende. This clash of passions also saw Yende deliver a lovely series rising quadruplets as she pleaded for clemency for Nadir; all of this was eventually concluded with Yende, being led off to her execution, rejoicing with a crystalline hue in her voice as she sang the phrase “the gates of Heaven open for me!”