Royal Opera House – Pretty Yende’s opera journey: ‘Music is a gift to humanity’

The award-winning South African soprano reflects on her musical journey, from church hymns with her grandmother to the world’s top opera houses.

Feature: Royal Opera House

Pretty Yende’s star is in the ascent. After training at La Scala, Milan, she made her debut with Metropolitan Opera, New York, aged 27, stepping in at less than a month’s notice to sing in Le Comte Ory opposite Juan Diego Flórez. That was back in 2013, and since then she’s sung for opera houses around the world, making her Royal Opera debut in summer 2017 in L’elisir d’amore. A few weeks earlier her debut solo album A Journeywon the International Opera Award for Solo Recital Recording.

Yende’s discovery of opera is well-documented: aged 16, she heard Delibes’ Flower Duet from Lakmé on a British Airways television advert, and was immediately captivated. But of course her musical life predates that exposure, as she explains in an interview at the Royal Opera House:

‘Music for me was really planted way, way back. I remember days with my grandmother when she would teach me songs – you know, church hymns – and that’s where I started to sing. At home there was always music in the house, so the ear was accustomed to hearing sounds and melodies. And then of course to be introduced to opera in 2001 was a revelation.’


Image: Bill Cooper / ROH