Forbes Woman Africa: The Wealth Music Gives Me Is Priceless

Operatic soprano Pretty Yende is arguably one of South Africa’s greatest cultural exports today.

The Milan-based opera singer has performed alongside music heavyweights such as Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion and graced the stages of major opera houses such as the La Scala Opera House in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and Liceu Opera in Barcelona.

Yet, Yende’s musical beginnings were in a world far away, around a humble bonfire in the small timber growing town of Piet Retief, in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa.

“I remember every night after supper, we would gather around the fire and sing hymns, which was where, I believe my solo career started.”

Read the rest of this feature on Forbes Africa

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Ara.cat: “L’òpera pertany al poble”

De cantar a l’església del seu poble a Sud-àfrica a fer-ho al Met de Nova York o la Royal Opera House de Londres. I tot gràcies a un anunci de British Airways en què sonava el Duet de les flors de l’òpera Lakmé de Léo Delibes. Només van caldre aquells 30 segons perquè Pretty Yende, nascuda el 1985, decidís estudiar cant en lloc d’administració. Aquesta nit serà al Festival de Peralada per oferir un recital amb el pianista Michele d’Elia. Al programa hi ha Rossini, Bellini i Liszt, entre d’altres.

Per què agrada tant la teva història?

Perquè és emocionant veure que el que se suposa que és impossible s’ha fet realitat. Per a mi, aquell anunci va ser la clau per entrar al món de la música.

Es parla de la necessitat d’obrir l’òpera al mainstream i de renovar un públic tradicionalment d’edat avançada. Com es pot fer?

Educació. Educació. Educació. I exposició als mitjans! Que l’òpera pugui emprar les mateixes plataformes de difusió i màrqueting de la música popular. A més, cal que s’ensenyi des de ben joves que l’òpera no és una cosa d’elits o de certes races, sinó que pertany a tothom; és un regal per a l’ànima i és universal. Seria una llàstima que es quedés només en certs cercles.

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The New York Times: Pretty Yende Unmasks a Promising Opera Career

LONDON — It turns out, the hay bales caused it.

Sitting in a cafe a stone’s throw from the Royal Opera House in London, the opera singer Pretty Yende of South Africa whipped out her smartphone to show an Instagram photo of herself in a surgical mask during rehearsals for her London debut in the opera “L’Elisir d’Amore” in May. She had come to London two weeks earlier for rehearsals for her role as Adina, and for the first two days she could not stop sneezing.

“I thought, ‘It is London, it is worse than Milan, and it is this time of year and you expect it,’ ” she said referring to pollen allergies and adding that when she is not traveling she resides in Milan. “But the moment I entered the rehearsal room the worse it became,” and in her apartment that night she was convinced she was getting a cold.

But the next day she realized that the small rehearsal room was filled with raffia — palms that are found in tropical parts of Africa — made to look like hay bales for props for the opera, and it (or the dust on it) got her allergies churning, and she had to take a week off. She asked for a mask to use during rehearsals, and found that it actually helped her become more conscious of her sound. Once the raffia was moved onto the large stage, her allergies calmed down.

“It was interesting technically because I found and learned things I was not aware I was doing,” she said. “The sound that comes out, I do not need to open my mouth so much.”

Read the full article on The New York Times

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Operawire: Pretty Yende Reveals Second Solo Album

On August 26, Pretty Yende took to Instagram to reveal the cover and title of her new album with Sony Classical: “Dreams.’’ Yende, who spread her wings in her 2013 Metropolitan debut, has since sung on stages worldwide. As with her spirited performances, Yende will bring to the recording studio the freedom and passion that first carried her aloft to fame.

Yende said on her Instagram page: “‘Dreams’ not only reflects the various shades dreams can have from love and longing in Juliette’s “Je veux vivre dans ce rêve” to also delusions and desperation in Lucia’s mad scene.”

Despite the differences held by these arias, it’s clear to see what binds them is Pretty Yende’s exploration of what it means to want. The rest of the track list will be revealed at a later date but it is no doubt that it will pave the way to a world of expressive potential for Yende to dance across with her bright coloratura.

Yende’s career path reflects well her philosophy of freedom. In an interview with Operawire, she spoke of her triumph at the 2009 Belvedere International Competition, saying “Everybody wanted to offer me the world and wanted to make me a star and I knew that that was not what I wanted. I had just found opera and I didn’t even know what it was. I needed to educate myself. And so in choosing a way forward, I chose to go to La Scala, a place where I knew I was not going to be recognized.” After refining her talents for seven years, Pretty Yende was finally ready to sit down with Sony Classical and begin working on her debut album, succinctly titled ‘A Journey’.

Having been first inspired by hearing the Flower Duet from “Lakme” on a British Airways advertisement, Yende has made a point of appearing on television talk shows, including those of Wendy Williams and Stephen Colbert, to connect with audiences and get opera before the eyes and ears of millions.

‘Dreams’ will be released on October 27th, shedding light not only on Yende’s many inspirations, but bringing that spark beyond the walls of the opera house to the public.

Logan Martell – Operawire

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The Best of Weekend Breakfast: Profile Interview

The Best of Weekend Breakfast

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Folha de S. Paulo: Soprano que decidiu carreira ao assistir comercial de TV canta em SP

Cerca de um minuto foi suficiente para Pretty Yende, 32, mudar completamente o rumo de sua vida e decidir se tornar uma cantora lírica. Ela se apresenta nesta terça (8) e quarta (9) na Sala São Paulo.

A sul-africana, filha de um taxista e de uma professora, estudava para se formar contabilista quando, aos 16 anos, assistiu a um comercial de TV da British Airways.

A propaganda, que estreou em 1989 e foi replicada nos anos seguintes, era embalada por uma versão de “The Flower”, dueto da ópera “Lakmé”, de Léo Delibes (1836-1891). No exótico drama do compositor francês, as vozes etéreas ecoavam o encontro do personagem-título com uma de suas serviçais à beira de um rio no Oriente para recolher flores.

Naquele que viraria um clássico publicitário, a obra ganhava roupagem aos moldes da new age pelo músico grego Yanni em um arranjo de Malcolm McLaren –conhecido por ter sido empresário do Sex Pistols.

Intrigada com aquela voz sobrenatural, a jovem foi procurar saber se aquilo era ao menos “humanamente possível”. Sim, teria lhe respondido um professor, aliás, aquilo tinha nome: ópera. Aquilo, no entanto, ainda era algo distante de seu cotidiano.

“Não foi fácil para meus pais, já que eu havia feito planos para um ’emprego de verdade’, mas sou muito grata a eles por terem me permitido voar para onde meu coração me levou”, diz Yende.

De imediato, passou a cantar em corais de igreja e, após um ano e meio, venceu um prêmio que a levou a ser admitida na Escola de Música Sul-Africana, na Cidade do Cabo. Lá, tornou-se pupila de Virginia Davids, primeira cantora lírica negra a se apresentar em uma ópera durante o período de apartheid.

Apesar de ser um ponto de referência de como a diversidade tem, aos poucos, vencido as barreiras impostas a negros no universo operístico, Yende se esquiva de temas como racismo e sexismo.

Não deixa, porém, de reconhecer que Davids teve parte significativa em sua “linda jornada”, como ela gosta de chamar sua carreira.

“Ela me ensinou a aceitar e amar o meu dom, a nunca me sentir pequena quando cercada por grandeza”, diz, sobre a professora. “Isso me coloca muito no chão, vendo como a indústria pode ser, ajuda a eliminar pressão desnecessária e limitações por me comparar com outras pessoas.” Ainda que acredite haver “espaço para todas as almas talentosas nesta Terra” e dispense comparações, Yende se mostra uma competidora nada tímida.

Em 2009, foi a primeira cantora a receber o prêmio máximo em todas as categorias da Belvedere Singing Competition, em Viena –ela repetiria o feito em 2011, nas competições Operalia.

“Foi uma confirmação do que eu estava procurando naquela época, de que de fato eu não estava errada em dar um voto de fé em direção à minha carreira operística.”

O prêmio histórico abriu-lhe as portas do italiano Teatro La Scala, em Milão, uma das casas mais renomadas do mundo quando o assunto é ópera, onde atuou até 2011.

Em 2013, foi ovacionada ao interpretar a condessa Adèle em “O Conde Ory”, de Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), em montagem no Metropolitan Opera House, em Nova York.

Acompanhada pelo tenor mexicano Javier Camarena e pelo pianista cubano Ángel Rodriguez, ela encerra a curta série anual de concertos do Mozarteum nesta semana.

O programa é formado por obras de compositores italianos, como Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) e Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), que também figuram no álbum de estreia da soprano, “A Journey”, lançado em 2016.

Mesclada no repertório que escolheu para seu “debut” na indústria fonográfica está também sua própria versão para o dueto “The Flower”.

Amanda Nogueira

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Sunday World: ‘It’s a dream come true’ – Pretty Yende scoops big international award

Pretty walked away with the Newcomer of the Year prize last week ahead of a glitzy handover ceremony to be held in October at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie.

Echo Klassik is one of the most renowned classical music awards in the world‚ with some of the biggest names in the genre being honoured each year at a swanky gala event.

Pretty described the win as “a dream come true” and told her social media fans that she was honoured to have her debut album‚ A Journey‚ rated so highly by one of the global authorities on classical music.

“This is truly a dream come true for me‚ I am beyond honoured to receive the Newcomer of the Year Award from Echo Klassik. I am thrilled that my debut album has afforded me the thrilling luxury to be recognized by Echo Klassik‚” she said.

The award comes two months after Pretty was honoured with a 2017 International Opera Award for Best Recording – Solo Recital for the same album.

Read more at Sunday World

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