South African soprano Pretty Yende always loved to sing but it took a TV commercial to introduce her to a genre she later knew as opera. Since that discovery, Yende has emerged as one of few black opera singers to have performed leading roles at the Paris Opera, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Royal Opera House in London as well as the La Scala in Milan, Italy.
Her magnetic charm, acclaimed operatic and solo performances and critically lauded discography has earned her numerous awards and led to her emergence as one of the brightest stars of the classical music world.
Yende born on March 6, 1985 in Piet Retief, Mpumalanga is a product of the South African College of Music, where she graduated. She also graduated from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy.
The operatic soprano won first prize in operetta and opera at the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition 2009 in Vienna and in 2010 also won the first prize at the Vincenzo Bellini International Competition as well as the Leyla Gencer Voice Competition.
In 2011, she won first prize at Operalia, The World Opera Competition held that year in Moscow.
In 2012, she sang the role of Musetta in Puccini’s opera La bohème at La Scala in Milan. Yende made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York City on January 17, 2013, in the role of Adèle in Rossini’s opera Le comte Ory as a substitute for Nino Machaidze.
In 2015, she portrayed Susanna in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Los Angeles Opera. In 2016 she portrayed Rosina in The Barber of Seville and the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Paris Opera.
Yende is credited for her vocals in Andrea Bocelli’s Concerto: One Night in Central Park (2011), and as a primary artist for the “Ode À L’Humanité” (Ode to Humanity, previously called Aria) track on the Yanni/Plácido Domingo collaboration Inspirato (2014).
In September 2013, she received an Mbokodo Award in the category of opera. It’s given in South Africa to recognize women who have shown leadership, fostered growth and made efforts to strengthen the arts.
In 2018, she debuted as Adina in Bartlett Sher’s production of L’elisir d’amore opposite Matthew Polenzani as Nemorino at the Metropolitan Opera, which ran through January and February.
She was conferred with the Silver Order of Ikhamanga on April 27, 2013. The award is reserved for South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism or sport.
Yende also won a Readers’ Award in the 2018 International Opera Awards.
Since making her professional operatic debut at the Latvian National Theatre in Riga as Micaela in Carmen, Yende has presented concerts in Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Johannesburg, South Africa, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
In 2016, she released her debut album “A Journey” for Sony Classical. She also has a second solo album titled “Dreams.”