World renowned soprano to sing in Durban

2012-12-08 00:00

FROM humble beginnings in Thandukukhanya, near Piet Retief in Mpumalanga, soprano Pretty Yende has gone on to perform with the likes of Andrea Bocelli and on the stage of La Scala in Milan.

Speaking to Weekend Witness ahead of her appearance at the 35th Old Mutual National Choir Festival finals at Durban’s International Convention Centre today and tomorrow, she said that singing opera allowed her to share her love of life and the talent she had been blessed with, with the world.

The talented singer didn’t know opera existed when she was growing up.

Her first encounter with the genre came when she heard the Flower Duet, from Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé, on an advert for an airline.

The following day she asked her high school teacher about the music and he told her it was opera. She decided then and there that she wanted to be an opera singer.

After finishing school, she studied at the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town.

Yende went on to make her mark as a soprano on the international stage in Moscow in 2011, when she won one of opera’s most coveted awards: Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, and the Zarzuela prize.

She has since moved to Milan in Italy and is the first South African student at Accademia Teatro Alla Scala.

“I feel so blessed to be on the same stage as all the amazing international singers and Italian singers who’ve stood here,” Yende said.

Since arriving in Italy, the singer has sung the roles of Elvira in L’Italiana in Algeri and Norina in Don Pasquale, among others. And for her appearance in Durban, Yende, who lists Freni, Callas, and Caballe as her idols, plans to share what she’s learnt so far.

“I’ll be singing a Donizetti aria and Gavotte from Massenet’s Manon. I love the French repertoire and feel that my voice is really suited to it,” she said.

Asked to name a few highlights from her career, Yende says that singing with Bocelli at the World Cup closing ceremony in South Africa and again in New York this year was special, as was meeting tenor Placido Domingo when she won Operalia, and sharing a stage with celebrated Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu.

“It’s incredible … you see these amazing people on CD covers and DVDs, and then you get to rub shoulders with them,” she said, “but the most amazing thing is that you find that they are real human beings.”

Twenty-five choirs will be competing at the 2012 Old Mutual National Choir Festival for prize money totalling more than R500 000. The winners of the two main categories will walk away with R37 000 and R50 000, and there are prizes for the best-dressed choirs, best conductors and best indigenous piece.

Tickets for the event range from R100 to R350 at Compu­ticket.

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