In my next life I’d like to be an opera singer because in this life I sing like a strangled cat! That’s why I had to see the soprano Pretty Yende in Recital at Artscape for her much anticipated one-night performance. The theater and was packed to capacity, with was a hum of expectation at seeing South Africa’s most famous contemporary opera singer.
Then she walked on; a vision in an off-the-shoulder flowing white gown fit for a wedding. Her dark skin glowing and her smile visible from way up in the highest balcony. I was captivated by the way she touched her heart and bowed humbly to acknowledge the insistent applause. Tears came to my eyes. I wasn’t shedding a tear at my complete inability to sing in tune or the abandonment of my desires to do so, no, not at all, I was merely tuning in to the collective admiration for this great and beautiful diva of the opera.
Pretty Yende is pretty alright and magnificent in full voice – I’m convinced she can shatter glass! But what on earth was she singing about? The arias were in Italian, French and even a token ditty in English, but I didn’t recognise any of them. They weren’t from the ‘Best Of Opera’ that I play in my car with the windows up tight so nobody can hear me sing along. They were from Rossini, Debussy, Delibes and others who penned their notes in the 1700s and 1800s. Their music has stood the test of time, so I take full responsibility for not doing any research and not understanding what any of the songs were about.
I wondered how many languages Pretty Yende had to learn before taking center stage in the opera houses of Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Zurich, Los Angeles, Paris and London? It’s been a sharp rise to fame for her, coming to international attention in just 2010 after being the first person to ever win First Prize in every relevant category of the Belvedere Singing Competition and then winning the Placido Domingo Operalia Competition.
She’s so much in demand that Pretty Yende, from the little-known township of eThandukukhanya outside Piet Retief, barely takes breath in South Africa before jet setting to her next international performance. She’s on a steep career path to become one of the best sopranos in the world, and knowing that, I closed my eyes and just let her beautiful voice wash over me without caring whether I understood anything or not!
What do you think about opera?
A review by Cape Grace blogger Carrie Hampton.
copyright © Cape Grace 2013