100 World Class South Africans: Pretty Yende

A real-deal diva

She recently made a sparkling debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, no small feat for a woman who didn’t know what opera was a decade ago.

Yende was living in Thandukukhanya township in Mpumalanga when she first heard opera in a TV advert.

She loved singing but this was something else; she did some research, and her life changed forever.

At UCT’s College of Music her voice was nurtured into an exquisite soprano.

In 2009 Yende competed against 3 000 other singers at the Hans Gabor Belvedere competition in Vienna.

She took first place in the opera and operetta categories and bagged the audience and international media votes.

Yende was the first black South African to be invited to study at the prestigious La Scala Academy in Milan, and at 25 made her debut on the stageof this venerable Italian opera house.

Since then she’s won all six major singing competitions, was the youngest recipient of Italy’s Bel Canto La Siola d’Oro Award and, most recently, Turin’s Golden Ark.

Yende is worlds away from where she started and, whereas she once worried she wasn’t good enough, she now says: ‘Good enough isn’t acceptable for me any more; one has to be extraordinary.’

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