9 June 2017 at 6.13pm | 4 Comments
Pretty Yende’s star is in the ascent. After training at La Scala, Milan, she made her debut with Metropolitan Opera, New York, aged 27, stepping in at less than a month’s notice to sing in Le Comte Ory opposite Juan Diego Flórez. That was back in 2013, and since then she’s sung for opera houses around the world, making her Royal Opera debut in summer 2017 in L’elisir d’amore. A few weeks earlier her debut solo album A Journey won the International Opera Award for Solo Recital Recording.
Yende’s discovery of opera is well-documented: aged 16, she heard Delibes’ Flower Duet from Lakmé on a British Airways television advert, and was immediately captivated. But of course her musical life predates that exposure, as she explains in an interview at the Royal Opera House:
‘Music for me was really planted way, way back. I remember days with my grandmother when she would teach me songs – you know, church hymns – and that’s where I started to sing. At home there was always music in the house, so the ear was accustomed to hearing sounds and melodies. And then of course to be introduced to opera in 2001 was a revelation.’
Once bitten by the opera bug, Yende abandoned her previous career plans – to become an accountant – to see if opera was something she could devote her life to. Studies at the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town, and then at La Scala’s Academy revealed Yende’s extraordinarily agile and lustrous voice, well suited to the vocal fireworks of bel canto.
Yende’s voice so far has led her to a range of different characters, from the resourceful determination of Rosina in The Barber of Seville to the tragedy of Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor. Yende has found that each role has affected her offstage personality:
‘That’s the beauty of opera – to be able to play all these characters and realizing that they are human beings, and to be able to share those human emotions with who you are personally off stage. It’s quite exciting, how not so far opera is. It’s very, very human.’
So it should come as no surprise that Yende is sceptical about those ever-present claims that opera as an art form is on its way out. ‘This music is so universal – it caters for all colours and all genders and all different walks of life. As much as we say it’s dying, it can’t die if we keep on encouraging it and enjoying it. Maybe we should stop saying opera is dying – and say it’s alive’.
L’elisir d’amore runs until 22 June 2017. Tickets are still available.
The production is a co-production with Opéra National de Paris.