Pretty Yende, a South African opera star with a voice that shatters glass ceilings, will sing at King Charles III’s coronation on 6 May in Westminster Abbey, London.
The 37-year-old soprano is reportedly elated and the invitation is said to be reminiscent of when Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales were married in 1981. Back then, the New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa’s beautiful voice beguiled the royal couple. Te Kanawa, being Maori, represented her indigenous community who were the victims of imperialism and colonialism.
Te Kanawa was the same age as Yende is when she gave her royal performance and Yende carries with her this colonial history too.
Yende hails from eMkhondo (Piet Retief) in Mpumalanga, a rural province in the east of South Africa, Yende has often told the story of how the Flower Duet from the opera Lakmé in a British Airways TV advert converted her to opera. A decade later she would become opera royalty.
Yende made her professional debut in 2007 in the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town, singing the title role in Massenet’s Manon.
Coupled with her ambition and drive, her voice would soon allow her to conquer international singing competitions, which then set her on a path towards performing in productions in the world’s major opera houses.
Her international breakthrough came in 2013 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York when she stepped in as an understudy to sing Adèle in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. The critics raved, and Yende became a star.