Just in: Sony sign sought-after soprano

Just in: Sony sign sought-after soprano


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2015

It has been a long time coming (blame the lethargic agents), but Sony Classical have finally got a deal with the exuberant South African soprano, Pretty Yende.

Universal bowed out of the race several months ago.

pretty yende

press release:

Sony Classical is proud to announce an exclusive long-term agreement with Pretty Yende, the sensational young South African soprano whose career has risen to the top of the opera world with unparalleled speed within the past few years. She has already been engaged by every major opera house in the world and after her debut recital in London, The Telegraph commented: ‘Possessed of diamanté tone and a megawatt smile… a soprano of real musical intelligence.’ The New York Timeswrote: ‘Her voice has a luminous sheen combined with steely resolve… she delivered some of the most difficult coloratura passages with scintillating precision.’

In 2013 she stepped in at a month’s notice to sing in Rossini’s Le comte Ory opposite Juan Diego Flórez at New York’s Metropolitan Opera to rapturous acclaim. Later that year she also replaced an indisposed Cecilia Bartoli at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in the same opera.

Born in 1985 in the small town of Piet Retief, about two hundred miles from Johannesburg, Yende’s journey to become one of the world’s most sought-after singers is like a modern fairy-tale. She was initially introduced to singing in a manner familiar to many South Africans – in her church choir. Then at the age of sixteen, she heard the Flower Duet from Lakmé on a British Airways television advertisement, and was so enraptured by its beauty that she determined to find out what it was. On learning that it was opera, she decided at that moment to abandon her plans to become an accountant, and train to become an opera singer instead.

She started her vocal studies at South African College of Music (SACM UCT) with Virginia Davids and developed her musical and stage experience with Angelo Gobato and Kemal Khan of the Colleges’ Opera school. Yende’s extraordinary talent blossomed, and in 2009 she became the first singer to win first prize in every category in the Belvedere Singing Competition in Vienna. This led to an offer to join the prestigious young artists’ programme at La Scala in Milan. In 2011, she then won first prize in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition in Moscow, also winning the prizes of the Public and the Zarzuela prize, the first singer in history to win all three prizes.

Yende’s debut album on Sony Classical, scheduled for autumn 2016, will celebrate some of the milestones of her extraordinary musical journey. In addition to the much-loved Lakmé duet which first opened her heart to the world of opera, there will be arias from Le comte Ory in which she shot to international attention at the Met. She will also perform arias from other roles in which she continues to dazzle audiences and critics: Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), and Elvira (I puritani). She will perform the latter opera at Zurich opera in June 2016.

Yende has already appeared at opera houses in Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, Barcelona and Hamburg, and has frequently sung at La Scala. Forthcoming seasons will also see her appear at the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, the Royal Opera House in London, and the Opéra National de Paris.


  • Erich says:

    Lethargic agents – or just greedy?

  • Daphne Badger says:

    Surely “blame the fact that Universal have already signed Pumeza Matshikiza, and having two rising South African sopranos to promote in similar repertoire is perhaps not the most sensible business model”?