French media are silent on opera singer’s airport ordeal

French media are silent on opera singer’s airport ordeal


norman lebrecht

June 22, 2021

The South African international singer Pretty Yende posted an account this morning of how she was arrested, jailed and strip-searched on her arrival yesterday at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport.

Her account of the outrage has been public for eight hours. In that time, there has been no expression of solidarity from the Paris Opéra, no apology from the police and no fuss in French media which have stayed resolutely silent – including, especially, the music media.

For shame.


  • Karl says:

    She wrote:

    “I’m still shaken thinking that I am one in a million who managed to come out of that situation alive …”

    They are killing millions of visitors to France? I’m chalking this one up to hysteria.

    • Jack says:

      Have you ever been strip-searched?

    • HR says:

      Really, Karl? Hysteria? You don’t even bother trying to hide your misogyny.

    • R. Brite says:

      I believe she was thinking of Black people in the hands of police. Still something of an exaggeration, granted.

    • Wake up says:

      So, it is considered hysterical for a black person to be worried about dying in police custody because that *never* happens, did I get that right?

      • Uzbek says:

        She brought this on herself by not having the appropriate papers.

        Had she done this in Israel, the IDF would have been much more harsh. Palestinians remain more victimized than blacks by racist Jews.

      • HugoPreuss says:

        There is a lot of room between “that *never* happens” and “one in a million”. Which means, if taken seriously, that 999.999 people in similar situations would have been killed. Which is obvious nonsense.

        And I have to say that her enourmous exaggeration combined with the lack of even mentioning the reason for this detention makes me wonder about the background.

        BTW, brief detention and search happened to me more than once at US airports, and I am a white male professor.

      • Mrs Sedley says:

        Yes, this ALMOST never happens, and is not more likely to happen to a black person to a white person (not in America and certainly not in Europe – educate yourself), so yes, this is either based on hysteria or calculated attention-seeking.

    • MacroV says:

      I don’t see why she would have any reason to make this up or exaggerate; what’s in it for her?

      But it never hurts to treat travelers with courtesy, unless they had good reason to think she was participating in a criminal enterprise or such.

  • Uncle Fred says:

    — “there has been no expression of solidarity from the Paris Opéra” —

    Well, why would there be? She’s singing in Sonnambula at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Would Covent Garden issue an expression of solidarity if a singer for the E.N.O. or one of the British regional companies was mistreated by the Heathrow gestapo?

  • Rien de rien says:

    It is not illegal — either under French domestic law or EU community law or international law — to be strip searched at borders, especially it one does not carry a French or EU passport.

    Good thing she didn’t have an engagement in China, there, foreigners not vaccinated by Sinovac are subject to an anal Covid swab test.

    Welcome to international travel in the age of Covid and terrorism.

    • Alex says:

      If you are black you will be more strip searched than if you are white and have suit. Can you explain why? Is that legal?

    • Emil says:

      Police brutality does not become ‘good’ if it is legalised. And police brutality at borders has nothing to do with COVID – borders are simply sites of arbitrary police power, and have long been. And it’s much worse for non-white travellers.

  • Julien says:

    It’s all over the french media :

    As for writing that she’s lucky to be alive, it’s more than a little silly.

    The police answered that she’d been trying to enter France without the necessary permit – I have a hard time believing it : she had sung in La Sonnambula since June 16th and was obviously there for the rehearsals some time before. I can’t imagine that she hadn’t the necessary visa, or could have left France between two shows without her passport and the visa on it.

    An enquiry is needed. I’m under no illusions, though : either it won’t happen, or it will be found that nodoby needs to be disciplined.

    • norman lebrecht says:


      • Florestan says:

        Finally what ? It seems you jst discover the press coverage available to anyone since hours. Utterly unprofessional !!! A usual.

      • Clarissa says:

        And now will you follow with the true story? That she was irresponsible. She put all of her colleagues’ health and finances (and the theater!) at risk (COVID still exists!) for traveling ONE DAY… and she’s the one that forgot HER PAPER WORK!! That is not police brutality. Floyd is. She spent one hour in a room without a phone – it’s standard practice for anyone. How dare she compare herself to someone like Floyd? How utterly disrespectful.

  • Jack says:

    Pretty has established a solid international career. She should strike France off her list and focus on the US, Britain and Germany.

  • George says:

    I guess her visa probably expired or she had too many entries.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    L’Obs has reported at length on the subject at 20:05, Paris time:

    It should be noted that l’Obs ( Le Nouvel Observateur, as it used to be called) has a long tradition of being harshly critical towards the government, the authorities in general, and the police in particular. It has also been unfailingly anti-racist and anti-colonialist. Their stance is rooted in the Algerian War, to which the founders of l’Obs were staunchly opposed.

    But l’Obs does its professional journalistic job of fact-checking. If it finds it necessary to report that Ms. Yende hat entered French territory without the required papers, that a visa is mandatory for travellers from South Africa, that Ms. Yende was granted both an interpreter and, crucially, in the end, an emergency entry visa, it means that such informations are regarded as plausible enough unless contradicted by superior evidence.

    Also, the Police maintains that Ms. Yende was subject to standard “palpatory check” performed by trained female Police personnel, not “strip-searched”. From very frequent travels to France, I know for a fact that such practice is indeed standard. (My wife has several metallic implants subsequent to an accident, and every airport check is an ordeal.) No matter how repulsive or degrading I may personally find it, there is a sharp distinction between that and a strip-search.

    A serious enquête may be called for.

    But trumpeting artificially bloated indignation and hysterics, before any facts are ascertained, is the bane of social media.
    I am surprised that a site such as Slippedisc finds it useful, or necessary, to give in to the contagion.

    • Clarissa says:

      It’s quite horrid to think that someone would fabricate such nonsense for attention… And it’s also unfathomable that she’d expect some royal treatment and red carpet, just waltzing in without the proper legal documents. She just waited an hour and half without a phone, like anyone else that doesn’t have documentation. The French authorities should take legal action and they should release video footage.

    • JoshW says:

      I’m surprised that Slipped Disc hasn’t posted any follow-up to this. Ms. Yende suddenly has a lot to answer for. Doesn’t she know that being a demanding opera diva is so 1990s?

  • Sadine Neyarrah says:

    She wasn’t strip-searched, you ninnies. I’ve never seen a bigger ploy for attention in my life…how ridiculous. Woe is meeee. waaahhhhhh. Bring the right paperwork next time.

  • Jobim75 says:

    I wish more people would be questioned searched or denied entry entering my country without proper papers. A lot of people would still be alive. Just give American border a try….

  • jan neckers says:

    How dare they do that to Yende in the age of black privilege and black supremacy? I’m shocked to learn from her that French police speaks French in France and refused to grovel to her. As a superior being she absolutely has the right not to know a single word of that dirty dialect.

  • APHogbin says:

    I can’t imagine this ever happening to the likes of Joan Sutherland. Funnily enough, I read once that she smuggled out her fees in cash from singing in Lisbon during a revolution.

  • James Weagant says:

    The treatment of the lovely singer Pretty Yende by the contemptible French airport police, and the subsequent silence of the primary media outlets calls for the complete. refusal of all classical music patrons of any nationality to attend or support any French production! The outrageous reaction of officials over a visa issue is inexcusable, and clearly identifies the French establishment as racist and undeserving of any positive consideration or regard!

  • Kimberley says:

    It’s a disgrace..she is such a vibrant lady and internationaly known..they need to explain and should apologize..