By AFRO Staff
Pretty Yende will soon go down in history as the first African to be invited to perform a solo at the coronation of a British monarch.
The South African soprano will be one of three soloists to perform at the coronation of King Charles III on May 6 at Westminster Abbey, in London, according to CNN.
“I feel very, very honored because it is something that has never happened before,” the 38-year-old told AFP.
“Generations from now they will read about the British monarchs… and they’ll see the name of a girl from the tip of Africa written in there – that she was actually invited by the king himself to sing at Westminster Abbey.”
Yende was born at the height of apartheid in the small town of Piet Retief to a religious family. Her closest musical reference was spiritual hymns, and she never intended a career in music until she heard opera for the first time at the age of 16.
“Hearing this music and the power of it, sounded like something supernatural. I did not believe human beings could do it,” she recalled to CNN.
“I remember recording it and imitating it,” she said. “I would play the recording the whole day. My gosh, my family were in trouble, because I wouldn’t stop practicing and shouting.”
Yende started her meteoric rise in the opera world while still a student at the University of Cape Town. In 2011, she graduated from the Young Artists program at the Accademia at the Teatro alla Scala, in Milan, Italy, and, since then, she has been in demand at opera houses throughout the world.
The past decade has not always been lined with roses, however. Yende said she has had to battle opera’s Eurocentric homogeneity and hopes to use her talent and success to break stereotypes.
“The biggest challenge has always been being the different one in the room. When I was the first Black in the Accademia of La Scala it was a bit uncomfortable,” she remembered.
“Sometimes I would enter the rehearsal room, and I could see in the room looks like, ‘Why are you here?’ And I would just smile. But once I start making music, all of us in that room agreed that I’m not there by mistake.”
Charles III, an avid patron of the arts, saw Yende perform at Windsor Castle a year ago during the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 75th anniversary gala.
And now, the South African soprano will perform “Sacred Fire,” a new piece by British composer Sarah Class, before a worldwide audience of millions.
“It’s a dream come true, because when I found out that I have this incredible gift I wanted to share it with as many people as possible,” Yende said. She added, ““I know that my life will no longer be the same.”