In review: Pretty Yende's debut album, A JourneyReview
South African soprano Pretty Yende has released her debut album, A Journey, on Sony Classical. With Marco Armiliato conducting the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Della Rai, A Journey is both a compilation of beloved bel canto arias, and a memoir of sorts for Yende’s career to date.
In a video trailer for her album (below), Yende remembers that infamous British Airways commercial, which featured the duet from Delibes’ Lakmé, as the start of her love affair with opera. The duet, like all the tracks on A Journey, was chosen in part for its marking of a significant moment in Yende’s life as a singer.
Her bel canto singing is the kind from which you could take dictation. “Una voce poco fa” from Il barbiere di Siviglia holds nostalgia for Yende’s debut as Rosina at the Paris Opera; her studio recording features crystal-clear coloratura and exciting new ornamentation. Yende sings the act I aria from Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, with which she earned a triple victory at the 2011 Operalia Competition; settled in this aria, Yende pulls in her listeners with delicious long lines reminiscent of Giuletta.
Her aria from Le comte Ory is an exhaustive sing, yet Yende delivers it full of life and personality. Yende stepped in as the Comtesse Adèle opposite Juan Diego Flórez at the Metropolitan Opera in 2013, and the rave reviews earned her a much-deserved boost in recognition. There’s maturity and poise in her singing Elvira’s “Qui la voce” from I puritani, a role she recently debuted in Zürich. And perhaps her singing of “Regnava nel silenzo” from Lucia di Lammermoor is so touching because it recalls return home to sing the title role in Cape Town, South Africa.
Along with the duet from Lakmé, sung beautifully with mezzo Kate Aldrich, Yende wisely breaks up the bel canto theme with the Poison Aria from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette; the aria earned her acceptance into the Young Artist Programme at La Scala, a company she now considers her “home theatre.” Yende also won every prize in the 2009 Belvedere Singing Competition with Juliette’s first aria, “Je veux vivre,” and she brings the role to the Metropolitan Opera in March 2017.
There’s indeed something intimate about listening to A Journey. It’s easy to feel as though you’re standing beside Yende in the studio, watching her bright smile and thoughtful musicianship at work. Yende has clear love for communicating with her audience, and with these recordings, she’s also letting listeners into something that’s quite personal. A Journey marks what Yende does very, very well in 2016, and it has a strong air of being the first in a story of many chapters.
Yesterday, the release date of her debut album, Yende wrote in a heartfelt post, “I am absolutely grateful & utterly humbled when i look back from this moment, from where it all started.”