The New York Times held a live Facebook session with Pretty Yende on Friday, as the star from Piet Retief in Mpumulanga performs in Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera.
Apart from a delightful performance that had both her, and pianist Valeriya Polunina, smiling joyfully; Pretty answered questions from NYT reporter Josh Barone that had been sent in from fans around the world.
Pretty said that the Met is one of her favourite opera houses in the world, and that she is so grateful for the moment when her relationship with the Met began in 2013.
She revealed that this is her debut as Juliette, and that she loves singing in French.
When asked about her musical training, Pretty said that growing up in her family home in South Africa, music had always been in the house “and I remember every time after supper, we would all sing as a family”. They would sing a church hymn, she said; and laughingly added that her singing career began at five when her grandmother started teaching her songs to sing in church.
She also told the now famous story about how, as a school girl at 16, she had never heard of opera or classical music until she saw a British Airways advert on TV – the Flower duet by Lakme.
The next day she asked her high school teacher what that was and if it was “humanly possible”. When the teacher told her it was opera, Pretty said: “Well, you need to teach me that.”
After the live streaming, one fan said: “I’m from Brazil and at my job now, and watching that was just the best thing that has happened to me so far today.”
Another said: “Wow, my 2 yr old just discovered opera, and loves it!!!!!”
And one summed up the thoughts of many when he said: “Bravo to a beautiful South African!”