From Corriere della Sera comes a profile on young South African soprano Pretty Yende, "Pretty Yende's Fairytale from Apartheid to La Scala" where the 26-year-old soprano spoke about growing up in Piet Retief.
"I'm living proof that commericals can change lives", she said after seeing a tv ad for British Airways set to an (at the time unnamed) opera aria that played in the background, described as "heavenly". She asked her music teacher at school about it and asked if it was "human or supernatural". "Human and entirely possible, " said her teacher. Later she discovered that the aria was the flower duet from Delibes' Lakme.
Music had always been part of her background, although in the form of folk songs and spirituals that she sang with her family. After studying at a music academy in Cape Town, she came to La Scala's Accademia where she sang mostly bel canto. She won the Lelya Gencer prize last year, and just finished singing Elvira in L'Italiana in Algeri at Scala. Next season, she sings 4 roles at Scala: Barbarina in Nozze, Norina in Don Pasquale, Musetta in Boheme and a priestess in Aida.
In addition to vocal drills, she adds the gym to her training, "I was chubby! I lost 20 kili [44 lbs.] and it was really hard because I love to eat. Lasagne alla bolognese is my weakness."
And on being a minority in Italy?
"My parents suffered through apartheid. Me, not so much, even if I wasn't allowed to go to the white schools. Italy suits me fine. Sometimes I'm embarrassed in public when I get a catcall or when someone sees me as different. It all just needs a little patience..."