In many ways, King Charles III’s coronation was a historic event. However, opera soprano Pretty Yende had a unique connection to it.
On Saturday, the South African soprano made history by becoming the first African soloist to be invited to sing in a British coronation ceremony. With the entire world watching, she took the stage to play Sacred Fire, a song created especially for the occasion by composer Sarah Class. She also looked amazing in a gorgeous yellow gown.
After her performance, she received a ton of praise from admirers on social media.
“I feel very honored”: Pretty Yende performs at the coronation
Pretty Yende, a South African soprano, was born and raised in a small town in eastern South Africa. The place was some 8,000 miles away from where she performed on Saturday at King Charles III’s coronation. Yende was immersed in music from a young age, singing gospel music in church in her hometown of Piet Retief. She was born in 1985 during South Africa’s oppressive and racist apartheid system.
While doing the dishes after dinner, she recalled family musical nights. However, it was on the long walks to church with her asthmatic grandmother that five-year-old Yende developed her pitch.
On May 6, 2023, Prince Charles III was crowned at Westminster Abbey, London. There were 2,000 attendees, including royalty and world leaders. Moreover, 12 brand-new musical compositions have been commissioned in celebration of the occasion.
King Charles III has always been a fan of opera and has been named the patron of more than a dozen musical organizations worldwide. Kiri Te Kanawa, a New Zealand opera singer, sang at his own wedding to the late Princess Diana in 1981.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 75th anniversary gala, which was held at Windsor Castle in April 2022, was not the first time King Charles had heard Yende perform.
Ceremonial of consecration at Prince Charles coronation 👑👑👑👑👑#Coronation pic.twitter.com/QHBQ3Jo2Qj
— .aspendos (@aspendos_1789) May 6, 2023
Yende was then specially invited to perform. She became the first African to perform a solo at a British coronation. The event was watched by millions of people, most likely the largest audience in Yende’s career to date. Referring to the event, she said last week, “dream come true”.
“I was overwhelmed, shocked, happy. All the emotions were just rushing in,” she said while recalling the moment when she was invited.
Sacred Fire was performed by the singer at this coronation. It was a brand-new composition created especially for the occasion by British composer Sarah Class.
Pretty Yende, the first African national to sing an opera solo at a British coronation ceremony, was today's real highlight #Coronation @PrettyYende pic.twitter.com/1ouOdFrvPG
— AP du Plessis 🍏 (@ap1pel) May 6, 2023
Following the event at Westminster Abbey, the singer talked with ET’s Kevin Frazier. “When I got to learn about opera, I realized that it’s something that I would like to share with as many people as possible, because of how it made me feel.”
Yende also told ET, “I really feel like I’m royalty, actually”. She was wearing a magnificent yellow Stéphane Rolland gown and Graff jewelry.
“I had an amazing view and just seeing all of the royal family members, it was a huge moment for me,” she added with a laugh. “As they passed by, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that’s Kate! Oh my god, that’s William! Oh my god, that’s the king!’ Everyone, even all the princes and princesses, was something like, oh my god, an amazing moment for me.”
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