Yende’s Rosenblatt Recital was her debut London Recital, and judging by her performance it will be the first of many.
The last performer in the 2012-13 Rosenblatt Recitals series was the sensational young South African coloratura soprano Pretty Yende. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York covering for an indisposed Nino Machaidze in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory with only a couple of weeks notice, and then covered for an indisposed Cecilia Bartoli in the same Opera in Vienna with only three days’ notice! She has already had her debut at La Scala, and is currently under the tutelage of the great Mariella Devia. Yende’s Rosenblatt Recital was her debut London Recital, and judging by her performance it will be the first of many.
The first section began and closed with Rossini: “La Promessa” and “L’Invito” respectively. Yende displayed wonderful breath control and phrasing in “La Promessa” singing through one line and into the next, all the while modulating the dynamics with observable skill. In “L’Invito”, she navigated the coloratura passages with pinpoint precision. Yende’s beautiful high pianissimi in Bellini’s “Almen, se non poss’io” was for me the highlight of the fist selection, floating lightly yet securely with the true ring of a coloratura soprano. Speaking to the audience, Yende announced that she would insert Verdi’s “Stornello” into the program, which she sang with playful exuberance. This was followed by Donizetti’s “Il barcaiolo” giving us the first exciting glimpse of Yende’s highest register.
My favourite selection of the evening was the Sonetti del Petrarca by Liszt. In the first song, “Pace non Trovo”, Yende was magnificent. She displayed a profound connection with the text which she communicated to the audience, coupled with a precise knowledge of the score (she sang without a score for the entire performance) observing little details like the quaver rest between the syllables “stes-so”. When she reached the phrase “ed amo altrui” the Cb6 was delicate without being constricted, and the Db6’s were perfectly placed. Again showing a full understanding of the text, Yende also impressed with “Benedetto sia’l giorno”, skilfully moving through the descending chromatic phrase on the word “lagrime”. The final piece, “I vidi in terra angelici costumi” was bursting with emotion: entrancing yet full of sorrow.
The second half of the recital began with five Debussy songs, including the famous “Beau Soir” and “Clair de lune”. It was in “Apparition” that Yende most impressed. Her singing was intense, and she held the emotion right through to the last note. The playful “Mandoline” had Yende lightening her voice in the upper reaches, whilst bringing more chest resonance into the lower notes. James Vaughn, the accompanying pianist, was in his element here, glorying in Debussy’s wonderful music.
Weill’s “My Ship” ushered in a series of four English language songs. Yende really played with the text, interacting with the audience, and displaying a velvety quality in her voice. Next came two songs by Gershwin. The first, “By Strauss”, again displayed Yende’s intelligent sense of phrasing. Accompanist James Vaughn was wonderful again at the piano, really getting under the skin of the music. “Blah blah blah” was the second Gershwin offering, allowing Yende to show off her comic timing to great effect. She leaned forward, singling out individual audience members at the end of each line, and was highly engaging. Bernstein’s “I feel pretty” was a perfect end to the section. It was clear that Yende was really enjoying herself, and the audience matched her levels of enthusiasm with its applause.
The final piece of the program was the aria “O luce di quest’anima” from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix. Yende was confident and comfortable with the high tessitura, her voice swelling magnificently on the Db6’s. The first encore was “Bel raggio lusinghier” from Rossini’s Semiramide. To follow “O luce di quest’anima” with this aria was a courageous choice. Yende pulled out all the stops to deliver a firecracker of a performance, her voice coruscating along the lines of coloratura, winding up the tension. After many stratospheric interpolated notes, Yende capped off the performance with a whopping E6, which earned her a standing ovation from many in the audience. The final encore was “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, which was beautifully sung, finishing off an exciting evening.