Viennese opera-goers expecting Cecilia Bartoli in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory would not have felt short-changed when the diva had to be replaced by the dazzling young South African soprano Pretty Yende. You can get some idea of the excitement she must have generated from her debut album, somewhat blandly titled A Journey, where she is superbly backed by Marco Armiliato and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI.
At a time when good bel canto soprano albums are being released left, right and centre, Yende makes a compelling case for a place in your collection with this finely-engineered and recorded disc. The excerpts represent her “journey”, starting with the time she heard the Flower Duet from Lakmé on a British Airways TV commercial and decided she wanted to sing like that. Kate Aldrich joins her on that track and for an excerpt from Lucia.
Gianluca Buratto and Nicola Alaimo lend sterling support in the Mad Scene from I Puritani, and Yende shows her remarkable vocal agility in the obligatory Una voce poco fa. But the standout is Ah, la pena in lor piombo from Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda. It will make the hairs of your neck stand on end.
Yende doesn’t have her compatriot Pumeza Matshikiza’s creamy timbre but hers is still a beautiful and thrilling instrument and, rest assured, she’s in the same league.