|Kamal Khan and Pretty Yendy|
Every now and then a singer comes onstage and shows such a wealth of positive attributes that we sit up straighter and take notice. Our eyes rested on Pretty Yendy's beautiful face and form, her stylish gowns and her easy stage presence. Our ears perked up as witnesses to her thrilling instrument, superlative technique and innate musicality. Furthermore, she exuded warmth and a good-natured spirit. It was all there and we delighted in recognizing a new star in the celestial realm of opera.
Ms. Yendy's New York debut recital was part of a celebration of South African culture--UBUNTU, taking place at Carnegie Hall. This wondergirl was born in South Africa and, interestingly enough, her unfailingly sensitive piano partner, Kamal Khan, also has South African ties --Cape Town Opera and Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. The two of them had such an impressive onstage partnership it was as if they were telepathically connected.
This lovely soprano has superlative coloratura technique, making her a natural for the bel canto selections with which she opened the program. She made the four songs her own with judicious use of rubato, fine vibrato, flexibility in her shifts from legato to staccato, and a preternaturally smooth portamento. We heard Rossini's "La promessa", Bellini's "Vanne, o rosa fortunata" (both settings of texts by Metastasio) and two selections by Donizetti. We particularly enjoyed the barcarolle-like fantasy "Me voglio fa 'na casa".
Next we heard some lovely songs written by Debussy when he was about 20 years old, inspired by an older married lover--his muse. Can one possibly listen to "Mandoline", text by Paul Verlaine, without thinking of a Fragonard painting? The vocal fireworks we heard in "O beau pays de la Touraine" from Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots cemented our opinion of the artist's coloratura skills. Embellishments simply poured out of her effortlessly. Our wish for Ms. Yendy is for her French diction to rise to the level of her Italian. There were no titles and the words might have been more clearly articulated.
Last week we heard Jennifer Johnson Cano (a mezzo) sing Liszt's "Pace non trovo"; last night Ms. Yendy sang it with excellent messa di voce and some high notes that would shatter crystal. Petrarch's sonnets inspired Liszt and Liszt's music inspired Ms. Yendy and Mr. Kahn to a dramatically thrilling performance.
We could scarcely believe our good fortune to hear more zarzuela right on the heels of yesterday's event in Queens. That patter song "La tarántula" from Giménez' La Tempranica was well done but it was "Me llaman la primorosa" from El barbero de Sevilla that we wanted to hear again and again.
The program ended with the entire sleepwalking scene from Bellini's La Sonnambula; this gave Ms. Yendy an opportunity to show the varying moods of Amina, each mood with its own vocal challenges. The audience was over the moon and Ms. Yendy rewarded us with no less than three stunning encores.
The first was "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, an endearing aria if ever there was one. The second was an Ubuntu Celebration Song; we may not have understood the words but the warm feelings of fellowship came across the footlights. And finally, because the audience would not let her go, she sang her final encore-"I Want to Be a Prima Donna", from Victor Herbert's 1911 operetta The Enchantress. She wants it? She gets it! She deserves it.
© meche kroop