|2nd in Category Winner|

Pretty Yende, 32, kicked off 2017 with an impromptu performance in Bellini’s I Puritani at the Metropolitan Opera House, when the original performer fell ill.

It was no sweat for Yende, who is a regular on stages like the Met, the Paris Opera, and the Royal Opera House in London. She also frequently sings at her “home theatre” of La Scala in Milan, where she’s lived for almost 10 years. Yende’s operatic fairy tale began at 16 when she heard a TV advert featuring an opera song, the Flower Duet from Lakmé.

|Success is a ladder you cannot climb with your hands in your pockets.|

As she learnt more about the genre, Yende discovered her destiny. She blossomed at the South African College of Music at UCT under Professor Virginia Davids, the first black woman to appear on opera stages during apartheid. It wasn’t long before Yende made history too.

She was the first singer to win every single category in the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, (2009) and Operalia (2011). Her debut album, A Journey, was released with Sony last year to critical success.

“I am the black girl who was told I shouldn’t sing opera because I don’t look the part. I am that black girl who grew up with a candle at home, but inside her there was always that hope.”