There was tremendous joy, pride and excitement as South African Soprano Pretty Yende took first prize in the Female Section of most prestigious singing competition in the world, the “Operalia World Opera Competition”. Miss Yende – a former graduate of the Opera School of the South African College of Music where she studied under Prof. Virgina Davids – currently resides in Milan, Italy, where she recently made her debut and completed her first year as member of the La Scala Opera Studio.

The nineteenth edition of the Operalia International Competition took place in Moscow from 18th to 24th of July 2011. Plácido Domingo, artistic director and chairman of the jury (although non-voting member), conducted the orchestra that accompanied the thirteen candidates.

This year again almost a thousand candidate submitted their applications to participate in one of the greatest international vocal competitions. Forty contestants were selected to compete during the quarter and semi finals. On Sunday, July 24, only the thirteen best candidates were on stage for the final round. Past winners included Erwin Schrott and Rolando Villazon.

Miss Yende won $30 000 First Prize for Best Female Singer, and shared first prize $10 000 int he Zarzuela Prize Category. She also won the Audience Favourite Prize (and a Rolex watch). American tenor René Barbera won the Best Male Singer prize.

Rounding out the list of winners were soprano Olga Busuioc of Moldova and baritone Konstantin Shushakov of Russia, who won second prize; and tenor Jaesig Lee of South Korea and soprano Olga Pudova of Russia, who won third prize.

During Sunday’s ceremony, Domingo received the Russian Order of Friendship for his work in cultural exchange.

Pretty Yende – whose most recent international achievements include first prize in Paris at the International Bel-Canto Competition Vincenzo Bellini – is much admired and loved by all of us who have worked with her in her homeland and watch the development of her career and artistry with pleasure. In fact, many South Africans watched the live broadcast and there were many tears and ulutations when the results were announced.

Below is a video-clip of her final round performance in Moscow. The orchestra is conducted by Maestro Domingo.


Domingo himself said of the competition:

“My purpose in Operalia is to help identify not only the best voices, but also to discover those singers whose personalities, characters and powers of interpretation show that they have the potential to become complete artists. Individuals such as these become tomorrow’s stars. This is why the jury is not exclusively made up of great singers, but also includes general managers, stage directors and casting directors. The importance of the international jury of each Operalia competition has helped to create the necessary stir and has usually led to important engagements for these artists.”

René Barbera, Placido Domingo and Pretty Yende

Pretty Yende and mentor Montserat Caballe

We love you Pretty, and wish you only the greatest joy and success.

Find more Videos of Pretty Yende HERE

Find more Pictures of Pretty Yende HERE

Find more information on the Operalia Competition HERE

Find Norman Lebrecht’s article about the financial difficulty of the orchestral musicians who accompanied the singers in this competition HERE.