San Francisco Opera Releases New Free Episode of Award-Winning Video Portrait Series
San Francisco Opera’s Webby Award-winning In Song video portrait series continues with the release of In Song: Pretty Yende. Filmed on location in Piet Retief and Cape Town, this new episode features the enthralling South African soprano Pretty Yende, who makes her Company debut as Violetta in a new production of Verdi’s La Traviata opening November 11.
Steeped in Zulu culture in the timber city of Piet Retief, the iconic soprano grew up buoyed by family and a tight-knit church community, surrounded by love and a collective joy for singing. This 19-minute episode of In Song opens a window into the world of this enchanting artist, following her home as she visits with her congregation and family and performs with the young students of her alma mater, the Ndlela Secondary School. Featured performances include the Zulu folk song “Iqhude” (“The Rooster”), the hymn “Hlengiwe” (“Redeemed”), and excerpts of Donizetti’s “L’amor funesto” (“Sad Love”) performed with pianist José Dias.
Yende recalls her grandmother, who, on their five-kilometer-long walks to and from church, planted “the first seeds of music in my soul” and the ten-second opera encounter through a TV ad that made her dream of singing music she had never before imagined. From overcoming a “very, very small voice” as a member of the school choir to winning national competitions to training in Cape Town, we see her early journey to international stardom. In Cape Town, pioneering opera singer Virginia Davids, who broke color barriers on the opera stage, recalls working with Yende to “find the inner truth of every role,” while coach and impresario Angelo Gobbato encouraged her not to seek perfection but “to cross the threshold of touching the soul.”
In Song: Pretty Yende, directed by Elena Park and Maropeng Vushangwe, is free and available now at, YouTube (English subtitles), YouTube (Zulu subtitles), Facebook, Instagram.
Watch the video below.
With her magnetic charm, acclaimed operatic and solo performances worldwide and a critically lauded discography, South African soprano Pretty Yende has quickly become one of the brightest stars of the classical music world. Her current season includes a return to Paris Opera to star in Roméo et Juliette; the title role of Manon and Marie (La Fille du Régiment) at the Vienna State Opera; and her role debut as Gilda (Rigoletto) and a return to the heroines (Olympia/Antonia/Giulietta/Stella) in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Hamburg State Opera. Yende’s 2016 debut album, “A Journey,” for Sony Classical won several awards including the 2017 International Opera Award (Best Recording/Solo Recital). Yende is a 2011 graduate of the Young Artists Accademia of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. In 2010, she became the first artist in the history of the Belvedere Singing Competition to win top prize in every category and went on to win First Prize in the Operalia competition in 2011. Other prestigious honors include an award from the South African government, ‘The Order of Ikhamanga in Silver,’ for her achievement and international acclaim in the field of opera and serving as a role model to aspiring young musicians and more recently the Italian Knighthood, ‘Ordine Stella d’Italia’, for her work in building extraordinary relations between Italy and other countries.
San Francisco Opera’s In Song is a series of intimate video portraits featuring remarkable artists who draw us into their distinctive spheres through stories and song-from classical to bluegrass, spirituals to mariachi and spanning Zulu, Samoan and Egyptian music. Launched in March 2021, the series invites us into the singers’ worlds to see how they express themselves through deep connections to song. Episodes featuring sopranos Amina Edris, Meigui Zhang and Pretty Yende; mezzo-sopranos Jamie Barton (featuring banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck) and J’Nai Bridges; and tenors Arturo Chacón-Cruz and Pene Pati are available at The series, produced in collaboration with Lumahai Productions, was recently recognized at the 2022 Webby Awards as a Webby People’s Voice Award winner for Best Music Video Series & Channel and was a finalist for best series in this category.
Along with San Francisco Opera’s multidisciplinary Instigators program and other new digital content initiatives such as the podcast North Stage Door and Atrium Sessions, In Song is made possible, in part, through the Creative Edge Fund, with major support from Carol and Dixon Doll, Peter Fenton and Kate Greer and Bob Ellis.
San Francisco Opera presents Giuseppe Verdi‘s La Traviata conducted by Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim in a new staging by director Shawna Lucey. This new vision of a beloved classic will open on Friday, November 11 simultaneously at the War Memorial Opera House and on the videoboard at Oracle Park in a free, live Opera at the Ballpark simulcast ( The international cast is headed by three stars making their Company debuts: South African soprano Pretty Yende (Violetta), Chilean American tenor Jonathan Tetelman (Alfredo) and Italian baritone Simone Piazzola (Giorgio Germont). La Traviata runs through December 3 at the War Memorial Opera House; for tickets and more information, visit
Audiences around the world can experience the Wednesday, November 16, 7:30 p.m. PT performance of La Traviata via livestream. To purchase virtual tickets (which includes a limited on-demand window), visit The Traviata Encounter, a one-night-only event on Saturday, November 19, offers attendees the opportunity to experience Eun Sun Kim leading the internationally renowned cast in the first act of La Traviata and then enjoy an immersive evening in the transformed lobbies of the Opera House. Recommended for audiences ages 21 and over, visit for information and to purchase tickets.

Wednesday, November 9 at 1 pm PT
Live Zoom conversation and audience Q&A with In Song director Elena Park
Soprano Pretty Yende joins In Song director and executive producer Elena Park for a live conversation and audience Q&A. The one-hour event is free; register here.


Pretty Yende, soprano
José Dias, piano
Ndlela Secondary School Choir
Ntokozo Vincent Mathibela, choir director
R.S. More, choir conductor


“Iqhude” (“The Rooster”), Zulu folk song
“L’amor funesto” (“Sad Love”) by Gaetano Donizetti
“Hlengiwe” (“Redeemed”) by Fanny Jane Crosby
A San Francisco Opera/Lumahai Productions collaboration
Directed by Elena Park and Maropeng Vushangwe
Editor: Steven E. Mallorca
Directors of Photography: Mike Downie, Paula Zapata
Recording Engineer: Theuns Van Dyk
Post-Production Mixer: Robert Huott
Executive Producers: Matthew Shilvock and Gregory Henkel
Executive Producer: Elena Park
Producers: Nicole Potter and Warren MacCarthy
South Africa Production Services: Seed Media
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