South African opera star Pretty Yende will perform at London’s Westminster Abbey on May 6th, when King Charles III will be officially crowned.
Given that the previous British coronation was of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and white males dominated the music scene at the time, this would now be the first time a black singer – let alone an African – has performed at the coronation of British monarchs.
However, alongside the joy of Yende’s news, opinions surfaced on social media that she should decline the invitation due to the legacy of British colonialism in South Africa.
The invitation commemorates the wedding of Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales in 1981.
On this historical occasion, the voice of the New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa surprised the royal couple.
As a Māori, Te Kanawa represented her indigenous community, which fell victim to imperialism and colonialism.
Te Kanawa was the same age as Yende when she made her royal appearance, and Yende carries that colonial history with her as well.
Yende hails from eMkhondo in Mpumalanga, a rural province in eastern South Africa. She broke into the scene and has since spent decades appealing to audiences across the world.
Combined with her ambition and drive, her voice would soon enable her to win international singing competitions, setting her on the path to appearing in productions at the world’s leading opera houses.
Her international breakthrough came in 2013 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York when she undertook the role of Adèle in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory.