After an overdose of pop radio, Pretty Yende and Given Nkosi’s performance with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra was absolutely refreshing. Opera is one of the most difficult vocal music styles to perform, and Yende and Nkosi – despite their relative youth – have quickly become two of Cape Town Opera’s most well-regarded and popular singers.
The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra – particularly the strings section – should also be commended for giving a superbly tight performance. But it was the singers who stole the show.
Yende’s stage presence in particular is enormously engaging, mixing the prima donna with a sweet joviality. And the voice! Having seen countless young opera singers attempt big songs with youthful gusto but often without the maturity needed to do them justice, I was immediately drawn in by Yende’s powerful voice which effortlessly filled the opera house. It’s no surprise that she is the recipient of an array of prestigious international awards.
Given Nkosi brought his own blend of suave yet deeply emotive vocals ranging from the desperate – in Tombe Degli Avi Miei – to the comically jubilant – in Ah!Viens, Manon Je T’Aime’. I confess that when a repertoire consists of typical crowd pleasers like La Donna e Mobile and Nessun Dorma I tend to doze off a little but Nkosi performed these pieces with such intense descriptive emotion that it felt as though I was hearing them for the first time.
Both performers have such control and passion for their art that the audience of seasoned opera goers was left wanting more – resulting in no less than three encores. With a few more days left until the end of 2010, I was left assured that Yende and Nkosi’s solo performances were the best of the year.