When opera star Pretty Yende was invited by the King to sing at his coronation, she couldn't quite believe it.
"I thought: 'Oh my goodness, this can't be true,'" the South African soprano tells HELLO!. "I thought it was a joke when my manager told me. I am feeling so, so excited now I'm over the disbelief that he really asked for me."
However, 6 May won’t be the first time Pretty, 38, has been in the company of His Majesty.
Last year, she was invited to perform at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 75th anniversary celebrations at Windsor Castle and made quite the impression on the then Prince of Wales, who was hosting the evening.
"He was super kind, warm, generous and so complimentary," she says. "He was really impressed. He told me I am extraordinary. He likes going to the opera, so he said next time I come to London, I should let them know and maybe he would come to one of my performances."
Pretty never imagined that the next time her royal fan would watch her sing would be as he was getting crowned, watched by an estimated global TV audience of one billion.
“I am very grateful that all of my dreams have come true – but this one tops it all,” says Pretty, who will sing a new score created by composer Sarah Class and lyricist Grahame Davies.
Her "happy" childhood in the small town of Piet Retief (now known as eMkhondo) in South Africa was filled with music, but her life changed forever at the age of 16, after hearing Delibes's "Flower Duet" from his opera Lakmé on a British Airways advert.
Pretty has sung in some of the most hallowed opera houses in the world – from La Scala in Milan to New York’s Metropolitan Opera House – and has a jam-packed calendar, including a starring role in Massenet's Manon at the Vienna State Opera, but her schedule is only going to get busier after the coronation.
"My life will never be the same again – in a very good way. After 6 May, the floodgates will open and more requests will come," she says.
Adds Pretty: "Generations from now, when people look back on 6 May, they will know about the girl from the tip of Africa who sang for the King's coronation, invited by the King himself. I want girls around the world know that whatever you dream, somebody will call for you when it's your time. Just keep doing the best you can. Somebody is watching, somebody is listening."
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