The coronation of King Charles III was a historic moment in many regards, but for opera singer Pretty Yende, the moment had special significance.
The South African soprano became the first African soloist invited to perform at a British coronation ceremony on Saturday, as she took the stage with the world watching to perform “Sacred Fire,” a piece written by composer Sarah Class for the occasion.
“It’s a dream come true,” the singer shared with ET’s Kevin Frazier following the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. “When I got to learn about opera, I realized that it’s something that I would like to share with as many people as possible, because of how it made me feel.”
“It was more than the joy that I’ve known and love that I’ve known, and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible,” she added. “So this moment is a dream come true, a true gift for me, because I got to share my gift with such an incredible platform.”
Dressed in a stunning yellow Stéphane Rolland gown and Graff jewelry, Yende told ET that “I really feel like I’m royalty, actually.”
She also had a unique perspective on the coronation ceremony both before and after her performance.
“It was quite interesting, because for me, I’m waiting there the whole time, so it was a different experience,” she recalled. “Before I got to sing, I got to be all alone up there, but as soon as I started singing, I felt the incredible celebratory mood in the house and the joy of the people and there was something that truly warmed my heart as well — and kept me warm, because it’s quite chilly in there!”
Following her song, Yende added, is when the emotions started to wash over her.
“I started crying the moment I came down from performing, because it suddenly dawned on me that this is the day and it happened… I tried not to cry a lot, but it was emotional for me,” she admitted. “The feeling of it took me back to when I was five years old in the church, because that’s where I started singing. Fast forward to today, I have to pinch myself that I’m the same girl. I learned how to sing in the church, and now I’m singing in this incredible abbey. It’s amazing.”
Yende, who received the South African Silver Order of Ikhamanga in 2013, had plenty of support from back home, noting that she called her family before her performance.
“I spoke to my dad and my mom and my friends, everybody everywhere was just sending me messages how happy and excited they are for me and wishing me well,” she shared. “It truly feels wonderful. I feel great support.”
And she even got a chance to do some royal spotting before and after the ceremony, noting, “I had an amazing seat… where I could see the whole process. It was right there in front of me. I could see everybody.”
“I had an amazing view and just seeing all of the royal family members, it was a huge moment for me,” she noted with a laugh. “As they passed by, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that’s Kate! Oh my god, that’s William! Oh my god, that’s the king!’ Everyone, even all the princes and princesses, was something like, oh my god, an amazing moment for me.”
Although the actual anointment during the coronation ceremony was not broadcast publicly, plenty of special programming and footage from the ceremony is available to watch on CBS and Paramount+. Audiences will also be able to view coverage on CBS News, including the concert featuring Katy Perry and Lionel Richie on Sunday, May 7. Additionally, others can watch the coronation online on these streaming platforms.
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