Pretty Yende is a wonderful singer with a bright future ahead of her. Nothing about last night’s recital at Cadogan Hall would give anyone a reason to doubt this. Her voice dazzled, and she and James Vaughan seemed to move as one through Italian, French, Spanish and English repertoire. And yet, somehow, as I listened to her stunning coloratura and clear lyricism, I was unsatisfied. Frustratingly, she showed only tantalising hints of her artistry in this recital.

Pretty Yende © Zemsky Green
Pretty Yende
© Zemsky Green

The programme might have worked better in a smaller space, as it had a salon-esque feel to it. Yende and Vaughan added to this sensation, with Yende in particular beginning in a rather internalised fashion. She warmed into the Italian opening set, although it wasn’t until the final one, “Amor marinaro” that she and Vaughan seemed to let themselves off the leash, Vaughan in particular, as he almost danced in his seat.

Yende spent a lot of time looking at the floor, although she did also direct her gaze around the room. This mattered less in “Villanelle”, where her coloratura was a marvel, particularly when she was unaccompanied. Towards the end of the first half she opened up a little more, being at her most engaged and engaging in “Les chemins de l’amour”, and “Les filles de Cadix”, enjoying the sexy Spanishness of the latter.

Normally a performer’s outfit choice wouldn’t merit comment, but Yende set the tone of the second half by changing from a yellow gown into a red flamenco-style dress that matched the Giménez set that opened the second half. In “Zapateado”, it finally felt as if Yende herself was beginning to have fun, with the fast Spanish almost falling from her mouth, and she was more believable over all. In the Herbert set which closed the official recital list, I truly appreciated how extraordinarily good her diction is, as well as her complete command of a myriad of languages.

The ultimate crowd-pleasers were saved until last, with four encores. I feel I must confess at this point that I am not a fan of encores, and here they could indeed have simply made their own set at the end of the recital. “Je veux vivre” lacked the requisite youthful giddiness, although the contained style worked well for “O mio babbino caro”, giving it a more nuanced delivery than is usually found. Herbert’s “Prima Donna” was best suited to the encore place it found itself in, and Yende and Vaughan finished with fun and flair.

Technically there was nothing on which I could fault the pair; Vaughan perhaps had little to do in comparison with his abilities, but Yende ran the gamut. Yet while there were flashes of the dramatic, I wasn’t completely pulled in. Slightly less technical polish and more expressiveness would have elevated the evening, and yet I think Yende is capable of both. Perhaps on the operatic stage she will let loose and we will see the full realisation her of potential, but last night I wanted more, and not in the same way as the rest of the audience.