Saturday, February 18, 2012

Elizabeth Connell

I'm sorry to report that soprano Elizabeth Connell has died, age 65, of lung cancer, at her home in London. She sang at San Francisco Opera several times in the 1990s. I don't remember her Ortrud very well (I didn't know Lohengrin well at the time), but her Elektra was well sung and her Isolde extremely beautiful. She had a full, clear, rounded, very large voice with high notes that I remember as billowing out into the hall, without the slightest hint of shrillness. The Tristan performances were memorable for good reasons (Connell, Violetta Urmana's Brangaene, a magnificent Marke from Victor von Halem, the fantastic and impassioned leadership of Donald Runnicles) and bad (the ghastly Wolfgang Schmidt). I went three times.

She was supposed to sing the Kostenicka in Jenufai a decade ago, but an emergency took her back to England during the rehearsal period. We got the silent-movie acting of Kathryn Harries instead; I've always wondered what Connell would have been like.

She was an excellent singer who never achieved the kind of fame that the quality of her voice and singing should have earned her. I've heard some concert excerpts recorded when she was past 60, and she sounded better in them than plenty of dramatic sopranos 20 years her junior.

Rest in peace, Miss Connell; I'm sorry to see you go.

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