CONCERT REVIEWS

“Every time I hear Sarah Connolly as the Angel, there is some new inflection of voice or shaping of phrase that deepens and expands her interpretation. Dressed beautifully like an Arts and Crafts angel, Connolly held Gerontius – and us – in thrall with the consolatory warmth and firmness of her singing. Overwhelming in the white-hot force of her final Alleluia, she moved on to a ‘Softly and gently’ of incomparable, valedictory tenderness.”

 

Peter Reed, Classical Source

Mahler | Symphony no.2 'Resurrection' | London Philharmonic Orchestra

19 October 19

"Connolly projected her warm, burgundy-rich voice, aided by superb articulation and understanding of her words, into the auditorium."

Alexander Hall, Bachtrack, 20 October 2019

 

Mahler | Symphony no.2 'Resurrection' | London Philharmonic Orchestra

19 October 19

''This is a mezzo with a voice swathed in the most orchid-like of colours and heliotropic in its conviction to turn towards the Arcadian.  Diction was impeccable."

Marc Bridle, Opera Today, 24 October 2019

Recital with Julius Drake (piano) | Kimmel Centre, Philadephia

23 March 19

''All of the expected elements were there: she was in fine voice (her mezzo-soprano recalling the great Christa Ludwig), with her minimal-gestures physical appearance making you focus exclusively on the music - and in offbeat repertoire that only an intelligent singer with great vocal equipment can truly put across. What emerged during the program of Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf Albert Roussel, Claude Debussy and Alexander Zemlinsky - none of it easy stuff - was the kind of vocal and interpretative precision that allows you to follow the music, one creative choice at a time."

David Patrick Stearns, The Inquirer, 23 March 2019

 

Mahler | Das Lied von der Erde | London Philharmonic Orchestra

29 September 18

''...but it was the mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly who carried the piece’s emotional weight. Nowhere more so than in the expansive Abschied, which turns to look death in the face. Funereal shudderings, a tolling tamtam set the tone; later, an oscillating harp and clarinet held us in limbo, a keening oboe trying to lead us away.

Yet after — or because of — all this, something shifts. As Connolly sang the final dying words of acceptance, it truly felt as if we had touched on something transcendent, profound, sublime.”

Rebecca Franks, The Times, 2 October 2018

Recital with Malcolm Martineau (piano) | Schubertiada in Vilabertran

22 Aug 18

La elegancia, la franqueza, la verdad en fin, es algo a lo que pocos artistas llegan de un modo genuino, en el transcurso de su trayectoria profesional. En este oficio tan proclive a la superficialidad encontrar a una dama como Sarah Connolly, tan auténtica, es casi como toparse con un oasis en mitad del desierto. El encuentro es por ello refrescante, renovador, conciliador de algún modo, pues permite seguir creyendo en el arte con mayúsculas como prioridad, aunque señales sin fin parezcan apuntar lo contrario una y otra vez.

Sirva este preludio para mostrar mi admiración -y la de toda la audiencia, a juzgar por su reacción- ante el imponente recital que la mezzosoprano británica y el pianista Malcolm Martineau ofrecieron en Vilabertrán el pasado sábado. Una ejemplar Liederabend, con un programa estructurado en dos grandes bloques: un primero consagrado a Brahms, con Jonathan Brown, el viola del Cuarteto Casals; y una segunda mitad que pivotaba en torno a las primeras décadas del siglo XX, con los Kindertotenlieder de Mahler y un recorrido por algunos importantes autores británicos (Ivor Gurney, Richard Rodney Bennett y Frank Bridge). Fue una agradable sopresa contar con esta nómina de compositores como broche a una velada de absoluta delicastessen. La contribución de Brown con la viola, aunque escueta, fue excelsa y nos dejó con ganas de más repertorio con esta combinación.

El recital alcanzó su punto más algido con un Mahler a la altura de las más grandes (Baker, Ludwig, etc.) La versión de los Kindertotenlieder que ofrecieron Connolly y Martineau tuvo una hondura, una franqueza y una contención dignas de admiración. La autenticidad se palpaba en el ambiente, silencioso como pocas veces sucede. Qué gran dama del lied tenemos en Sarah Connolly. Qué dificil es cantar lied con esa altura, sin afectación alguna, llegando al tuétano de cada verso sin necesidad de aspavientos. Y qué gran sabiduría la que derrocha Malcolm Martineau al piano. Qué fino estilista, qué excelso conocedor del repertorio y, en fin, qué capacidad para cantar con los intépretes en un segundo plano que deja de serlo en tanto en cuanto su piano se funde con las voces como rara vez acontece.

Alejandro Martinez, Platea Magazine, 22 August 2018

 

BBC Proms recital with Joseph Middleton | Cadogan Hall

06 Aug 18

“Proms at…Cadogan Hall 4, Connolly, Middleton review – perfect partnering in the unfamiliar …it’s to Sarah Connolly’s and pianist Joseph Middleton’s enormous credit that they created such an eloquent lunchtime recital packed with 18 short songs, almost every one of which rewarded their time and the audience’s rapt attention.
Take their opener. On the strength of her poem “A soft day”, it’s fair to say that we are unlikely to witness a Winifred M Letts (1882-1972) revival: “The soaking grass smells sweet/Crushed by my two bare feet… “ but that was before Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1954) got his hands on it. He uses that couplet to start a full-blooded rising phrase that blooms with Connolly’s most opulent tone. Then, spotting the lightness of touch in Stanford’s following descending phrase of single notes “Drips, drips, drips”, she and Middleton deftly touch in falling raindrops with extraordinary delicacy…
One of Stanford’s early students, Arthur Somervell, a song composer now known only to specialists, had taste assured enough to set “Into my heart an air that kills” from A Shropshire Lad by AE Housman. It’s the kind of subtle setting you could teach composition from. An eight-line poem in two verses, the first is so cunningly intense that you scarcely notice that every single word of it is sung on the same note. In Connolly’s performance it became a tiny masterclass in astonishingly varied expression…
In the second half of the recital, Britten’s tiny cycle A Charm of Lullabies climaxed – if that’s the word for so gentle a set – with an outstanding performance of the final “The Nurse’s Song”, the most “Brittenish” of the five songs. You can tell a very great deal about a singer’s technique (and taste) by the way they finish a phrase and Connolly’s closing of the song was remarkable. Britten loses his trademark wry harmonies for the final verse which is sung unaccompanied, leaving the preceding harmonies to hang in the air as wistful memories. Dropping to the low glow at the bottom of her register, Connolly produced pianissimo yet utterly focused and energised singing, the sound vanishing perfectly to the deep dark silence of sleep.
Better yet, she and Middleton performed the world premieres of two songs they’d uncovered in the Britten archives which the composer wrote for but cut from the final cycle. “Somnus, the humble God” is (very) minor Britten but “A Sweet Lullaby” is a find, the accompaniment slowly rocking and rippling, the harmonies plangent…
Richer by far was Mark-Anthony Turnage’s “Farewell”. Connolly has been singing Turnage’s music since 2000 when she created the role of Susie in his opera The Silver Tassie. Written for her, the song spans two octaves of her voice, a challenge she meets not just with clarity of diction at both ends but with sensitivity to both the wit of Stevie Smith’s bleakly cheerful words but also the ardour and melancholy of the music. What more could a composer – and an audience – ask for?”

David Benedict, The Arts Desk, 7 August 2018

Mahler (arr. Farrington) | Das Lied von der Erde | Aurora Orchestra

19 Oct 2017

“The tenor Andrew Staples impressively hurled out his three wild songs, but it was the mezzo Sarah Connolly who sang straight from the heart. I won’t forget her final Der Abschied: that cool flute and menacing double bass, then a voice of rich, lunar beauty lighting up this long farewell.”
Rebecca Franks, The Times, 13 October 2017

“The Aurora had been able to secure two of the finest singers it is possible to hear in this music, tenor Andrew Staples and mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly. Connolly’s association with Mahler needs no such introduction, and despite the scaled-back ensemble, she brought no comparable withdrawal from the deep expressive import of Mahler’s vocal line and its heartfelt poetry. Her sense of communication with the audience was, as ever, total, her tonal range was expansive but nuanced, and the innocence of the “junge Mädchen” was expressed as perkily as the final, repeated sighs of “ewig” were devastating.”
Matthew Rye, Bachtrack, 15 October 2017

Recital with Malcolm Martineau (piano) | Wigmore Hall

03 Oct 2017

“Most song recitals are concerned with dreams: the distant beloved, the forest, the night. In Sarah Connolly and Malcolm Martineau’s Wigmore Hall recital the terms were widened and the nature of those dreams made sharper, more specific. To the standard serenades of infatuation, dewily rendered by Richard Strauss and Erich Korngold (the latter’s Sterbelied so cloyingly in love with the idea of love that Martineau’s hands moved as though heavy with jewels), the singer and pianist added symbolist fantasies, sardonic social commentary, wild visions and a lullaby so violent as to induce nightmares.

Connolly’s meticulous blending of middle and chest registers, her bright top, her silken legato and sophisticated pointing of the text — a little extra bite on this consonant, a subtle elongation of that vowel, a tiny catch of time between two seemingly insignificant words — was applied equally to the slightest and the greatest material. Who knows how many times she and Martineau have performed Strauss’s Die Nacht and Sehnsucht? Both songs were fresh and vivid, the tone blanched to depict silence and loneliness, the curling line on “dein schönes Auge” sweet and true. Zemlinsky’s opulent, neurotic Maeterlinck settings are most remarkable for the agency they give the singer. She sets the pace and tone, he responds.

The American dream turns bitter in the compressed satire of Hanns Eisler and Bertolt Brecht’s Die Hollywood-Elegien, its mockery of the City of Angels spiked with a sudden reference to Schumann’s Liederkreis Op 39. The imagery is startling, the economy of the writing more so. Of three songs by Ivor Gurney and Frank Bridge, only Gurney’s Sleep was equally satisfying as music and verse.

Connolly and Martineau were more animated by the whip-smart rhythms and rapt cadences of their selection from Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson and by Britten’s A Charm of Lullabies, an alarming catalogue of potential domestic and supernatural dangers, and chillingly ambiguous in the impeccable softness of its unaccompanied ending. Quiet as breath, this was real artistry.”
Anna Picard, The Times, 03 October 2017

Schumann, Mahler, Berlioz, Debussy & Poulenc | Recital with Malcolm Martineau (piano) | Wigmore Hall

13 Sep 2016

“Mezzo-sopranos of a certain build and vocal timbre spend their professional lives flirting with gender distinctions. Tall and straight-limbed, with a cool, clean and supple voice, Sarah Connolly has made her career playing ardent boys and lovestruck soldiers, sometimes in roles written for the castrated superstars of the 18th century. She has inhabited the personalities of aggrieved queens, affronted goddesses and a succession of monstrous mothers: Agrippina, Medea, Phaedra, Jocasta. Does she regret not being a perky bel canto girl next door? I doubt it.

Handsome in a black velvet frock coat in the first half of her concert, then regal in a heliotrope gown in the second half, Connolly slipped into a succession of ambivalent characters in her Wigmore Hall recital of German lieder and French mélodies with the pianist Malcolm Martineau.

Death, heartbreak and madness hover over the spring flowers, slumbering infant and wedding dance of Schumann’s Hans Christian Andersen songs, Märzveilchen, Muttertraum and Der Spielmann. Martineau played with a dangerous gleam while Connolly stripped her sound back to a pitiless tone of pewter in Der Soldat.

Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder were more sculpted than sung, and delivered as though still in the damaged character of the young man who had shot his dearest friend in Der Soldat. In the strange, bass-less writing of Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été there was a morbid sensuality and intense attention to Théophile Gautier’s poetry and its colours: silver (Le spectre de la rose), white (Sur les lagunes), crimson (Absence), black (Au cimetière).

Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis shivered and idled exotically, while Poulenc’s Banalités were crisply characterised and urbane. Encores by two female composers, Clara Schumann’s Liebst du um Schönheit and Alma Mahler’s Bei dir ist es traut, closed a recital of remarkable taste, precision and intelligence.”
Anna Picard, The Times, 13 September 2016 

Schönberg | Gurre-Lieder Orchestre de l’Opéra national de Paris/Philippe Jordan

29 Apr 2016

“Grâce à la magnifique mezzo anglaise Sarah Connolly, l’intensité dramatique est à nouveau au rendez-vous pour le récit de la Waldtaube. Formée à l’école du baroque, sachant donner à chaque mot sa charge organique d’affect, son poids charnel d’émotion, elle délivre une leçon de déclamation tragique d’une grandeur bouleversante. D’un maintien hiératique, sans ostentation ni geste factice, d’une voix puissante et sombre, aux inflexions suprêmement expressives, Sarah Connolly aura hissé cette soirée à un sommet des plus impressionnants.”
Gilles Macassar, Concertclassic.com, 19 April 2016

Mahler Das Lied von der Erde | Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin

28 Oct 2015

“This concert was worth attending just to hear mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly sing the last “ewig” (forever) in Mahler’s Song of the Earth. She modulated it so that it seemed to rise from, then sink into, an eternal vanishing point. Overcome, conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin needed several moments before he could cue the uproarious applause. Mahler was chiefly responsible for the hall paralysed with emotion. For an hour he dangles us on the edge of the abyss, then, just as we are about to be engulfed by misery, floats us on a mist of hope. Ms Connolly must however, share the blame. She was simply magnificent, easily equalling the most illustrious past interpreters of this work.A singer’s concert garb is immaterial, but Ms Connolly’s black gown, trailed with sprays of white appliqué flowers, had an Aubrey Beardsley feel that transported us to the right era for the Mahler.The power of Sarah Connolly’s interpretation was rooted in her complete engagement with the words. Whether in the plunging melancholy of “Der Einsame im Herbst” (The Lonely One in Autumn) or when limpidly describing young women gathering lotus flowers in “Von der Schönheit” (“Of Beauty”), her voice emanated a soft but penetrating radiance. The breadth in the contralto range and the tonal integrity across all registers make hers a truly exceptional instrument. Besides being unutterably moving, her final song, “Der Abschied” (The Farewell) had a sweeping vocal majesty. It advanced, as it should, like a slow-motion tremor tearing the loamy earth to reveal wounds in intense orchestral reds and purples, before melting into those wondrously sung “forevers”.”

Jenny Camilleri, Bachtrack, 24 November 2015

Schubert, Mahler, Copland & Elgar | Recital with Joseph Middleton (Piano) | Alice Tully Hall, New York

15 Apr 2015

“Sarah Connolly, whose superlative matinee on Sunday at Alice Tully Hall had Joseph Middleton at the Steinway, is at the peak of her career.  Mahler’s five ‘Rückert Lieder’ date from 1901-02. Written on either side of that composer’s turbulent courtship of Alma Schindler, they are barely a set at all, and require a wide, even range and a profound emotional sensitivity. For British mezzos especially, the lineage of prior interpreters is daunting, stretching back beyond Janet Baker to Kathleen Ferrier. Ms. Connolly has nothing to fear from the comparison. Her instrument might be strong and luminous, but it also has a fragility, like stained glass. It’s matched to an acute understanding of text and the control to convey it. New depths of darkness and new heights of desperation appeared in each solemn refrain of ‘Um Mitternacht.’ If ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ asks the impossible — an enraptured voice lost to time and space — its demands were met, each consonant lingered over and each vowel radiant, adored as if it were the last. Ms. Connolly and the impressive Mr. Middleton flaunted their versatility. Opening with Schubert’s three ‘Ellens Gesänge,’ they brought an otherworldly confidence to the ‘Ave Maria.’ Each of five of Copland’s intriguingly varied ’12 Poems of Emily Dickinson’ had a distinct mood, while in Elgar’s ‘Sea Pictures’ even Ms. Connolly’s breathing seemed part of her supremely noble phrasing. The encores, Handel’s ‘Ombra mai fu’ and Howells’s ‘King David,’ exuded poise and dignity. This was everything a recital should be.”

David Allen, New York Times, 13 April 2015

Copland & Rodney Bennett | Sarah Connolly in America Tour with the Britten Sinfonia

27 Jan 2015

“The delectable choices made by the Britten Sinfonia were a glorious mix of 20th century Americana, presented in partnership with the fabulous mezzo-soprano, Sarah Connolly. Having witnessed the chemistry between Connolly and the Britten Sinfonia at the 2013 BBC Proms where they chose one of Britten’s last works, the cantata Phaedra, it was undoubtedly going to be the start to a blossoming relationship and one which they have evidently enjoyed already in 2015 as they’ve visited Cambridge, London and Norwich.  Connolly took to the stage for three songs by that masquerading New Yorker, Richard Rodney Bennett (sorely missed since his death in 2012). Snappy rhythms, superb orchestration and a real sense of panache from both soloist and orchestra made the Foxtrot, Slow Foxtrot and Tango from The History of Thé Dansant stand out as some of the best of their genre. The wistful coda at end was most effective and brought one back to reality having been transported through postcards of a holiday of a bygone era. Connolly’s second song cycle of the evening returned to Copland who, like Carter, was composing right up until his final days. The Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson bore more than a little resemblance to Copland’s orchestration of Appalachian Spring, but here the Britten Sinfonia added more brass and woodwind to their rank and file, producing a sound that began to infiltrate even the smallest corners of the Hall. Connolly’s expression and wonderful narrative style drew the audience into the five songs they had decided to perform from the set. Yet again, Copland’s ability to paint the wide American skies and pioneering spirit was plain to hear and a joy to behold.”
Nathan Waring, Bachtrack, 22 January 2015

“Sarah Connolly in America ran the title of this Britten Sinfonia programme. But for once, the chamber orchestra, ever expanding its artistic and geographical horizons, was not crossing the Atlantic with its guest star, but presenting a domestic mini-tour, performing in Leeds, Cambridge and Norwich as well as in London’s shiniest (and probably best) concert hall, Milton Court. Designed around Connolly (who also rather gamely gave the pre-concert talks), the programme centred on five of Aaron Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, rounded out by Appalachian Spring, Elliott Carter’s early Elegy for Strings and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Andante for Strings (adapted by the composer from her 1931 string quartet). Richard Rodney Bennett was also recruited as an adopted American, with Connolly presenting his rarely heard nostalgic song set A History of the Thé Dansant (recorded by Connolly for Chandos a couple of years ago). Soloist and orchestra alike were on rivetingly gorgeous form, Connolly slinking through the Bennett songs with the kind of restrained smoothness that suggests she could simply eat her audience, if the desire took her, before pulling back to the nostalgic tenderness that frames the set. In the Dickinson settings, she sang with a cool, equal directness that perfectly offset the rush of subtly shaded passions rising through the orchestra (Copland transcribed eight of the original 12 songs for small orchestra). And in an encore, so clearly anticipated that the orchestra forgot to bow before setting up for it, Connolly took the microphone for two numbers from the American Songbook (Blues in the Night and But Not for Me, in superb arrangements by Nelson Riddle and Benny Carter), the Sinfonia strings oozing a shine and depth of tone that belied their modest numbers.”

Guy Dammann, The Guardian, 22 January 2015

Schönberg Gurre-Lieder | London Sinfonietta/Nicholas Collon

22 Sep 2014

“Towards the end of the extended applause that greeted this rare all-Schoenberg concert, the conductor held up his score and pointed to the composer’s name. ‘Don’t forget about the composer’, the gesture reminded us. After all, wasn’t it Schoenberg we were all here for? Not according to the straw poll I conducted in the interval, which confirmed the hall was packed not for Schoenberg, nor even for his daughter Nuria, sitting among the audience, but for Sarah Connolly, present to sing the Wood Dove’s Song from Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. And what a performance she gave. Despite an excellent live recording of Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten some years ago, it’s still surprising to find Connolly singing this repertoire. But it shouldn’t be: her deep and subtly shaded colours are perfectly suited to a composer for whom the idea of expression relies on a constant sense of flux and growth. Connolly’s deep reserves of power, even so low in her register, kept a sense of the line’s endless unfolding so that the interplay with the chamber orchestra (this was Schoenberg’s reduced version with harmonium and piano) was spontaneous.”

Guy Dammann, The Guardian, 19 September 2014

Mahler Symphony no. 2 | Boston Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck | Tangelwood Festival

28 Jul 2014

“…the Urlicht brought the rich, dark balm of Connolly’s voice into chiaroscuro relief…as the movement progressed, Tilling joined Connolly at the stage-front—Conolloy’s velvet nap contrasting Tilling’s fine, lustrous silk with great beauty.”
John Robinson & Emma Kerry, Classical Scene, 27 July 2014

Duparc Recital |Malcolm Martineau (piano) | Wigmore Hall

24 Apr 2014

“In the first half, Connolly took two of [Duparc’s] finest: ‘Au pays où se fait la guerre’, where heartfelt longing is projected on a Wagnerian scale, and ‘L’Invitation au Voyage’, where she effortlessly captured the calm ecstasy of Duparc’s superb Baudelaire setting.  In glorious voice, she evoked the pangs of burgeoning love in the Romance de Mignon and the similarly languorous melancholy in Chanson Triste. Indeed, all her contributions were marked by gleaming tone, impeccable diction and an unerring ability to communicate the emotional state of each setting…Malcolm Martineau did marvels with the quasi-orchestral piano accompaniments, from the rippling arpeggios of ‘L’Invitation’ to the tempestuous seascape of ‘La Vague et la Cloche’, complete with crashing waves and clanging bell.”

Barry Millington, Evening Standard, 24 April 2014

“An intoxicating recital from mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and baritone Henk Neven.  They could have been singing only for each other. At times, listening felt intrusive. Yet, every word drew us in deeper, every note clamoured for attention. It was like eating in a fine restaurant – all aromas, tastes and colours designed to complement one another. That was the impression made by Wednesday’s Wigmore Hall performance from mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and baritone Henk Neven. Some of the credit, however, goes to their choice of repertoire: the 17 mélodies by the French late Romantic composer Henri Duparc. Based on poetry by Baudelaire and Gautier among others, these songs channel fin-de-siècle decadence to intoxicating effect. Every song is a meal in itself; 17 in a row should really carry a calorie warning. While both singers gorged themselves on its excesses, each shrouded the music in a different character. It was ultimately Connolly, however, who reigned over this recital. Refinement and maturity were her calling cards, both in terms of vocal quality and interpretation. She dealt in minutiae, bringing the intensity to a word such as ‘tortures’ that someone less focused might bring to an entire song. But she never forced the emotion. That’s why the tenderness of ‘Chanson triste’ was so convincing, as well as the intimacy of her take on ‘Extase’. And it’s why her most explosive moments felt as if they had been fully earned. One such moment arrived in the Wagnerian ‘Au pays où se fait la guerre’; another in the rarely-sung duet ‘La fuite’, for which she was joined by Neven. Buoyed by Malcolm Martineau’s piano playing, which, elsewhere, took on thunderous proportions, the singers metamorphosed into larger-than-life characters, clearly relishing the opportunity to flaunt their operatic credentials. It only lasted for one song. But the impression lingered on.”

Hannah Nepil, Financial Times, 24 April 2014

“Songlives is the Wigmore Hall concert series dreamt up by lieder supremo Malcolm Martineau to explore a composer’s whole life, chronologically, through his output. In the case of Henri Duparc, any survey unfortunately hits a brick wall: the Frenchman quit composing altogether at the age of 37 (he went on to live another 48 unfecund years). Yet what songs they are! This is the birth of the languorous, philosophically profound, sometimes suffocatingly intense mélodie — the lieder tradition of Schubert and Schumann hosed down with eau de parfum and cognac. It’s a style practically fully formed even in Duparc’s very first song, the mournful Chanson triste, here beautifully unwound by Sarah Connolly. In this early stage of his career, as if to acknowledge his debts to the German tradition, Duparc even wrote his own Romance de Mignon — a seminal lieder text by Goethe — but his is suffused with erotic, ecstatic longing, especially in the repeated refrain of ‘Là-bas’ (over there), which somehow sounds so much sexier than the German ‘dahin’.  With Connolly somehow managing to nab most of the absolute gems from Duparc’s small oeuvre for herself — the gorgeous Baudelaire poem ‘L’invitation au voyage’, the Wagnerian psychodrama of ‘Extase’— the young Dutch baritone Henk Neven had a slightly sterner task. Yet this was less an evening for vocal duels than a fine homage to a great songwriter. Kudos to Martineau for a small but perfectly balanced selection, and he relished Duparc’s rich piano lines — their growing intensity as Duparc matured are a tantalising glimpse of what might have happened if he hadn’t thrown in the towel — with particular love. Debussy and Poulenc were the encores: 20th-century heirs to Duparc’s crown.”

Neil Fisher, The Times, 25 April 2014

“Connolly was all tonal opulence and majestically sweeping lines…”

Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 24 April 2014

Elgar | The Dream of Gerontius | BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis

07 Apr 2014

“But once on the threshold of deliverance again there was Sarah Connolly, looking and sounding fabulous, amplifying and intensifying every line of text. The tremulous hush of her repeated Alleluias were so deeply reassuring and in marked contrast to the verbal terror she invoked with the arrival of the demons. The BBC Symphony Chorus sneered their way through that chorus with chilling relish but conserved their biggest blaze of light affirming sound for “Praise to the Holiest”. Davis built that great chorus to a pitch of swinging jubilance, the final moments of it lifting off like peeling bells towards that mightytenuto and crescendo on the final note. Thrilling stuff.  As was Connolly’s final Alleluia – full of ecstasy – and Skelton’s cry of “Take me away” which was invested with a sustained rapture such as I’ve honestly never heard before. Of course, it comes off the back of a more literal than metaphorical lightning strike as the Almighty is glimpsed – but the shock and  awe of that are as nothing compared to ‘the Angel’s farewell’ where Elgar and Connolly conspired in those glorious pages to have us all believing in something.”

Edward Seckerson, The Arts Desk, 07 April 2014

“Sarah Connolly as a consummately polished Angel completed the outstanding set of soloists.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 08 April 2014

“Every time I hear Sarah Connolly as the Angel, there is some new inflection of voice or shaping of phrase that deepens and expands her interpretation. Dressed beautifully like an Arts and Crafts angel, Connolly held Gerontius – and us – in thrall with the consolatory warmth and firmness of her singing. Overwhelming in the white-hot force of her final Alleluia, she moved on to a ‘Softly and gently’ of incomparable, valedictory tenderness.”
Peter Reed, Classical Source, 06 April 2014

Berlioz | Les nuits d'été | London Philharmonic Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin

26 Mar 2014

“Sarah Connolly’s intimately scaled, impeccably phrased, highly literary interpretation was spiked with intelligent and unusual details, her hands as eloquent as her voice, the colours of Sur les lagunes and Au cimitière closely echoed by the players.”
Anna Picard, The Times, 28 March 2014

Handel | Theodora | Concert Tour with The English Concert/Harry Bicket

28 Jan 2014

“As Irene, mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly gave a lustrous performance, marked by rich chest tones and plainspoken eloquence.”
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 27 January 2014

“Sarah Connolly an ardently passionate Irene…”
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 29 January 2014

“As Irene, the spiritual leader of the Christians and Theodora’s confidante, the mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly sang with power and dignity, supported by the fiery, expressive playing of the English Concert.”
Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times, 03 February 2014

“Händel composed for Irene one of the greatest concentrations of his art, ‘As with rosy steps the morn.’  In this aria, and, indeed, in every note that she sang, the versatile mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly gave a masterclass in the art of unobtrusively considerate phrasing…the principal pleasure to be had from Ms. Connolly’s singing was in the unmistakable quality of the voice.  ‘Bane of virtue, nurse of passions’ was splendidly sung, the statements of ‘such is, Prosperity, the name’ voiced with beguiling intensity.  The outpouring of expressive tone in ‘As with rosy steps the morn’ was awe-inspiring, the depths of emotion all the more touching for the subtlety and calm reserve of Ms. Connolly’s singing.  ‘Defend her, Heav’n,’ Irene’s prayer for the preservation of Theodora’s maidenhood, seemed even finer in Ms. Connolly’s performance than it appears on the page, and the extended melodies of ‘Lord, to thee, each night and day’ were unfurled with poetic elegance.  Ms. Connolly’s lines in the brief duet with Theodora, ‘Whither, Princess, do you fly,’ trembled with concern for her friend, and she cloaked ‘New scenes of joy come crowding on’ with an unsettling sense of uncertainty and trepidation.  Having Irene sing the final recitative, ‘Ere this, their doom is past and they are gone,’ from the side of the stage heightened the sense of loss, with Irene now distanced from Theodora and Didymus by death.  This, too, Ms. Connolly sang with sorrow made more piercing by the handsomeness of her tone.  In phrasing, in tasteful ornamentation, and in finding in text the impetus for the nuances of her performance, Ms. Connolly confirmed her reputation as one of the most important Händel singers of her generation.”
Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts, 31 January 2014

“Sarah Connolly, warm-toned and nobly understated as Irene.”
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 10 February 2014

“Irene, magnificently played by Sarah Connolly.”
Ivan Hewett, Telegraph, 09 February 2014

“No surprise that Sarah Connolly was absolutely wonderful in the role of Irene – but for a reason. Her first aria, and indeed much of her input, was sung so peaceably and serenely.  ‘As with my steps the morn’ grew from pianissimo to piano, and her reprise was more like quadruple and triple piano. The effect was utterly mesmerising. Connolly, uniquely, has the artistry to effect portamento (‘bane of virtue’), a device she never overuses but which brings maximum affect when she does. Every time she sang was a masterclass; ‘Thou art the light, the life, the way’ was quite sensational; her start to Act III is as moving as Britten’s Lucretia.”
Roderic Dunnett, Seen and Heard, 07 February 2014

“Sarah Connolly was majestic as ever as Irene, imbuing a very lumpy libretto with pathos and tone spun into endless colours, discovering the most extreme pianissimos for repeats.”
Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk, 09 February 2014

“Sarah Connolly, serene as Irene…”
Barry Millington, The Evening Standard, 10 February 2014

“Sarah Connolly is fabulous throughout as Theodora’s friend Irene, whose strong faith is made human by her tremulous doubts and vibrant love of life. Amidst a great overall performance, Connolly’s passionate plea ‘Defend her, heav’n’ is supremely well-judged and sung with real emotion.”
Charlotte Valori, Bachtrack, 10 February 2014

“Whenever Sarah Connolly stood up as Theodora’s companion Irene, Thomas Morell’s libretto, fusty and clunky, turned into a wonder of eloquence, even when she hit the phrase ‘viewless tents’ in the stunner aria Defend her, Heav’n. Colours, dynamics, emotional shadings: Connolly’s kaleidoscope never ended.”
Geoff Brown, The Times, 12 February 2014

“Sarah Connolly deployed a refined artistry…”
Michael Church, The Independent, 10 February 2014

“As Irene, Sarah Connolly brought a smooth roundedness to her sound that was then embellished with a range of interesting nuances.”
Sam Smith, Music OHM, 08 February 2014

Mahler | Symphony no. 2| Boston Symphony Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi

30 Sep 2013

“The simple affirmation of the fourth movement’s alto solo—delivered with gentle dignity and clear, full-bodied tone by mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly.”
David Wright, Boston Classical Review, 27 September 2013

“Sarah Connolly sang an exemplary ‘Urlicht’ (Primal Light) registering not just the beauty, but also the deep compassion in this otherworldly music.”
Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe, September 2013

Recital | Malcolm Martineau (piano) | Snape Maltings

10 Jun 2013

“For a completely satisfying song recital programme, though, it would be difficult to beat Sarah Connolly’s latest appearance at the Aldeburgh Festival. Devoting the first half to Schumann, she sang a selection from Myrthen, notable for their consoling warmth, before delivering Frauenlieben und –leben with rare introspection. This cycle’s opening song had perfectly judged hesitancy, as if in a waking dream, and Malcolm Martineau supported Connolly with subtle pianistic colours. The mezzo put a smile in her voice for the happy, penultimate number, sung with evenness of tone recalling the great Christa Ludwig. A pair of Britten songs provided the link between the French refinement of Albert Roussel, the English mysticism of Herbert Howells and Ivor Gurney, and sardonic cleverness of Richard Rodney Bennett. Whether evoking the soft, sensuous rain in Roussel’s Le jardin mouillée or projecting long, sustained lines to King David, Howells’s miniature masterpiece. Connolly proved a consummate artist.”
John Allison, The Telegraph

Recital |  Malcolm Martineau (piano) | Wigmore Hall

01 May 2013

“It takes a brave singer to present a programme in which not a single song is a popular favourite. But Sarah Connolly is such a revered artist that she can draw a near-capacity audience at Wigmore Hall for an exploration of the byways of the French repertoire. Whether many in the audience would choose to revisit those particular chemins, given the opportunity, is a moot point.  The texts of the opening Roussel group spoke of balmy nights, trembling grass and whispering gardens. There was a hint of sensuality in Nuit d’Automne (so warm was the autumn night that “you could fall asleep naked”) but Roussel’s music is restrained to a fault. In Fauré’s late song cycle Le Jardin Clos (The Walled Garden), passion is also kept well below the surface. The melodic lines and harmonies are as fragile as the imagery (a bird on the sea, a sleeping fairy). The rich, sensuous piano sonorities of Dans la Nymphée (In the Grotto) evoke the presence of a lover but it turns out to be a dream. There are brief flashes of passion but the ardour of the younger Fauré has given way to renunciation. All this makes for something of a challenge for the performer. Connolly knows how to make the most of subtle nuances and half-lights but it was difficult to feel that these songs exploited her full expressive potential. The first half ended with Chausson’s Chanson Perpetuelle, in which the only outburst of passion is generated by the absence of the lover. No wonder those impressionable young Frenchmen such as Chausson and Chabrier fell under the spell of Wagner, sobbing uncontrollably and fainting at performances of Tristan und Isolde. But we heard nothing of them in unbuttoned mode. Instead, after the interval, we had five pithy songs by Honegger, Petit Cours de Morale of 1941. Then came three Lorca settings by Poulenc, dismissed even by the composer as “of little importance”. André Caplet’s La Croix Douloureuse (The Cross of Pain) inhabits a similar world to Debussy’s The Martyrdom of St Sebastian, where mortification and pain are the spurs to passion. Satie’s Three Love Poems to his  own texts are knowing and characteristically dispassionate but even Connolly was hard put to it to stimulate any appreciative response. A final group by Turina, written after his return from Paris to Spain, raised the emotional temperature by a degree or two. Consummate artistry from Connolly, ably accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, and a programme of undeniable rarity value.”
Barry Millington, Evening Standard, 02 May 2013

Elgar |The Dream of Gerontius | Royal Festival Hall, London

26 Jan 2013

“As often happens, though, the Angel stole the show. Sarah Connolly sang superbly, at one point investing the word “Alleluia” with such radiant humanity that all trace of religiosity evaporated.”
Evening Standard, 28 January 2013

“Sarah Connolly is, as it were, one of The Dream of Gerontius’s archangels. She sang with her characteristic warmth and radiance, giving a gentle momentum to the Angel’s dialogue with Gerontius and, at the end of “Softly and gently”, fading her voice into the choir’s to magical effect. What a consistently wonderful artist she is.”
Peter Reed, Classical Source, 26 January 2013

“…the arc of her performance was fully considered and all the more powerful for it. ‘Yes – for one moment thou shalt see thy Lord,’ offered perhaps the most radiant singing of the evening, though I might equally have said that of her final solo, ‘Softly and gently, dearly-ransomed soul’.”
Seen & Heard, 27 January 2013

“If there’s a better Angel singing today, I have yet to hear them.
Church-pure and Wagner-large by turns, Connolly’s “Alleluia” is a prayer
that would move the sternest God, thrumming as the emotional pulse of
the performance.”

Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk, 27 January 2013

“Sarah Connolly was the Angel, beautifully poised and sung…”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 28 January 2013

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Dame Sarah Connolly is represented by Askonas Holt. Please contact for all recital repertoire, programmes and publicity packs.