Dream of Gerontius, Worcester Cathedral, Three Choirs Festival
In my view Sarah Connolly has been for some years the finest exponent of The Angel before the public. I’ve had the good fortune to hear her sing the role several times in concert – alas, we still wait for someone to record her in this part – but I don’t think I’ve heard her give a finer performance than this one. From her very first phrases she radiated serenity and the deep feeling that she imparted to the music was not only apparent in her voice but also evident from her facial expressions – for those of us seated at a distance from the platform these were relayed on close circuit television and I felt that the camera work was exemplary throughout the evening. All the key points of the role came across wonderfully. There was, for example, tremendous feeling in her relation of the passage ‘There was a mortal…’ and the expressiveness that Miss Connolly brought to ‘You cannot now cherish a wish..’ was heart warming. This Angel was a truly reassuring presence beside the Soul of Gerontius, awaiting judgement, and when Miss Connolly crowned her interpretation with an outstanding account of the Angel’s Farewell one could really believe the promise contained in Newman’s moving words. This was a performance to cherish. Every time I hear Sarah Connolly assume this role I think it becomes ever more urgent for some record company to capture the interpretation for posterity while she’s in her vocal prime.
John Quinn, “Seen and Heard”
Alice Tully recital
A Mezzo Keeps It Simple, and Makes It Profound The mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly was singing “By a Bierside,” a stark reflection on death written in the World War I trenches by Ivor Gurney, when a tendril of hair fell into her face. It happens. Any singer would have moved the hair back into place, as Ms. Connolly did. But she didn’t just do that. Her hand paused a few moments behind her ear before falling slowly to her side, transforming an everyday gesture into a sequence of stunned melancholy. As in her singing, she achieved profound ends through the simplest of means, showing the instincts and communicative power of a born performer during a masterly recital on Thursday at Alice Tully Hall, accompanied by the excellent pianist Malcolm Martineau. Ms. Connolly’s voice was h3 and steady through its range, velvety, but with a soft, subtle graininess that gave weight and presence to even her most ethereal floated notes. Her diction was clear, her phrasing natural. You were not aware of any calculated artistry. She just sang. Schumann songs made up the first half of the program: the somber “Poems of Queen Mary Stuart,” the cycle “Woman’s Love and Life,” and three from “Myrtles.” She brought heartbreaking dignity to the Mary Stuart songs, a range of emotions built from small details: the ambivalence of the drawn-out “schöne” (“happy”) in the line “Farewell, O land, O happy time”; the empty irony of the final word, “vertraut” (“trust”), in the bitter “To the Queen Elizabeth.” In “Woman’s Love and Life,” she seemed to mature before our very eyes, from the girlish “Since Seeing Him” to the rapturous “Ring on My Finger” to the sensuous darkness of “Now Have You Caused Me My First Pain,” when the protagonist’s beloved has died. In the second half, Ms. Connolly brought sincerity and purity of tone to British songs: Britten’s “Charm of Lullabies,” whose occasional longueurs she overcame with variety, and two of Herbert Howells’s gently old-fashioned airs. She captured the brainy nostalgia of Richard Rodney Bennett’s surreally retro “History of the Thé Dansant,” but best of all were the Gurney songs — “Sleep” followed “Bierside” — performed with moving nobility. Ms. Connolly has had major successes at New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera in the last decade or so, and Thursday’s recital took place in the middle of her acclaimed run as Clairon in Strauss’s “Capriccio” at the Met. But it was clear just from looking around the half-filled hall that she is less well known in New York than she could — and should — be. The turnout was a shame: her recital was a classic.
ZACHARY WOOLFE, New York Times
Das Lied von der Erde, Mahler, LPO/ Nézet-Séguin
So the fourth star is for Sarah Connolly in Mahler’s song-symphony Das Lied von der Erde and I would add a fifth in recognition of her elevation now into the greats that have taken this extraordinary work to heart… …But first and last there was Connolly – great singing so in tune with the watercolour images and their deeper truths. So many shades, such fine detailing. Few have witnessed the renewal of spring with such heightened awareness or better conveyed that through such renewal we glimpse eternity. Glorious.
Edward Seckerson, The Independent
The Kingdom, LSO/Sir Mark Elder, Barbican
The mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly hit the bull’s eye with firm intonation and h3 projection of the text. The word “suddenly”, in her hands, sounded wonderfully sudden; “rushing”. equally, rushed.
Geoff Brown, TheTimes
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen/OAE/Jurowski/RFH
Teamed with the exceptional Sarah Connolly in the melancholy Songs of the Wayfarer — where the orchestration is cut back even further — the cycle took a frightening immediacy, heard in every shiver and scrape of the acidic playing. Connolly took the text at face value, conjuring up a youthful lover, horribly naive and, finally, tragically self-aware.
Neil Fisher, The Times
Alma Mahler lieder/LSO/Marin Alsop
“The Seven Lieder have h3 melodic lines, often marked with the sort of passion and intensity typical of the late-Romantic style in whose harmonic language they are couched. The dark and at times deeply affecting ‘Licht in der Nacht’ afforded a greater scope for musical expression (both vocally and in terms of the orchestral writing) than the opening numbers, which perhaps relied more on the often mesmerising (and seemingly effortless) quality of Connolly’s resonant vocal interpretation. A more conversational use of orchestral forces in ‘Waldseligkeit’ underpinned moments of soaring melodic intensity, demonstrating the strength and clarity of Connolly’s upper range. And while the strophic settings of ‘In meines Vaters Garten’ and ‘Bei dir ist es traut’ offered the chance for some inventive variations in the orchestral arrangements (at times reminiscent of Mahler himself but more often looking forward to the likes of Berg), it was the final song – the through-composed ‘Erntelied’ – that demonstrated the better writing and more emotive content, which Connolly realised to the full.”
James Savage-Hanford, MusicOMH
“Sarah Connolly was a thoroughly sympathetic singer, generous, intimate and with emotional openness when required; very persuasive on behalf of Alma’s settings. Alma Mahler – Sarah Connolly – Marin Alsop: Girl Power!”
Colin Anderson, Classicalsource.com
“The songs themselves (settings of uncredited and somewhat variable contemporary poets) crested on melodic lines of abiding generosity and Sarah Connolly’s ever-evolving voice (so free and even now throughout her wide vocal spectrum) opened most impressively to them. The strangely inconclusive ending of “Laue Sommernacht” suggested an unsettling uncertainty that love would or could illuminate the darkness (Alma’s own doubts surfacing ); “Licht in der Nacht” brought echoes of Connolly’s rich and wary Brangäne; “In meines Vaters Garten” tapped into a Straussian effulgence liberating the top of the voice to find release in the concluding melisma of the final song – “Erntelied” – the first day of the rest of the poet’s life.”
Edward Seckerson, The Independent
“It is difficult to imagine them sounding better, sung by mezzo Sarah Connolly with a radiant warmth that made them glow and inspirationally scored by the Matthews brothers.”
Richard Fairman, FT
“Sarah Connolly sang them with such warmth and attention to detail that they seemed to deserve a regular place in the orchestral song repertory.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
Das Lied von der Erde, Mahler/BSO/Alsop
“The mezzo has no such problems, even if the tempo that Alsop set for Connolly in Von der Schönheit was distinctly on the slow side. Conversely, there were moments in the final Der Abschied when one longed for the conductor to let the music run on a longer, looser rein, so that Connolly had the expressive expansiveness her wonderfully sculpted singing deserved. Alsop tended to underplay the stark drama of the finale, too, leaving Connolly to provide the emotional weight required.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
Wigmore Hall recital/ Eugene Asti
The following evening the mezzo Sarah Connolly stood in dignified stillness for a tender, exquisitely poised and focused performance of Schumann’s Mary Stuart Songs and his Frauenliebe und Leben, followed by a group of sombre, beautifully enunciated English songs, accompanied with perceptive insight by Eugene Asti. Between them, these two women (Karita Matilla) proved the glorious infinity of expression within art-song.
Hilary Finch, The Times
Edinburgh Festival jazz recital with John Horler 2010
Few classical singers can bridge the divide to jazz vocalist, maybe because of a life learning from scores rather than by ear. Yet Sarah Connolly managed to effect this crossover by simply being herself, replacing those “dirty” blues timbres with a delivery that placed a premium on subtle phrasing full of nuanced emotion, washing the familiar clean of cliché. It’s easy to think that an hour of British and American songs from the 1930s to 1940s will be an indulgent trip down memory lane. But the fact is that, with Connolly in charge, these cameo stories, largely of loss and absence, from that difficult period between the Wall Street crash and the Second World War became nuggets of emotional history, songs such as George Gershwin’s Treat Me Rough and Sammy Fain’s All Of Me, which distracted people from personal misery. With John Horler, Cleo Laine’s regular accompanist, offering brilliantly percussive support, Connolly with the lightest of touches brought poignancy to pieces such as Ivor Novello’s My Dearest Dear sung in more than 1,000 performances between 1939 and 1944. Billy Strayhorn’s less-heard Lush Life was a high spot. For pieces such as Noel Coward’s Mad About the Boy, Connolly beautifully underlined the ways the introductions common to songs of the period offered topical commentary on what was to come. Her voice managed the jaunty tunes well, but it was Manning Sherwin and Eric Maschwitz’s A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square that she sang as if it were newly minted.
Jan Fairley, The Scotsman
Wigmore Hall Handel Duets, ECO, Bicket, Joshua Connolly
Fresh from the success of their recently released album Handel Duets, this sold-out concert at the Wigmore Hall showcased the remarkable talents of two of Britain’s foremost Handelian singers – soprano Rosemary Joshua and mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, together with their equally praiseworthy collaborators from the CD recording; conductor Harry Bicket and the period instrument ensemble The English Concert. Those readers lucky enough to have caught Ms Connolly’s dazzling performance as the power-hungry, bitchy Agrippina in ENO’s hilariously brilliant production in 2007 will already know how perfectly this role suits her rich versatile mezzo, and the slow opening section of this aria gave her the chance to show off some meticulously controlled crescendos as she spun out legato lines of remarkable beauty and breath control in her duet with the oboe. Switching to the role of Ottone in that same opera, Ms Connolly was then joined by Ms Joshua as Poppea for the duet “No, no, ch’io non apprezzo”,which was sung with great expression and a perfect blending of the two voices; Ms Joshua’s pure and almost permanently bright timbre contrasting gracefully with Ms Connolly’s darker, velvety tones. Ms Connolly’s exuberant “Dopo notte” – atour de force display of impeccable coloratura virtuosity that left me awestruck at her technique and breath control. Not only did her runs seem totally effortless but she carried off the piece with vitality and panache; gracefully touching the repeated high As before cascading down again as if it were the easiest thing in the world. My companion described it afterwards as “a masterclass in bel canto singing” and I would have to agree with him. The first half of the concert ended on a metaphorical high note with the joyful duet “Bramo haver mille vite” (also from Ariodante) where both singers again blended perfectly and unleashed a rapid volley of wonderfully even and accurate triplets. The final item on the programme was officially the vibrant duet “Per le porte del tormento” from Sosarme, which certainly helped lighten the mood after the serious atmosphere evoked by the Theodora. An utter delight from start to finish; Ms Joshua’s lilting soprano soared effortlessly on the upper line, perfectly complemented by Ms Connolly’s luxurious golden mezzo below – and as always that extraordinary symmetry, sensitivity and impeccable blending of tone which made this musical partnership so special. By the end of the evening they had quite rightly brought the house down and finished the concert with an encore; “We’d like to sing a song by……..er……Handel”, Sarah Connolly announced, to much amusement. As I had correctly predicted earlier, the encore was the jubilant final duet from Giulio Cesare”Caro! Bella!” which was executed with great flair and some imaginative da capoornamentation. All in all a truly superb concert that just flew by and left me wishing for more.
Faye Courtney Alexander, Opera Britannica
You knew exactly when this concert was shaping up to be a blinder. It was when Sarah Connolly sprang out of her seat for her first entrance, dressed in a sleek tuxedo, and contemplated her public with a coolly imperious gaze.. Well, she was the scheming Empress Agrippina in Handel’s barnstorming 1709 opera, and we were the pawns getting in her way. This concert, delivered by the English Concert under Harry Bicket, offered two artists of great refinement: Connolly and the elegant soprano Rosemary Joshua. .Connolly’s show-piece aria of triumph from the same opera, Dopo notte, took on its virtuosic range without sacrificing nuance and, here, a rather gleeful intimacy. Looking for an Easter message The visionary acceptance of Connolly’s As with rosy steps the morn, sustained on a spell-binding thread of sound, offered plenty of answers.
Neil Fisher, The Times
Bach B Minor Mass. The Sixteen/Barbican 8/3/2010
The best of all solos, predictably perhaps, came last, from great mezzo Sarah Connolly in the “Agnus dei”, sung with ideal line and inwardness of expression when it would have been so tempting to thrust the emotion on the audience.. Fortunately Bach, uniquely in a straightforward mass, saves the deepest until last, so it was with Connolly’s inscaping and the ineffable chorus’s sublime plea for peace ringing in the mind that we left this sprightliest of rituals.
David Nice, The artsdesk.com
LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS
And then we came to the meat, the emotion, Sarah Connolly, in imposing Edwardian dress, sucking us straight into the celebrated lament from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. It was a profoundly impressive performance, perfectly judged in ornamentation as well as line. A change of dress later and she was giving an equally powerful rendition of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. In both, it wasn’t just her voice that was delivering something special but her face. However close the cameras came to examine Connolly’s face – and one could follow their beady lenses on the screens in the hall – they couldn’t catch her out. Connolly inhabits a role – whether Dido or Mahler’s traveller, or later, more jokily, Admiral Nelson in full regalia in Arne’s Rule, Britannia! – like few others. Whoever she is, the psychology is entered into with unflinching conviction. The furrows on her brow in the first song of Mahler’s cycle appeared ancient; the naivety that invades her soul when she begins to sing about the birds, fresh and clean. Voice and body were always in perfect unison.
Igor Toronyi-Lalic, The Arts desk.com
Judas Macabbeus, Handel. Usher Hall, Edinburgh International Festival 2009.
The stand-out performances of the night came from mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly in the more intimate passages of the oratorio,
Susan Nickalls, The Telegraph
La mort de Cléopâtre, Berlioz. Sir Mark Elder/Hallé. Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. March 2009
Sarah Connolly herself was well up to the challenge and brought her own dramatic sense to the occasion. The first thing she did on reaching the front of the platform was to make sure she was about two yards away from the solicitously placed microphone: singers of her mettle do not whisper into a large hall. Then she injected the dimensions of classical tragedy into the oration set in the mouth of the dying Cleopatra. Her explosive attack on the reference to the battle of Actium (with its militaristic orchestral sounds) knocked us back in our seats.
Robert Beale, Manchester Evening News
Tristan und Isolde (Brangäne) LPO/Jurowski. Royal Festival Hall, December 2008
‘Best of the soloists was Sarah Connolly, whose smooth, gleaming mezzo was heard to impressive effect as Brangaene; her warning to the lovers floated over the orchestra with hallucinogenic mystery ‘
John Allison, Sunday Telegraph
The wonderful Sarah Connolly seems to ripen vocally with every appearance and her anxious Brangäne was ennobled by a lofty sense of resignation, her unheeded warnings from the tower sounding like siren songs from the next world.
Edward Seckerson, Independent, December 2008
Sarah Connolly won a deserved ovation, embracing the vocal demands of this role with voice to spare.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times. December 2008
Elgar : Sea Pictures, Barbican, LSO/ Sir Colin Davis September 2008
The soloist was Sarah Connolly, ample of tone throughout the wide range required and secure in her expressive aims in what is as demanding as any song cycle in the orchestral repertoire.
George Hall, The Guardian. September 27th 2008
Elgar : Sea Pictures. Barbican, LSO/ Sir Colin Davis. September 2008
Sarah Connolly was the ideal mezzo soloist : golden toned, word sensitive and rapturous.
Evening Standard, George Hall, september 25th 2008
Ravel : Shéherazade. Proms- August 2008
Sarah Connolly’s rapt, intense reading of Ravel’s exquisite Shéhérazade…a glorious reading where, in conjunction with the wonderfully responsive conducting of Susanna Mälkki, Connolly teased every Gallic nuance out of this most luscious and exotic of song-cycles. Keith McDonnell, Musicomh, 27 August 2008
Keith Mc Donnell, MusicOMH, August 2008
Ravel : Shéhérazade, Philharmonia, Proms- August 2008
It was sung by Sarah Connolly, who gave the kitschy words much more emotional depth than they deserved. Ivan Hewitt, The Telegraph, 28 August 2008
Ivan Hewitt, Telegraph. August 2008
Purcell: Dido and Aeneas, Wigmore Hall. Paul McCreesh/ Gabrieli Consort. April 2008
In the intimacy of the Wigmore Hall she drew us in irresistibly, internalizing Dido’s arias but giving us frequent glimpses of emotion in a performance at once regal and touching.
Erica Jeal, The Guardian, April 2008
Purcell: Dido and Aeneas, Wigmore Hall. Paul McCreesh/Gabrieli Consort April 2008
Sarah Connolly – a mezzo internationally adored for her luxury chocolate-liqueur voice as much as for her thrilling theatrical intensity on stage – is Dido, the ill-fated Queen of Carthage.
Warwick Thompson, The Metro, April 2008
Purcell : Dido and Aeneas, Gabrieli Consort/McCreesh, Wigmore Hall. April 2008
Sarah Connolly delivered this aria with great beauty and emotion, wisely ornamented on repeats. She filled the whole hall, not only with her resounding voice, but by grasping the attention of all and her dramatic emphasis on the words was wonderfully evocative. The gravitas Connolly brought to her role meant that she outshone those around her. In the end, it was the sheer depth of emotion Connolly infused in her portrayal of Dido that was truly remarkable. Emotion flowed off the stage from the intensity in her voice and through her actions, all small but perfectly executed. She, more than any, entirely occupied the role in a convincing and heartbreaking way. Her final aria, one of the most beautiful in English Baroque music, brought a tear to the eye in a hall so quiet you could hear a pin drop. All received exuberant applause at the end of the evening, but no one more than Connolly for such a moving portrayal of this tragic heroine.
Claudine Nightingale, MusicalCriticism.com
Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust. April 2008 BBC NOW/Fischer
As Marguerite Sarah Connolly was quite magnificent – this was one of the very finest interpretations of the role that I have heard. Connolly sang with intense commitment and expressivity, but also with unfailing vocal control. To ‘Que l’air est étouffant’ and ‘Autrefois un roi de Thulé’ she brought a radiance of voice that was quite startlingly beautiful. After the initial innocence of these pieces, Connolly brought a profound weight of emotion to ‘D’amour l’ardente flamme’, her higher notes translucent, the lower ones rich without the slightest hint of heaviness, providing a purely human emotional substance to the work…
Glyn Purslove, S&H; International Opera review
Britten : Spring Symphony. April 2008 LSO/Harding, Barbican
Aided and abetted by a wonderful trio of soloists (Mark Padmore, Susan Gritton and an especially radiant Sarah Connolly)…the only oddity in this ripe arrangement of poems and odes celebrating spring is a sober setting of Auden’s typically accusatory Out on the Lawn. But even here one could only succumb to the velvety tone of Connolly’s burnished mezzo.
Neil Fisher,The Times
Berlioz: Les Nuits d’Eté. QEH January 31/2008 Basel Chamber Orchestra/McCreesh
In the song cycle, Sarah Connolly deputised for the indisposed Angelika Kirchschlager and proved to be the highlight of the evening. Berlioz’s cycle on poems by Gautier begins beguilingly enough with the famous Villanelle, but its four inner songs are each heart-rending accounts of loss and the passage of time. Connolly captured all their moods with vocal nobility and great artistry.
Martin Kettle, The Guardian
Elgar : Dream of Gerontius, BSO/ Sir Colin Davis, Boston
But for me, Sarah Connolly’s singing was the welcome surprise of the evening. In her BSO subscription debut, this British mezzo was utterly captivating as the Angel, singing with a slightly veiled yet glowing voice, full of deeply felt expression. In the work’s final pages, she brought Gerontius’s soul to rest with all the gentleness and warmth you could ask for.
Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe
Queen Elizabeth Hall (and touring) ‘ Purcell Dido and Aeneas
Sarah Connolly’s rich mezzo has a melancholic quality that seems suited to the role of ill-fated Dido and she delivers each note with perfect emotion and control.
Laura Battle, musicOMH.com, 15 October 2007
Purcell: Dido and Aeneas,QEH. OAE October 2007
What emotional power the evening had came from the marvellously eloquent singing of Connolly.
Ivan Hewitt, The Telegraph. October 2007
Three Choir’s Festival Elgar ’The Dream of Gerontius’
She was on top form and sang in a way that confirmed her reputation as one of Britain’s foremost mezzos. From the very start there was dignity and sincerity in her voice and the tone was consistently rich and full. Best of all the voice was produced easily and freely throughout its compass. I noted with particular pleasure the rapt half-voice at the third ’Alleluia’ in her first solo and the glowing tone with which she invested ’A presage falls upon thee.’ Here, as elsewhere, she sang a wonderful, even line. Later on ’There was a mortal, who is now above’ was a model of eloquence. To cap her performance she sang the Farewell with great serenity. In my view it’s becoming an ever more urgent priority for some record company to capture this very fine interpretation while Miss Connolly is so evidently at her peak.
John Quinn, Seen and Heard, August 2007
Barbican Centre – Britten BBCSO / Gardner
Sarah Connolly – beguiling in ’A Charm of Lullabies’, as orchestrated by Colin Matthews, then riveting in the one-woman mini-opera, ’Phaedra’. Her sensual, unsparingly honest portrayal of lustful nobility turned vengeful, remorseful and finally suicidal was an evening’s worth of intensity packed into 20 minutes.
Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 17 May 2007
Connolly inflected Britten’s ’A Charm of Lullabies’ with benign dignity. In ’Phaedra’, Britten’s late cantata, Gardner ably wrapped the spare instrumental lines around Connolly’s lacerating and vivd performance.
Neil Fisher, The Times, 15 May 2007
Barbican Centre Opera Gala with Bryn Terfel BBSO / Belohl vek
In arias by Mozart and Berlioz, Sarah Connolly was lyrical, musicianly, vocally warm
Richard Fairman, The Financial Times, 20 March 2007
Barbican Centre ‘ Opera Gala with Bryn Terfel BBSO / Belohl’vek
Connolly sang with great and haunting beauty Marguerite’s ‘Damour l’ardente flamme’ from ‘La damnation de Faust’.
John Steane, Opera Now, July / August 2007
Sarah Connolly must be one of the most prodigiously gifted people on the planet. Each performance was so meltingly exquisite that it was ample food for the ears and soul alike. Connolly’s contribution to the second half was Marguerite’s ‘D’amour l’ardente flamme’ from ‘La damnation de Faust’, and it was worth the wait. This was some of the best French vocal singing I’ve heard in a long time: intoxicating, alluring, she captured the moment with finesse and dazzled with her vocal stamina.
Dominic McHugh, Musical Criticism, March 2007
Handel: ‘Solomon’ ‘ Akademie fur Alte Music Berlin/Reuss Harmonia Mundi,
Sarah Connolly is a fine Handelian, always a pleasure to listen to’
Hugh Canning, International Record Review, January 2008
Tanglewood Festival Handel Arias Boston Symphony Orchestra / Bicket
Debut artist, British mezzo Sarah Connolly, sang three arias from Handel’s opera ’Ariodante’ which she has sung at the New York City Opera. Connolly is an admirable artist, offering firm tone, virtuosity in coloratura, and straight-from-the-shoulder emotion.
Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe, 15 August 2006
Barbican Centre – Tavener at 60
Sarah Connolly negotiated the deceptively tricky vocal line of Supernatural Songs with great sensuality and spiritual sincerity.
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 22 November 2004
Sarah Connolly provided a ravishing tone, sure technique and total empathy with text and music.
Paul Conway, The Independent, 25 November 2004
Handel in Oxford, University Church,Oxford
The curtain-raiser recital by the mezzo Sarah Connolly, fresh from her shattering Dido at the Coliseum, had hearts a-flutter in Oxford’s University Church. Christophers’ fresh-sounding period orchestra, the Symphony of Harmony and Invention, burst into the flurry of “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”, from Solomon, but this was Connolly’s evening. She is unrivalled: simply the best, most exciting, most galvanising performer we have today. No shade-admiring Xerxes or Julius Caesar here, but other roles she has triumphed in, including Ariodante and Ruggiero from Alcina – both from 1735, the tail end of Handel’s Italian-opera period – unveiled, with the subtlest of shading, in all their staggering beauty. If only Handel could have heard her; it was perfection. Just to catch her opening “Illustrious Solomon, farewell” (her majesty left as soon as she arrived – but what decorum!), with fused Baroque flute and oboe furnishing a plush obbligato red carpet, made you catch your breath. After a “sleep” interlude that might be the model for Florestan’s awakening in Fidelio came Ariodante’s grieving “E vivo ancora'”, with sympathetic trailing bassoon plus Handel’s tortured dwelling on the word “morte”. What yearning; what pathos; what character-painting. Handel reiterates text: it’s part of his art. But you could hear Miss Connolly intone the word “tradito” or “tornero” a hundred times and there would be a different inflection, half-voice, shading, a fresh way of arriving, every time. Just how many gradations are there between mezzo piano and piano’ Lots. After lulling Handel, lightning struck, as searing “Hyrcanian” (Caspian) tigers unleashed the zippiest coloratura. Only when she dropped her voice for those lowest notes of Alcina’s gorgeous “Verdi prati” did we – momentarily – lose her. The rest, especially Dejanira’s jagged, guilt-ridden, terrifying accompanied recitative from Hercules – with Furies three in full flight – was unalloyed magic.
Roderick Dunnett, Independent
BBC Proms/Nash Ensemble Holst ’Savitri’
As Connolly wafted from shy Janet Baker-like folksong via Debussian souterrain to sub-Baroque flute cavortings, one was simply spellbound.
Roderic Dunnett, The Independent, 31 August 2004
The title role in Savitri was made famous by Janet Baker, but Sarah Connolly’s lyrical sensitivity amply bore comparison
Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph, 27 August 2004
Sarah Connolly’s grave and chastely sensuous Savitri
Hilary Finch, The Times, 27 August 2004
Connolly was a rich-voiced, impassioned heroine.
Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 27 August 2004
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Holst ’Savitri’
Sarah Connolly had exactly the right mix of eloquence and strength for the title role.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 20 May 2004
Opening concert of the Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York September 2003
This performance offered the dusky-voiced and communicative mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly’
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 24 September 2003
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Holst ’Savitri’
The singers’ forthright approach brought rewards enough, with Connolly outstanding as the wife
Geoff Brown, The Times, 20 May 2004
Ms Connolly was the stand-out, with a clean, dark sonority and even tone. Her silken entrances and effortless leaps made her a calming presence.
Ben Finane, Classics Today, October 2003
BBC Proms/Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment ’Dido and Aeneas’
But a Dido as fine as that of Sarah Connolly a singer whose understanding of the character’s pride and vulnerability is unrivalled, whose stylistic gestures are perfectly incorporated and whose voice grows richer and more plastic year upon year is something to be treasured.
Anna Picard, The Independent on Sunday, 07 September 2003
Sarah Connolly sang Dido with warmth, dignity, simplicity
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 03 September 2003
Dido’s final aria was taken so slowly that it would have defeated a lesser singer than Sarah Connolly. She was a reserved, regal queen, yet her supremely controlled, velvety phrases conveyed much, and the sudden tiny stab of vulnerability leading in to her final aria was all the more moving for her earlier composure.
Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 04 September 2003
Sarah Connolly was supreme as Dido, her Act Three lament taken slowly but all-the-more movingly
Nick Breckenfield, Classical Source, September 2003
Sarah Connolly as the lovelorn Queen, fragile but glorious In the great lament, Connolly’s halting tone made her ornamentations seem like little daggers stabbing at her heart. This was a striking, as well as moving, performance; applause followed only after a heartfelt silence.
Geoff Brown, The Times, 04 September 2003