Elizabeth Connell, at 65; acclaimed dramatic soprano

Patrick Riviere/Getty Images/file 2005
Elizabeth Connell performed at the world’s major opera houses, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

LONDON - South African-born opera singer Elizabeth Connell, who won global acclaim in roles by Wagner, Strauss, Beethoven, and others, has died. She was 65.

Ms. Connell’s management company, Helmut Fischer Artists International, said yesterday that the singer died of cancer Saturday in London.

Born in Port Elizabeth in 1946, Ms. Connell moved to London in 1970 and made her debut at Ireland’s Wexford Festival in 1972.


She had a long association with both Opera Australia and the English National Opera, and performed at the world’s major opera houses, including Germany’s Bayreuth festival, La Scala in Milan, and New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where she performed 12 times between 1985 and 1991.

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She was singing Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s “Macbeth’’ at the Met on Jan. 23, 1988, when a member of the audience leapt to his death from a balcony during the second intermission, cutting short a live radio broadcast of the performance.

Ms. Connell began her career as a mezzo-soprano, with notable Wagnerian roles including Ortrud in “Lohengrin’’ and Brangaene in “Tristan und Isolde.’’

Later she became a dramatic soprano, tackling roles including Fiordiligi in Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte,’’ Leonore in Beethoven’s “Fidelio,’’ and Ariadne in Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos.’’

In 2008, she was hailed for her performance in the title role of Puccini’s “Turandot’’ at the Royal Opera House; the Guardian’s George Hall praised the 62-year-old performer for “cutting through the dense orchestral textures like a scythe through porridge.’’


She went on to perform the role in Sydney, Hamburg, and Prague.

Ms. Connell’s last performance was at a concert in the English town of Hastings in November.

Her finale was a song by Ernest Charles that begins: “When I have sung my songs to you, I’ll sing no more.’’

Ms. Connell leaves several siblings. A memorial service is to be held Saturday near her home in Richmond, southwest London.