Sad news: Covent Garden diva is dead at 65

Sad news: Covent Garden diva is dead at 65


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2012

Elizabeth Connell, a leading soprano at the Royal Opera House in the 1970s and 1980s, has died in London after a short illness.

A hugely popular colleague, she sang Isolde and other major roles with innate modesty and distinction.

South Africa born and London based for most of her career, she gave her last performance less than three months ago. Elizabeth will be mourned worldwide. Our sympathies go out to her family and many friends.

(More tributes here). And a beautiful memorial website.

Here is a full biography:

Elizabeth Connell is acclaimed for her performances of the great Strauss, Verdi and Wagner heroines.

Following her debut at Wexford Opera Festival in 1972, she sang at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in Prokofiev’s War and Peace in 1973, and has continued to have a special relationship with Opera Australia ever since.  Following a five-year association with English National Opera, she has been a freelance artist with the major opera houses.

She has appeared at the opera houses of London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, New York (Metropolitan Opera), San Francisco, Milan (La Scala), Naples and Geneva in a wide repertoire and at the Bayreuth, Salzburg, Orange, Verona and Glyndebourne Festivals. Connell has had a successful collaboration with conductors such as Abbado, Muti, Sinopoli, Giulini, Sawallisch, Mackerras, Downes, Sir Colin Davis, Maazel, Levine, Ozawa and Elder.

In concert, her performances have included Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony andMissa Solemnis and Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with conductors such as Abbado, Giulini, Maazel, Sinopoli and Boulez. In recital, she has appeared with Geoffrey Parsons, Graham Johnson, Eugene Asti and Lamar Crowsen in Milan, Geneva, Sydney, Johannesburg and at the Wigmore Hall.

Engagements in recent seasons include Kostelnicka in Janacek’s Jenufa, Ortrud in Wagner’s Lohengrin, Bellini’s Norma, Abigaille in Verdi’s Nabucco and Ariadne in Strauss‘ Ariadne auf Naxos for Opera Australia; Ortrud, Beethoven’s Fidelio and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Staatsoper Berlin, Isolde in Hamburg, Senta in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer in Hamburg and Berlin and Strauss‘ Elektra in Berlin, Madrid, Bordeaux and Montreal as well as the Färberin in a new production of Strauss‘ Die Frau ohne Schatten in Frankfurt and at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Most recently, she sang Elektra in Las Palmas, Gertrude (Humperdinck‘s Hänsel und Gretel) for the Royal Opera (with worldwide Telecast and DVD release) and concerts of Jenufa with the London Symphony and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras under Daniel Harding as well as Fidelio with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

In December 2008, Elizabeth Connell had a triumphant success at the opening night of Puccini’s Turandot at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, her most recent role added to her repertoire, which for the past two seasons she has also sung in Hamburg and before that for Opera Australia.

In May and June 2010, she sang in a new production of Tristan und Isolde at the State Opera Prague, conducted by Jan Latham-König.

Her 2010 performances also included Elektra in Auckland as well as a solo recital in London St John’s Smith Square.

In February 2011, she returned to Prague for Turandot. 

In October 2011, Connell took part in an an opera gala at the Bad Urach Festival, where she will be singing arias and scenes from Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Verdi’s Otello and Macbeth. The concert was broadcast by SWR 2 Radio.

In 2012, she was due to make her debut with the Opéra de Toulon as Ortrud in a new production of Lohengrin and to return to Melbourne as Turandot, however she has been prevented by illness to do so. 

Her final performance was a recital on 27 November 2011 in Hastings, UK.

This, fittingly, was the last song she delivered in public.


  • I am very sorry to hear of the death of Elizabeth Connell as I followed her singing career from her early days in South Africa. She will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.

    • Dudley Holmes says:

      Sad to hear the news about Elizabeth Connell. She was with us in Peter Grimes for PACT, sang a very short piece from offstage, but was a Mezzo then. Saw her in the Sydney Opera House in a Wagner concert – stunning voice, and enjoyed her Fidelio filmed on Robben Island. Wonder if it will be rebroadcast. Have her singing Verdi`s Requiem, recorded live in St Paul`s Cathedral, 1st March, 1994.

      • Roger Veary says:

        Hello Dudley

        We were colleagues in PACT many years ago, and strangely I was thinking of you and others in the chorus just a few days ago.

        Elizabeth was a long standing friend of my wife Pam and myself, having all been singers in the Wits Choir in the mid sixties. She was a star in many respects, and we will miss her very much indeed. The world has lost a wonderful lady.

  • Una Barry says:

    Outstanding singer whom I remember so much from English National Opera days as a mezzo. Then later we were presented with this stunning soprano voice and artistry. What a loss to the world, and so young.

  • Dear Liza –
    We met when you were a shy, quiet girl, at University,
    Before you had an inkling of the
    Brilliant artiste you would be . . .
    Even then, your singing mesmerised me
    As did your kindness, warmth, consideration for others
    Less talented than you.
    Your knowledge and ability to
    Learn every opera so quickly still
    Amazes those who knew you!
    Over the years and continents, you
    Always remembered our
    And I shall always have the
    Privilege of
    Having been
    Your friend

  • Philip Caine says:

    Thank you very much for posting this biography and warm appreciation of Liza, as she was universally known to her friends and colleagues. Just one correction – she died at her south west London home, not in Australia

  • Martin Wright says:

    Lovely tribute, especially posting the Liebestod and “When I Have Sung my Songs”.

  • Spike Smilgin Humphreys says:

    I was privileged to be at her final concert in Hastings which she gave to support her friend Jenny Miller’s work with young singers. She was splendid, funny and kind; knowing full well that she didn’t have long to live. RIP

  • Allan Pearson says:

    so sorry to hear this news. Heard her often both in Germany and San Francisco, especially as Elektra, Isolde and die Faerberin. May she rest in peace.

  • A much loved and admired singer who will be missed terribly.

  • David Earl says:

    Liza was a truly great musician. She was also a supremely generous human being, as will be testified by many who benefitted from her unhesitating philanthropy. She is remembered with enormous gratitude and affection.

  • Eleanor Lyons says:

    What a courageous human being. She is an example of a real diva. We have lost a treasure. My condolences to her friends and family.

  • Nick van Huyssteen says:

    Very sad to hear of the death of Elizabeth Connell. I met Liza while I was working at the Wiener Staatsoper, she came to my house where I introduced her to my friends Karena Mendoza and Janene Bock Bergen, the three of us had wonderful times together. Liza once came from Londen to Wien for my birthday where she gave me two wonderful crystal chandeliers as a birthday present. I was so impressed as I learned she knew Zulu and Xhosa songs that she then later taught us. Liza was a wonderful friend and I will never forget her beautiful warm full voice! Liza always said the she and I were brothers because we came from the same town.

  • kurt spanier says:

    sadly, i only had once the privilege to see her on stage as faerberin in frankfurt and it was one of the most impressive opera moments of my live. over the years i had heard all the famous faerberinnen from chr goltz, schroeder-feinen , christa ludwig to birgitt nilsson. but she was by far the best, i never will forget her silvery tone, her mighty top notes, her unbelievable piano and her great humanity and perfect musicality. it was deeply emotional to see and hear her last song in hastings in youtube and i am not ashamed about my tears. lux aeterna luceat eae

  • David HAVEL says:

    Very sad. Stunning georgios voice, nice person…..

  • Liza was a consummate professional, lovely lady, fine friend and a sweet, generous spirit. Marilyn and I will treasure the times we spent together with her in the US and here in Berlin. May she rest well and sing yet more in our eternities.

  • Jeannine Altmeyer says:

    What a beautiful and brave lady, the song moved me to tears. I still remember her thrilling debut as Ortrud in Bayreuth,she was a remarkable actress as well as a great singer. So very tragic.