Friday 24 February 2012

Vale Elizabeth Connell (1946 - 2012)

In February 2009 London Lyric Opera mounted an ambitious concert performance of Beethoven's, Fidelio at the Cadogan Hall. Elizabeth Connell was an early adviser and supporter when I established the company and to my delight and amazement said that she would love to sing Leonora again.

Conducted by Madeleine Lovell and with the support of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Chorus and Queens College Chapel Choir and soloists including Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Andrew Staples, Sarah Nicholls, Richard Wiegold and myself the evening was one of the highlights for the company.

Singing to a sold out Cadogan Hall the concert was an undoubted success. From the very beginning she was ever helpful even to the point of suggesting we use the dialogue version that she had perrformed in Hamburg in the 70's which she offered to us at an early meeting. Her advice and encouragement during our piano rehearsals will never be forgotten by the cast. From beginning to end Miss Connell was the perfect colleague.

Last week Elizabeth Connell passed away after a long and brave battle with cancer. I, like many of her friends, colleagues and fans, was terribly saddened by her death. Her voice was unique. For a singer of the 'big' roles by Verdi and Wagner it was always a revelation to hear her sing again as the voice never lost its youthful brilliance or delicacy yet had an incredible ability to cut through the largest of orchestras with a blade of tone that too was always beautiful and impeccably controlled.

I last saw her at a Tait Memorial Trust concert at 49 Queen's Gate Terrace in December 2011. As ever we had a good chat and the inevitable, "What are you planning James?" came up. I told her that Tosca was being seriously considered. We had a conductor, orchestra but just needed to cast it oh plus little things like a venue, funding, artwork. I almost fell off my chair when she said that Tosca was one of her favourite roles but she had not yet had the opportunity to sing it. "James, I would love to sing Tosca with you..." Christmas, New Year, Kids back to school etc filled the coming months. I was about to call her about the time her brother Paul posted his message on facebook announcing that she was 'gravely ill'. She was gone a few days later.

Now hearing her singing 'Vissi d'arte' that would have been something...

Tomorrow a requiem mass will given for her. May god bless and keep her and if possible let her know how her wonderful bubbly and ever joyful personality is missed by so many people all over the world.

James Hancock

A tribute site has been created by her friend and agent, Helmut Fischer