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Frances Elizabeth Connell (22 October 1946 – 18 February 2012) was a South African-born operatic mezzo-soprano, and later soprano, whose career took place mainly in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Connell was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1946, to an English Catholic father from Yorkshire and an Irish Protestant mother from Ulster, one of five children. She read music at the University of the Witwatersrand, and after taking her degree, taught geography in secondary school.

Connell attained an opera scholarship to the London Opera Centre, and came to the UK in 1970. Her teachers there included Otakar Kraus, who told her that 'one day you'll be a dramatic soprano'. In 1972, she was a winner of the Maggie Teyte prize for young musicians, and also made her professional debut at Wexford Festival Opera, as she was not able initially to appear in British opera houses, as a white South African during the era of apartheid. She attained Irish citizenship via her grandfather. She read music at the University of the Witwatersrand, and after taking her degree, taught geography in secondary school. At the invitation of Edward Downes, she sang at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in Prokofiev's War and Peace in 1973, as Princess Marya, and continued to have a special relationship with Opera Australia for the rest of her career. Her UK career attained greater prominence after her appearance at the 1975 First Night of The Proms in Mahler's Symphony No 8. She then had a regular a five-year association with English National Opera.

In 1983, Connell transitioned to singing full-time as a soprano, by cancelling all of her engagements for mezzo parts, and taking time to avoid speaking or singing, with subsequent gradual transition into soprano roles. Her early performances as a soprano included Corine from Luigi Cherubini's Anacréon, Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) and Julia in Gasparo Spontini's La Vestale. Her The Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1985, as Vitellia (La clemenza di Tito), and her Opéra de Paris debut was in 1987 as Senta (The Flying Dutchman). In 2004, she sang Leonore in a performance of Fidelio by Cape Town Opera staged at Robben Island, 10 years after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison there.

Connell's final performance was a recital on 27 November 2011 in Hastings. She had intended to retire to Australia, but the diagnosis of her cancer prevented this. She died in London on 18 February 2012, aged 65. She married baritone Robert Eddie in 1987; the marriage ended in dissolution. Her three brothers John, Peter, and Paul, and her sister Rosemary survive her.

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Discography

Album

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1989 The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Volume 5: Schubert & the Countryside Franz Schubert; Elizabeth Connell, Graham Johnson 1
1995 Die Gezeichneten Schreker; Kruse, Connell, Pederson, Muff, Polgár, DSO Berlin, Lothar Zagrosek 1
2003 The Song of Songs / The Wilderness and the Solitary Place / Pierrot of the Minute / Overture to a Greek Tragedy Granville Bantock; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vernon Handley, Elizabeth Connell, Kim Begley 1

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