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Dame Sarah Patricia Connolly DBE (born 13 June 1963) is an English mezzo-soprano. Although best known for her baroque and classical roles, Connolly has a wide-ranging repertoire which has included works by Wagner as well as various 20th-century composers. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to music.
Connolly was born in County Durham and educated at Queen Margaret's School, York, Clarendon College in Nottingham and then studied piano and singing at the Royal College of Music, of which she is now a Fellow. She then became a member of the BBC Singers for five years.
Connolly's interest in opera and a full-time career in classical music began after she left the BBC Singers. She began her opera career in the role of Annina (Der Rosenkavalier) in 1994. Her breakthrough role was as Xerxes in the 1998 English National Opera production of Handel's Serse (Xerxes), directed by Nicholas Hytner.
In 2005, she sang the title role in Handel's Giulio Cesare for Glyndebourne Festival Opera. The DVD of the production, directed by David McVicar, won a Gramophone Award. Singing the part of Sesto in McVicar's production of La Clemenza di Tito for English National Opera in 2006, Connolly was nominated for an Olivier Award. Her 2005 debut at the Metropolitan Opera was in the same opera, but in the role of Annio.
In 2009, she sang (in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas) at Teatro alla Scala and made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Dido in the same opera. In 2010, she made her role debut of "Der Komponist" in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Metropolitan Opera. She was awarded the 2011 Distinguished Musician Award from the Incorporated Society of Musicians. For her recital at Alice Tully Hall in New York, Connolly received a rave review in The New York Times.
She made her debut as ("Fricka") in Wagner's Der Ring (Royal Opera House) and earlier that year she sang Phèdre in Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie (Paris Opéra at the Palais Garniér). Connolly reprised Phèdre for Glyndebourne Festival Opera in a production by Jonathan Kent 2013, conducted by William Christie.
Connolly won the Silver Lyre 2012 from the Royal Philharmonic Society for Best Solo Singer and was nominated in the Best Female Singer category in the inaugural International Opera Awards held in London in 2013, and she was the recipient of the 2013 Most Outstanding Achievement in a Main Role for WhatsOnStage Opera Poll as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier with English National Opera.
During the 2011 Gustav Mahler celebrations, Connolly performed all of his vocal works in the UK and abroad with the Philharmonia and Maazel, the LPO and Jurowski and Nezet Séguin, the LSO with Alsop, the OAE with Rattle and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Chailly. She sang in the opening concert of the BBC Promenade Concerts of 2012, televised from the Royal Albert Hall, also performing Tippett's A Child of our Time later in the series. She is committed to promoting new music; her performances include Sir John Tavener's Tribute to Cavafy at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham and his film music to Children of Men.
Connolly made the first commercial recording of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Twice Through the Heart with Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic Orchestra having previously given the Belgian and Dutch premieres of the work with the Schoenberg Ensemble conducted by Oliver Knussen. She sang the role of Susie in the premiere production of Turnage's opera The Silver Tassie at English National Opera in 2000,
Connolly's other commercial recordings include Schumann lieder with Eugene Asti for Chandos, "Songs of Love and Loss", Korngold lieder with Iain Burnside, the Duruflé Requiem for Signum and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for which she raised the funds and selected the cast for the recording.