Sarah Connolly Excels in Viennese and French Repertoire


aaaaEIF logo 2015 (1)




Edinburgh International Festival 2015 (11) – Schoenberg, Zemlinsky, Eisler, Debussy, Poulenc, Strauss & Korngold: Sarah Connolly (mezzo), Malcolm Martineau (piano), Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 17.08.2015 (SRT)

The heady world of fin-de-siècle Vienna is not one with which we intend to associate Sarah Connolly; but in fact her expressive, sonorous mezzo is pretty ideally suited to it.  Schoenberg’s early Lieder Op. 2 sit in the perfect range for her voice, and their sultry world of half-suggestions really played to the strengths of Connolly’s lower range, while Malcolm Martineau seemed to revel in Schoenberg’s eternally experimental keyboard harmonies.  Zemlinsky’s Six Songs Op. 13 allowed more of a narrative element to creep in, revealing some of the knowledge gained from Connolly’s vast experience in the theatre, while the selection from Korngold gave her permission to sing with a seeming nod-and-a-smile.  After all, Korngold was just about to leave for Hollywood when he wrote these.

The French repertoire suited her all the more, with Poulenc’s Banalités giving her room for extremes of expression, from the joy of anticipating Paris to the heady languor of Hôtel.  She seemed drained after the emotional whirlwind of Sanglots, a token of how much she invested in her performance.  Debussy’s famous Chansons de Bilitis fitted her best of all, however.  Here she was brilliantly expressive; not just of the composer’s suggestive, half-lit melodies, all sensual suggestion and evocations of something scarcely known, but also of Louÿs’ pregnant French prose, with which she seemed not just comfortable but fluent.  Incidentally, in her encore, Dominic Muldowney’s, In Paris with you, every word was crystal clear.

The biggest revelation for me, however, was the selection from Hanns Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook.  These beautiful miniatures, with words by Bertolt Brecht, speak of the (mostly pretty dreadful) conditions endured by cultural émigrés as they fled Nazi Europe to find work in Hollywood.  I loved the image of Bach and Dante touting for business beneath the pepper trees, or the poet selling lies in the marketplace.  Most salutary of all, especially for anyone putting on a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, the insight that “Paradise and Hell are the same city.  For the unsuccessful, Paradise itself is Hell.”  Plus ça change…

The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and is available to listen again here.


The 2015 Edinburgh International Festival runs until Monday 31st August at venues across the city.  For full details go to


Simon Thompson



Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC Proms turns 125 years old – 17 July to 12 September 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North in 2020-2021 – postponements and plans __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Glyndebourne Festival Opera opens for a 2020 summer season __________________________________
  • NEW! Baritone Federico Longhi’s Rigoletto is part of Parma’s June Verdian renaissance __________________________________
  • NEW! 69th Wexford Festival Opera – 11 to 18 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Dresden’s Semperoper reopens with Anna Netrebko on 19 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal in 2020-21 __________________________________
  • NEW! LMP’s first UK chamber orchestra performances since Covid-19 struck __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Lieder Festival – 10-17 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Metropolitan Opera (2020–)2021 season update __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House announces first live concert since beginning of lockdown __________________________________
  • NEW! Semi-staged Das Rheingold on Deutsche Oper Berlin’s parking deck from 12 June __________________________________
  • NEW! A breath of fresh air: Opera Holland Park announces 2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2020 Found Season – 4 June to 12 July __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! We’ll be back! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra weathering the Covid-19 storm __________________________________
  • NEW! World Ballet School Day – inaugural edition 7 July 2020 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Longborough Festival Opera launches podcast and extraordinary generosity of the audience __________________________________
  • NEW! The Music Critics Association of North America Best New Opera Award to Blue __________________________________
  • NEW! Lincoln Center honors Pride with a light installation on its iconic plaza __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020): Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war? __________________________________
  • NEW! What price Sherlock Holmes? __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC to show the ROH’s first post-lockdown performance and their other recent music news __________________________________
  • NEW! Woody Allen comes back fighting with a book and A Rainy Day in New York __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month