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Dame Sarah Connolly to perform in exciting collaborations with Royal Northern Sinfonia as Sage Gateshead Artist in Focus

Posted on 9 January 2023

Dame Sarah

One of Britain’s greatest living vocalists Dame Sarah Connolly has been announced as one of two Artists in Focus for Royal Northern Sinfonia’s 2022-23 season, alongside pianist Benjamin Grosvenor. Both musicians feature throughout Sage Gateshead’s classical season, performing at three concerts each.

A beacon for the best in classical music in the North East, 2023 will see Royal Northern Sinfonia, orchestra of Sage Gateshead, continue to host some of its most exciting collaborations to date, performing a huge variety of music spanning from the 12th century to the present day.

Born in Middlesbrough, Dame Sarah Connolly studied piano and singing at the Royal College of Music, of which she is now a Fellow. She has sung worldwide, had numerous opera engagements, including at the Royal Opera House and Bayreuther Festspiele, and in 2009 was a memorable guest soloist at the Last Night of the Proms.

Dame Sarah’s first performance as Sage Gateshead Artist in Focus was on 23rd September 2022, in a beautifully spiritual concert to celebrate the native return of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Conducted by James Weeks, RNS were joined by Dame Sarah to explore centuries of spirituality in sounds, words and images.

Lindisfarne: Spiritual Sounds was recorded live, and the performance has since been made into a film by Newcastle agency Novak. The 30-minute-long film follows the journey of the Lindisfarne Gospels, transporting audiences through the stunning North East landscape and into the iconic illustrated pages of the Gospels. The video can be viewed at and is available until February 2023.

With two engagements left in the season, Dame Sarah will join Principal Conductor and talented pianist Dinis Sousa and the musicians of RNS for a sublime recital of French chamber music in RNS Chamber: Small is Beautiful on 14th January 2023. Featuring music from Debussy, Ravel and Boulanger, the concert will culminate in Chausson’s elegant Poeme de l’amour et de la mer.

Celebrated as one of Mahler’s greatest living interpreters, Dame Sarah will also join RNS for their final collaboration of the season on 28th April 2023 in RNS: Dame Sarah Connolly sings Mahler. At the heart of this programme are Mahler’s heart-rending Rückert-Lieder, five unforgettable songs that probe the deepest mysteries of life, art and love.

Dame Sarah Connolly said:

“It’s an immense honour to be a Sage Gateshead Artist in Focus with RNS. I have very happy memories of my previous concerts with them, and I love the Sage Gateshead building and its magnificent acoustic. I was born in Middlesbrough and grew up near Darlington. Sadly, I left when I was 16. My summer holidays were nearly always spent at Sandsend & Whitby and happily not a lot has changed. 

Since Covid blighted our lives, chamber music has come to the fore and it’s actually my favourite medium. I don’t have to make a lot of noise fighting big forces and one can be really creative with sounds & harmony. The programmes we have chosen together, Mahler and French music are my favourites too. The Chausson is about the sea and love and in Frank Villard’s piano quintet arrangement, the solo lines are almost virtuosic. Debussy’s Bilitis songs in a lovely orchestral arrangement by Jake Heggie are very seductive and John Tavener’s Supernatural Songs are completely unusual and meditative. I suppose I chase sensual music that involves evocative stories of places and how we feel about ourselves in the moment.”

Tickets for Dame Sarah Connolly’s performances are on sale now and can be booked at




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14 January, 20:00


Conductor: Dinis Sousa

Mezzo Soprano: Sarah Connolly

Royal Northern Sinfonia


CLAUDE DEBUSSY – Prelude a l’apres midi d’un faune

CLAUDE DEBUSSY – Chanson de Bilitis

MAURICE RAVEL – String Quartet

LILI BOULANGER – Nocturne; D’un matin de printemps

ERNEST CHAUSSON – Poeme de l’amour et de la mer


28 April, 19:30


Conductor: Dinis Sousa

Mezzo Soprano: Sarah Connolly

Royal Northern Sinfonia


SCHUBERT – Symphony No. 7 ‘Unfinished‘

MAHLER – Rückert Lieder

BRAHMS – Symphony No. 3


Notes to Editors

About Sage Gateshead

  • Sage Gateshead is an international music centre for the North East and wider North, and is home to the acclaimed Royal Northern Sinfonia. Through music, creative learning and artist development, the organisation shows what music can achieve for communities. It is for audiences, for artists, for the North and for the long term.
  • Since opening in 2004, Sage Gateshead has worked side by side with partners and the wider community to help address the complex blend of social and economic challenges the region faces.
  • Sage Gateshead continues to be a major employer and has brought investment and tourism into the region, generating c. £500 million contribution to the local economy, a sum six times greater than its combined capital cost.
  • Sage Gateshead has brought social, cultural and educational value to over 10 million people and millions more via digital and broadcast activity. The scale of its artistic, learning and artist development activity places Sage Gateshead amongst the UK’s largest cultural organisations, while reaching a substantially more socially and economically diverse audience.
  • Pre-pandemic Sage Gateshead attracted 2 million visitors; 5,000 people took part in weekly music classes; 17,854 school children experienced live orchestral music and we worked with a further 2,418 vulnerable young people; more than 2,000 adults a week took part in music making designed to tackle social isolation.
  • The North East region is one of the worst affected by Covid-19. The region will be one where the recovery is slow and hard. Arts and culture have a pivotal role to play in regional and nation-wide recovery.
  • Covid-19 presents a major financial challenge to Sage Gateshead, the iconic Foster + Partners designed NE landmark. 80% of its income has been affected, and in 2020/21 £10 million in revenue was lost. The organisation has taken swift action to overcome this crisis. 90% of the workforce was placed on furlough, significant cost savings have been sought and found, and it launched a fundraising campaign to raise £3 million to help secure the organisation during the next three years. Further challenges lie ahead; in 2021/22, Sage Gateshead estimates box office and trading income to be less than half of what would be expected in a normal year.
  • Sage Gateshead temporarily closed to the public on 17 March 2020, five days ahead of the announcement of the national lockdown. Sage Gateshead recommenced performances in October 2020 with a season of socially distanced concerts featuring Royal Northern Sinfonia and artists across genres, made available by live stream; audiences were able to be present in the hall for two weekends of those performances.
  • In 2020 Sage Gateshead received a grant of £2.8 million from the Culture Recovery Fund Round One to help it through the pandemic and associated financial crisis. In 2021 the charity received a loan of £3m from the Culture Recovery Fund Round Two to support recovery. It has thanked the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and Arts Council England for this vital support.


Royal Northern Sinfonia, Orchestra of Sage Gateshead, is the UK’s only full-time chamber orchestra. Founded in 1958, RNS has built a worldwide reputation for the North East through the quality of its music-making and the immediacy of the connections the musicians make with audiences.

The orchestra regularly flies the flag for the region at major festivals, including the BBC Proms, most recently performing Handel’s Water Music at Stage @theDock in Hull – the first Prom performed outside of London since 1930. They appear frequently at venues and festivals in Europe, including La folle journée in Nantes. In recent seasons they have toured to Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul and Tokyo.

RNS has worked with many international conductors and soloists including Christian Tetzlaff, Sir Roger Norrington, Paul McCreesh, Jess Gillam, Nicholas McGegan, Mahan Esfahani, Viktoria Mullova and Jessica Cottis, and also collaborated with leading popular voices such as Sting, Ben Folds, John Grant, Mercury Rev, Field Music and Maxïmo Park.

RNS has commissioned new music by David Lang, John Casken, Tansy Davies, Errollyn Wallen and James Weeks amongst others, and runs an annual Young Composers Competition.

In order to engage with the widest possible range of artists and audiences, in 2018 RNS founded its inclusive ensemble RNS Moves, and also increasingly programmes accessible and relaxed performances throughout the season.

RNS has always been actively involved in local communities and in education. Musicians support young people learning musical instruments through Sage Gateshead’s Centre for Advanced Training and through In Harmony Newcastle.