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Reginald Goodall

The English conductor Reginald Goodall was born in 1901 and studied conducting under Malcolm Sargent and Constant Lambert at the Royal College of Music. From 1929 to 1936 he was organist and choirmaster at St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, where he conducted the first British performances of choral works by Bruckner, Stravinsky and Szymanowski, as well as early works by Britten. During the late 1930s he worked as assistant to Albert Coates and Malcolm Sargent among others. At the beginning of the Second World War he became conductor of the Bournemouth-based Wessex Philharmonic Orchestra.

In June 1945, as a member of Sadler’s Wells Opera (later English National Opera), he conducted the first performance of Peter Grimes at the newly reopened Sadler’s Wells Theatre. In the following year he shared with Ernest Ansermet the first performances of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia during the Glyndebourne Festival’s first postwar season. Shortly afterwards he joined the music staff at Covent Garden, where for the next twenty-five years he conducted a repertoire ranging from Il trovatore to Troilus and Cressida, and was a repetiteur.

Only rarely was he given the chance to conduct operas by the composer he most admired, Richard Wagner. This omission was rectified in 1968, not by The Royal Opera but by Sadler’s Wells, which invited him to conduct a new production of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. So remarkable was its success that he returned to the company to conduct its now legendary complete production of The Ring of the Nibelung, built up between 1970 and 1973 and the first to be given in English for some years. He went on to conduct Das Rheingold and Die Walküre for The Royal Opera, Tristan und Isolde and Die Walküre for Welsh National Opera and Parsifal and Tristan at English National Opera. He received a CBE in 1975 and was knighted in 1985. Reginald Goodall died in 1990 at the age of eighty-eight.

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