Sir Reginald Goodall (13 July 1901 – 5 May 1990) was an English conductor and singing coach, noted for his performances of the operas of Richard Wagner and for conducting the premieres of several operas by Benjamin Britten.
Passionate about all things German, in the 1930s Goodall openly sympathized with the Nazi regime, which he perceived as a defender of Germanic cultural traditions. Goodall also actively supported Oswald Mosley's short-lived British Union of Fascists, and he eventually joined the party just five days after Britain's declaration of war on Germany. He maintained his outspoken pro-Nazi views during World War II, the uninhibited expression of which once led him to be briefly questioned by the police.
During the war, Goodall conducted the Wessex Philharmonic, a freelance orchestra which included some ex-members of the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra. In 1944, Goodall joined the Sadler's Wells company, forerunner of the English National Opera. An early triumph was his conducting of the premiere of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes in 1945. He conducted this again later at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he had first conducted in 1947. He was an assistant conductor to the music director of the Royal Opera House, Karl Rankl, in the late 1940s. Goodall also conducted at Glyndebourne, including another Britten premiere, this time of The Rape of Lucrece, which was also his first recording, with EMI.
Goodall spent much of his career conducting orchestras at the Royal Opera House and Sadler's Wells Opera. At Covent Garden, he was overshadowed by Georg Solti. When Solti was made Music Director of the Royal Opera in 1961, altercations soon followed, leading Goodall to cease conducting duties and withdraw to an upper-floor room, nicknamed "Valhalla", where he remained available to singers for coaching on request. For Goodall, conducting success finally came with an appointment at Sadler's Wells, where from 1967 he worked in close collaboration with the head of the music staff, Leonard Hancock. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Goodall conducted several celebrated Wagner productions at Sadler's Wells Opera that reversed the decline in his prestige and established him as one of the leading Wagner conductors of his time. He conducted The Mastersingers in 1968, and the full Ring Cycle from 1970 to 1973, both productions sung in English.
His last public performance was in 1987 at the Royal Albert Hall, London where he led the English National Opera Company in a performance of Act 3 of Wagner's Parsifal. The cast included Gwynne Howell (Gurnemanz), Warren Ellsworth (Parsifal), Neil Howlett (Amfortas) and Shelagh Squires (Kundry).
Reputation and legacy
A self-effacing man, Goodall achieved his own prominence in later life once he was able to come out from under the shadow of some of the great German and Austrian conductors of his era, for whom he understudied, conducted rehearsals and provided vocal coaching. But it was not Otto Klemperer, Herbert von Karajan or Wilhelm Furtwängler with whom he was then compared. It was with Georg Solti, when both were conducting and recording Ring Cycles by Richard Wagner. The differences in tempi and temperament were most notable, but Goodall was most appreciated for his attention to detail (and Wagner's annotations) and for his extensive rehearsals. Solti's recordings made in Vienna had the advantage of attracting the more remarkable soloists (singing in the original language) and are probably now better appreciated, not least for their more spirited tempi, though recent recordings by Daniel Barenboim and James Levine have returned to a more measured approach.
Goodall became much loved by many of the musicians and singers with whom he worked over long periods, building up a mutual understanding and rapport which showed in the quality of his recordings, especially with British singers, notably Rita Hunter and Alberto Remedios, whose careers he fostered. Some British reviewers consider his Ring to be one of the most beautiful vocally, even if the entire tetralogy lasted three hours longer than under the batons of Karl Böhm or Pierre Boulez.
John Lucas published an authorized biography of Goodall in 1993.
- Lucas, pp. 49–57
- Lucas, pp. 133–39
- Lucas, pp. 141–157
- Alan Blyth (2 April 1999). "Music, maestro, please". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- Alan Blyth. "Reputations: Sir Reginald Goodall: a musician's conductor". Gramophone. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
- Tim Ashley (11 July 2008). "Wagner: The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, Curphey/ Remedios/ Bailey/ Hammond-Stroud/ Sadler's Wells Opera Chorus and Orch/ Goodall". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
- D. Kern Holoman, "Performers and Instruments: Wagner's Ring in Andrew Porter's English". 19th-Century Music, 1(1), pp. 62-70 (July 1977).
- Shawe Taylor, Desmond (1992). "Chapter 3: Wagner and His Singers". In Millington, Barry Autor; Spencer, Stewart. Wagner in Performance. Yale University Press. pp. 26–28. ISBN 978-0-300-05718-8. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
- Christopher Fifield, "Sir Reginald Goodall: An Appreciation". Musical Times, 131(1771), 481 (1990).
- Matthew Rye, Review of Reggie: The Life of Reginald Goodall. Musical Times, 134(1808), 585 (1993).
- "The First Digital Tristan - a talk with the Maestro, the Hero and the Boss" by Bruce Duffie. Wagner News, February, 1982.
- Stereophile review of Goodall's Ring, reissued on CD 2001
- "Reginald Goodall – the holy fool", On an Overgrown Path (blog), 8 May 2007 blog entry.