Another oath broken. After some fantastic experiences at my own first nights, I had sworn never to attend another. But when I told the authorities of Covent Garden that I should not be present at the first performance of the Goossens-Me opera "Judith", there was such horrified, outraged protest that I accepted a box on the spot.
EUGENE GOOSSENS (1893 -1962) was born into a family of musicians, in Camden Town but studied in Bruges before attending the Royal College of Music in London, where his teachers were Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Charles Wood. Earning his living as a violinist at first, he became a protégé of Beecham, going on to conduct the British premiere of The Rite of Spring in 1921, then moving to the US and subsequently Australia. Although his first compositions were small-scale – piano pieces, songs, chamber music – he was writing confidently for orchestra from early on. His First Symphony was completed in 1940, in Cincincatti, and the Second Symphony was premiered in 1946. Goossens composed two operas, Judith (1925) and Don Juan de Mañara (1934), a massive oratorio, Apocalypse (1951), and a generous quantity of other works, orchestral, chamber, instrumental. His music was lost from sight for some years after his death but began to re-emerge from the mid-1990s with recordings from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
And there I sat on the first night, hiding behind a curtain and surveying the crowded house. My highly nervous state was mitigated by the realisation of the unquestionable fact that I was not Eugene Goossens, exposed defenceless to the public and conducting the orchestra. I kept carefully in the box, but well-intentioned friends and quidnuncs would insist on visiting me both before and after the performance. I had not the courage to tell them that, with the important exception of loud and prolonged applause, all an author wants on a first night is to be left alone.