t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Eugene Goossens I

Barton McGuckin

The first Eugene Goossens, born at Bruges on 25 February 1845, and his brother Adolphe, were both boy sopranos who began their musical education locally, progressed to the Brussels Conservatoire and graduated about 1864. Adolphe became a trainer of choirs whilst his brother pursued a career as a violinist in France and Belgium and married Celan van Dieghem, a ballerina who later danced in London as Madame Sidonie. Eugene came to London in 1873, played with orchestras and progressed to conducting operetta companies, including a spell with the D’Oyly Carte and a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore before Queen Victoria in 1878. He continued in this vein and was recruited by the Rosa in 1882.

Goossens made his Rosa debut conducting the company premiere of Boieldieu’s Dame Blanche at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre on 16 August 1882. He was with the company for another eleven years conducting over 1800 performances and a repertoire of almost fifty operas including the world premiere of Nordisa (Corder) together with company and British premieres. The 1885 premiere of Massenet’s Manon at Liverpool, the 1892 premiere of Verdi’s Otello at Manchester, and the command performance of The Daughter of the Regiment before Queen Victoria at Balmoral in the same year, were probably the highlights of his Rosa career. His Rosa finale was a performance of Tannhäuser at the Theatre Royal Birmingham on 3 June 1893. Latterly he taught music in Liverpool and served as organist and choirmaster at Saint Anne’s Church. He died there on 30 December 1906 and is buried at Anfield Cemetery.

Goossens joined the company when Carl Rosa was becoming more manager than conductor; and as a result he was frequently at the rostrum. He became principal conductor after Rosa’s death in 1889 where he gained a reputation as a disciplinarian who rigorously rehearsed the orchestra and wayward singers. The first Eugene Goossens was a pivotal figure in Rosa history who enhanced the reputation of the company. His son and grandchildren, all prominent musicians, were also associated with the company. There was a family contribution over many years.

© 2020 John Ward

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