I met Reginald Goodall quite a while before 1960, but I didn't start working with him until 1960 when we were on tour doing Tannhauser. I remember rehearsing with him over and over, all day long, so that by the time we were finished, we really knew our parts. We were very young and didn't like being so regimented. Even the smallest part was worked on over and over again. I can't repeat the things we said under our breath or describe the gestures we made behind his back!
The next time I worked with him he wanted me to sing Walther in The Mastersingers of Nuremburg; that was in 1968 and he had heard me sing in Boris Godunov at Covent Garden with Yvonne Minton. Reggie said I had the right "clang" in my voice, a strange expression but he knew what he meant. He was very, very demanding, but, to my surprise, after the premiére performance, as I left the 'Collie', I saw Reggie sitting in the gutter outside. He was totally stunned and in a sort of daze.
In 1975 we started working together on Siegmund in Walküre. I had sung the Wintersumme in concert but didn't know the rest of the work at all, so it was a big task for Reggie and I to get the thing prepared. It must have taken us over 6 months and, of course, for part of the time, I was singing in Germany, which made it even harder. Each session we would work on one page at a time. Reggie always knew exactly the way each phrase should sound and sometimes it was just one phrase over and over all day and I was a fast learner! At the opening night we knew we had a triumph on our hands, but our troubles had only just begun.
In 1976 we did Gotterdamerung just to confuse every body and this time I sang Siegfried. Act 1 is very long but I did get to go on my Rhine journey. Reggie had the orchestra in tip top form and it sounded fantastic. I was living in London then so I could work with him full-time on the score. He made me bring a note book, pencil and a German/English dictionary to the sessions. I would sing a section in German first and then we would translate every single word into English. He said he wanted me to understand the meaning of each word straight from the German text. This was in addition to Andrew Porter's translation that we were working with. Talk about nose to the grindstone!
Next came Siegfried... Everybody said that I would never be able to sing it as it is the most difficult work in the Cycle. Everybody, that is, except Reggie. He always had faith in me. They all asked each other,
"How would he be at the end?"
Reggie knew. We worked on the forging scene for what seemed like an eternity. I nearly wore a hole in Reggie's piano with the tap, tap, tapping. I think I could have forged the sword in my sleep after those sessions, but, of course, he was right; it became second nature and instinctive to me, which meant I could just sing and not have to worry about making the wretched sword. After performances he would have you back at 10:30 next morning for notes. And we would go through the whole opera again phrase by phrase. He would come backstage after every act to tell me if I had missed a phrase or a note and then he would say,
"Never mind dear, we can go over it tomorrow morning".
During performances I would look down at him in the pit and all I could see of him was two arms with safety pins holding his shirt sleeve cuffs together. My wife, Judy, offered to sew some buttons on for him but he said,
"Do I really need buttons?"
In other words,
"Will they make the sound any better?"
Reggie would make funny little signs whilst conducting. He would tap his stomach meaning the sound was too beefy; a tap to the head meant keep it light and bright; a tug to his ear for softly; and a tap of his watch for too fast, slow down. He hated taking curtain calls as he was a very modest man and I would have to literally drag him on stage at the end of the work. His favourite conductors were Wilhelm Furtwangler and Hans Knappertsbusch whom he greatly admired.
At the end of his life I visited him in the nursing home and he asked me to sing The Prize Song from Mastersingers. I did and he sat up in bed and conducted me right to the end of the piece. A couple of days later he went to Valhalla.