Conductor Charles Farncombe, Key Figure in 20th-Century Handel Opera Revival, Dies at 86

Classic Arts News   Conductor Charles Farncombe, Key Figure in 20th-Century Handel Opera Revival, Dies at 86
 
An all-too-brief notice in The Times of London last Wednesday (July 19) said only this: "Farncombe Charles CBE aged 86, peacefully passed away on 30th June at St. Mary's Hospital Paddington. A private burial has taken place and a memorial service will be held in London at a later date. No condolences."

It seemed an awfully small obituary for someone who made such a difference to our present-day musical life, for Charles Farncombe was at the very center of the mid-20th-century effort to restore George Frideric Handel's operas to our stages.

Born in 1919 in London, Farncombe studied at the Royal School of Church Music in Canterbury and the Royal Academy of Music, graduating in 1951. In 1955 he founded the Handel Opera Society, which presented the composer's Italian stage works at the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. He conducted the first modern-day revivals of several operas, including the now-popular Alcina and Rinaldo, and remained the Society's director until 1985.

Farncombe was also active at such festivals as the summer season at the Drottningholm Court Theater in Sweden and Karlsruhe Handel Festival in Germany. He continued to conduct as late as last year, when he led a semi-staged performance of Handel's serenata Il Parnasso in festa at St. John's, Smith Square in London.


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