OPERA NEWS - Obituaries
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Photographer Robert Cahen; composer and conductor Alexander Faris; choral conductor David Wilcocks.

CHICAGO, IL, March 16, 1928—HILLSBOROUGH, CA, SEPTEMBER 28, 2015  

ONE OF THE OPERA WORLD'S most prolific photographers, Cahen was principally associated with San Francisco Opera, where he began documenting performances and performers in 1962. Cahen’s association with SFO continued until the present season: he photographed the dress rehearsal of Luisa Miller less than a month before he died. A native of Chicago, Cahen began exploring his passion for opera photography at 

Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1960. He went on to photograph opera at the Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, Covent Garden and other theaters, establishing close friendships with many of the artists he photographed. Cahen’s iconic images of his friends Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Giuseppe di Stefano and other singers were often used on LP sleeves, CD booklets and book jackets; Domingo, Pavarotti and Marilyn Horne were among the artists who selected Cahen photos for the covers of their autobiographies. A permanent exhibition of Cahen’s work is on display at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House.


A COMPOSER AND CONDUCTOR celebrated for his leadership of Offenbach operettas and the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Faris wrote the award-winning theme music for the television series Upstairs, Downstairs and the scores for The Quare Fellow, Georgy Girl and other films. He studied at the Royal College of Music before making his London debut leading Song of Norway at London’s Palace Theatre in 1949. Faris later worked for the Carl Rosa Opera Company, in the West End, and for the Sadler’s Wells Opera, where he led Orpheus in the Underworld, La Vie Parisienne, Iolanthe, The Mikado and Madama Butterfly, among other works. Faris also worked as a guest conductor for the Royal Ballet.

In 1959, Faris conducted the European premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, which had a sixty-performance run at the Saville Theatre in London. He also led the original West End premieres (and cast albums) of Irma La Douce (1958), Robert and Elizabeth (1964), The Great Waltz (1970) and Charlie and Algernon (1979). In 1981, Faris was engaged by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company to conduct its last season, and he was one of the maestros featured in the company’s farewell night at the Adelphi Theatre in 1982. That same year, Faris conducted the soundtracks for a series of Gilbert and Sullivan operas produced for television and video by Brent Walker.

Faris also wrote the theme music for the BBC series The Duchess of Duke Street (1975–76), Wings (1977) and Fanny by Gaslight (1981) and the score for R Loves J (1973), a musical adaptation of Peter Ustinov’s play Romanoff and Juliet.  

When Faris wrote the theme “Edwardians” for Upstairs, Downstairs, the series was planned to have a six-episode run on ITV. An unexpected popular success in the U.K.—and later in the U.S., where it was a huge hit for Masterpiece Theatre on PBS—the series ran for seventy-four episodes in five seasons (1971–75). In 2010–12, the series was revived by the BBC for a two-season run that also used Faris’s theme music. When Radio 4’s PM program adopted “Edwardians” as the theme for its economics segment, “Upshares, Downshares,” it sparked a number of new arrangements of Faris’s composition from radio listeners. In 2010, when Faris was approaching the age of ninety, he conducted a CD compilation of these arrangements that raised more than £70,000 for the charity Children in Need.

Faris published a scholarly biography of Offenbach (1980), as well as an autobiography, Da Capo al Fine (2009). 


A PEERLESS CONDUCTOR of choral music, Willcocks was most celebrated for his work as organist and director of music at King’s College, Cambridge (1957–74) and musical director of the Bach Choir (1960–98), where he was conductor laureate at the time of his death. He was also a longtime conductor of the Bradford Festival Choral Society (1956–74) and director of the Royal College of Music (1974–84). Willcocks was noted for his immaculate attention to intonation, diction and rhythm; his recordings of Bach, Britten, Tippett and Vaughan Williams—to name just a few of the composers he favored—were invested with sovereign brightness and clarity. The conductor reached the largest audience of his career in 1981, when he was music director for the internationally televised wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and the Prince of Wales, an event that reached more than 700 million viewers. Willcocks’s many recordings range from standard-setting performances of the Requiems of Britten, Duruflé and Fauré to the 1969 Rolling Stones album Let it Bleed, on which he led the Bach Choir in the opening and closing measures of the Mick Jagger–Keith Richards song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

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