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Friday 15 August 2014

Ch-ch-ch changes

This has been a momentous week, mostly sadness. The untimely loss of someone who touched millions by his acting and comedic skills. 

The media have been awash with obits, some gentle, others not so. R. I. P. Robin Williams.

'Thought for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 is something I listen to rarely.  These days I am up and about well before the broadcast time.

Today, the speaker was Anne Atkins. I'll have to wait until tomorrow to listen again. She spoke of the melancholy associated with the life of a clown, comedy-tragic or tragic comedy and seamlessly worked in classical examples from Greek literature to the present day. 

Usually, if the radio was on and she was introduced as speaker, I'd turn the radio off. 

'Anne Atkins, a vicar's wife and Christian author is a regular guest in the three-minute slot,'

On the rare occasions I have listened to her my 'hackles have risen' and I am not alone, search her name to find examples.


Now, thanks to the BBC web page I can quote...

"The year is 1806, the place London. A man seeks help for depression. “Normally I’d prescribe medication,” his doctor says. “But the pantomime on at Covent Garden will do you a lot more good. I cried with laughter. Go and see Harlequin and Mother Goose. Grimaldi will cure you.” 

“Ah,” sad the man sadly. “I am Grimaldi.” 

Not waving but drowning. The aria Vesti la giubba from Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci opens, Put on your costume and powder your face. People want to laugh. Turn your tears and distress into jest, your pain and sobbing into a funny face... Until the harlequin’s real life overwhelms him and the comedy turns to tragedy."

I had to find a more trustworthy translation...and ended up listening to the late, great Pavoroti performing that aria. 

"To act! While out of my mind,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it's necessary... make an effort!"

I recommend watching Pavoroti singing the Aria and thinking about Robin Williams and the gaping hole his loss has left behind.


Sayre said...

I loved Robin Williams. His movies made me laugh and/or think because even when he's being very funny, he's also telling you something. One of the movies I've always liked (though no one else did, apparently) was "Bicentennial Man" - a robot's struggle to become more human. Every time I watch it, I think that this struggle is actually common to everyone and we don't have the luxury of 200 years to get it right. His robot had a head start too - his purpose was to serve, which evolved to caring and appreciation. What makes a person "human"? In the end, that was the big debate of the film. Robin Williams wasn't afraid to tackle that question but to him, it may have seemed that he always fell short.

joanygee said...

He left behind a treasure trove of films and interviews. I need to watch Bicentennial Man again. Thank you, Sayre.