Why Giacinto Palmieri Likes To Laugh At Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 12 May 2014 | 11:04:00 pm

Giacinto Palmieri
And not just Wagner's "comedy". We have been very lucky to get an early sneak at this performance and we enjoyed it greatly. Catch it if you can.

John Fleming talks to Giacinto Palmieri

London-based Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri’s last full-length comedy showPagliaccio was based on Ruggero Leoncavallo’s operatic character.

His new Edinburgh Fringe show this year is about German composer Richard Wagner and, more specifically, Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung.

Giacinto jokes that he has explained its plot to all his ex girlfriends (with the emphasis on ‘ex’) and now he wants to do the same with his audience.



It is going to be all about dwarfs, giants, Walkyries, magic helms and love potions and their connection with office parties, IKEA, Facebook and modern dating rituals.

I talked to Giacinto about it yesterday in the upstairs room of a pub off Shaftesbury Avenue.

“I’m challenging myself to laugh at my hero,” he told me. “One of the themes I’m developing in the show is laughing at your heroes in order to avoid falling into fanaticism. I thought: I really love Wagner; he’s always been a hero of mine. Let’s see if I can laugh at something I really love.

“I confess I have done comedy courses and usually one of the exercises you are given is to Rant or Rave. You have the choice to rant about something you don’t like or rave about something you love and 90% of people choose something to rant about. It is much easier to be funny about something you don’t like. Being funny about something you like is much more challenging.”

“Are there a lot of laughs in Wagner?” I asked.

“Well,” said Giacinto, “he was a very funny man. He liked to climb trees in his friends’ gardens for no reason. When he was very happy about something – particularly during rehearsals – he used to stand on his head. He was very histrionic. His works are not always that funny, of course.

“But comedy is a way of talking about things rather than a specific subject. The Great Dictator, the Chaplin film about Hitler, was very funny., but the subject was not funny. I don’t think there are ‘comedy subjects’. There is a comedic way of talking about subjects and, actually, the less obvious the comedic connection, the more interesting it can be.

“The Australian comedienne Hannah Gadsby did some very good shows last year about the history of art. I think there is more room in comedy to explore difficult subjects.

“You can talk about something which is already funny – but, in that case, the added value of your comedy is very low – or you can talk about what interests you – in this case Wagner – in a funny way and that is what I am trying to do.”

“Wagner’s stuff is very emotional, isn’t it?” I said.

“It’s even considered dangerous,” said Giacinto. “Wagner said about Tristan and Isolde – Only bad performances can save me, because good performances will drive people crazy. And it’s true. The intensity of it will drive people mad. Some music director said that the Second Act of Tristan and Isolde contains seven simultaneous orgasms. Try that in life.”