Thursday, 1 July 2010

Should it be all over when the fat man sings?

Have you read the reviews today in the papers about Placido Domingo's role as The Doge in Verdi's opera 'Simon Boccanegar'? The performance is given five stars, as is the whole opera because the rest of the company - with a star in their midst - rise to the occasion.
Domingo has been a 'star' for forty years but now as he reaches seventy (and has an operation to prevent colon cancer)people are wondering whether or not he should retire. His response is to say 'if I rest I rust' and he has bookings well into next year. But as with all ageing 'stars' or, for that matter, all ageing TV programmes, it is difficult to know when to stop.
Pavarotti carried on well after his voice had begun to deteriorate and well after his weight had become almost unmanageable; Maria Callas became a shadow of her former self during her last few years. And yet of course we have wonderful actors like Timothy West, Judi Dench,Vanessa Redgrave and the like who carry on regardless.
So - what do you think about this? What brought on this train of thought was seeing Federer lose his match yesterday afternoon at Wimbledon.
How are the mighty fallen? The Times says, and I had already thought the same, that he was rather ungracious in defeat - blaming his back injury rather than having the good grace to praise his opponent Berdych.
Then reading about Domingo in the Times this morning it brought the issue of retirment into my thoughts.
Some television programmes have gone on far too long - Last of the Summer Wine springs to mind - and should have been dropped while they were fresh and funny rather than struggling on until they are dull and predictable. Dawn French had the good sense with 'The Vicar of Dibley' to pull out after a couple of series while everyone was clamouring for more.

So dear bloggers, what is the answer here? I suppose we can relate it to ourselves because this idea of when to stop does not just apply to stars, does it? After all, stopping does not necessarily mean rusting as Domingo suggests. It really means taking stock of oneself, realising one's limitations and adjusting one's life accordingly. I am not suggesting Domingo sit back and take up tapestry work, or Federer taking up violin lessons. There is usually a role for such people on TV - witness Pat Cash (with his fabulous earring) and Boris Becker (I never see him without being reminded of the incident in the broom cupboard)giving fantastic commentary on yesterday' tennis.

Is there a firm answer? I would love to hear your views on the subject - the wider the viewpoint the better. And while we are on the subject only somebody as masculine and as sexy as Pat Cash could get away with a ruby and diamond cross hanging from his left ear!

22 comments:

George said...

Some prefer to leave at the top of their game; others prefer to linger until the applause is all but gone. Personally, I prefer the first course, which I followed by retiring from my profession at an early age. Making a timely exit, however, need not be just the end of something; to the creative spirit, it can be the beginning of something, perhaps something more wonderful than one ever imagined. I take my counsel from Tennyson's Ulysses. "How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unfurnished, not to shine in use!" And this: "Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; one temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, and not to yield."

Eric Alder said...

So, he’s either a glory-hungry narcissist desperately clinging to the spot-light, or he loves what he does so deeply and profoundly that it’s hard for him to just walk away? Or both?

I think this phenomenon is based on people not wanting to grow old (and die). It’s not easy for everyone to accept growing old gracefully; and I’m not so sure it should be.

For, as Dylan Thomas so famously wrote…

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

Fortunately, I saw a live broadcast, from The Met, of Domingo in this role the other month and it was marvellous. The stamina he needs to get through the evening is amazing and at 70 he shames many younger performers. The way the world is going, we shall all be singing much longer whether we like it or not. But each person's capability differs and when it comes to the world of theatre they will get the message when the audience stays away.

Poet in Residence said...

I think there's no hard and fast rule to follow since we're all individuals but I suppose we'd be wise to listen to our bodies to a certain extent - which will prevent us overdoing it and causing injury - while at the same time giving them enough to do on a daily basis so as to prevent atrophy, or going rusty as Domingo calls it. Like an old lawn mower we need to turn the old spindle now and again. You'll know that from the amount of rusted farm equipment lying around the countryside.

Measured work for measured folks.

mrsnesbitt said...

Yes - go when you feel your best because then you will have more to share with others and the ability to take stock and appreciate the things in life that matter.

Dxx

Golden West said...

I am a huge fan of your Sean Bean and his character Richard Sharpe, so I am very glad he continues the role these many years. Surely, it must be an individual decision, probably tempered by what awaits the person out of the limelight, i.e. a rich and full life full of other interests or not.

willow said...

My daughter met Domingo a few years ago when she was a participant in his Operalia competition in Paris. I remember her telling me how old he was in person, considering all his publicity photos are either of a much younger version, or heavily air brushed. I say if the audience still wants to hear him sing, let him sing. If he can make it through an entire opera at his age, then more power to him!

Pondside said...

Good topic, Weaver.
I think there are two sides - when one is making a living from the crowd, whether in sports or art, one really owes it to the people paying to watch/hear to be at the top of one's craft and to leave before one is a shadow of past glory.
In everyday life I have another opinions and, along with another writer, agree with Dylan Thomas - I'll be squeezing every drop of experience out of this life as long as I'm capable.

Heather said...

Placido Domingo will know it is time to retire when people no longer fill seats to hear him sing. He is such a good actor as well as a fine singer, maybe that will help him carry on a little longer.

Jenn Jilks said...

Thoughtful post, Weaver. There does come a time when your performance reflects your age.

BTW
I have amalgamated My Reflection blog with My Muskoka blog.If we are moving, I didn't want to lose My Muskoka readers, and I will simply change the title. I am moving closer to grandkids...that is the theory!

Cloudia said...

It was easier to decide such things for others when I was younger and all knowing. today I'm less certain, except of peace with faith...




Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Lyn said...

I hope there isn't a firm answer..we are too blessed with diversity for that to happen. Lets be forgiving of those who try to go on too long..we loved them once..but of course we don't want them to be foolish..
Life is way too complex for there to be an answer..it is a fact of life that we diminish...but there was glory!

Crafty Green Poet said...

It's a difficult question i think and it depends a lot on individuals. Look at Martina Navratilova..... I think the temptations must be to keep going if you love what you're doing (and see the chance of all those extra earnings). Also for most sports people (and opera stars too I guess) its so much part of your life it must be hard to think what else to do. It will be interesting to see what the Williams sisters do and when they retire, given that they've got so many other interests.....

(I'm a big Pat Cash fan too by the way!)

Bonnie said...

I agree with George, we do not want to rust with disuse and we may still have much to contribute - however, it always seems sad when someone holds on too long (perhaps having no idea who they would be without their 'role') and ultimately ends up humiliating themself.

It is good to know when to arrive, when to stay, and when to go. And, as you intimate in your post this world is full of wondrous things with which to occupy ourselves.

ChrisJ said...

I was thinking exactly this about Federer. I loved to watch him play and was so disappointed for him when he didn't reach his goal. I said to my husband that the worst thing for Federer would be people saying he's all washed up, too old etc.

But that's the way of the world I guess. When you have everything there's nowhere to go but down. I remember thinking that about the Beatles.

Titus said...

I much prefer the graceful exit. The big problem is, of course, realising exactly when your exit is going to be graceful. Friends and trusted advisors who have no monetary interest in your career much required at these times, I suspect.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Lovely to read through all these comments which have such diversity and yet mainly agree that it is a difficult and individual choice.
Thanks so much for taking the trouble to join in the debate.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Keep going till the beat you with a pointy stick I say!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I suppose that's what really good friends, or really good spouses, are for. To gently tell one the truth. Perhaps stopping is not the answer, but simply changing to another creative path, particularly is legacy is important to you. I think of Beverly Sills, who retired at her height, rather than diminish. Although I will say that, several years ago, I saw the Rolling Stones in concert from the first row. It was a remarkable experience and left me hoping they will go on forever, blazing a trail for the aging!!

Now, what about this broom cupboard??

Eryl Shields said...

The broom cupboard?!

My son saw Paul McCartney at the Isle of Wight festival a few weeks ago and said he was amazing. Before his performance all the kids were laughing at the thought of such an old man on stage at a pop festival but, apparently, he knocked the socks off all of them. So I guess it depends on the individual. And, it must be so difficult to give up doing what you love, whether it makes you money or not.

BT said...

What an interesting topic Weaver. I think most people seem to be in favour of quitting while you're ahead but I'd still pay to see Domingo no matter what the critics say. I think he is the most rounded of all the tenors of his time and he is also a wonderful actor. He does conduct too, so maybe he should now concentrate on that.

As for sports people, they usually have to quit when they are beaten. But there's a lot of life left in Federer, you mark my words.

Bernie said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this discussion. I think it all depends on the performer--if people still want to hear them and fill the seats, I think that if they enjoy it they should continue. As to ordinary people I think one's opinion might be shaped by where you are on the lifetime scale. It is hard to think of dying and it is hard to realize that the end may be near. There may be many avenues you may explore,---IF YOU ARE ABLE.