Ride of the Wagnerian: a life in opera

Ride of the Wagnerian is a new stand-up show by Italian comic Giacinto Palmieri. He uses his obsession with Richard Wagner’s epic opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungan, as a springboard for an hour of comedy on the top floor of Just the Tonic at the Mash House. Entering the stage from behind the audience, conducting an imaginary orchestra as he goes, the bearded and spectacled comedian soon puts the audience at ease with his charming, personal approach to high art, and his tangible passion for the great composer.

Palmieri essentially tells his life story, with Wagner’s so-called ‘Ring Cycle’ as the soundtrack to his life. There’s plenty of in-jokes for the opera fans, but he also relishes in explaining Wagner’s unique brew of incest and love potions to newcomers – complete with piped excerpts from the opera which the multilingual comic translates as it plays into the venue.

The show is at its weakest when Palmieri moves away from Wagner and into shtick you assume he’s cribbed from his regular act; jokes about dogs having Facebook and not getting lucky in Soho interrupt the flow of the show. But whenever Palmieri sticks to his subject, starting with his discovery of the ‘Ring Cycle’ as a teenager and ending with a pilgrimage to Wagner’s grave, the audience is hooked.

Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.

Ride of the Wagnerian is at Just the Tonic until 24 August.

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