The twenty-first schools’ theatre week in Bagni di Lucca’s Teatro Accademico, with contributions from over thirty schools and five shows daily, has ended and this Saturday will be prize-giving day for the best performances from nursery, elementary and secondary schools. I only saw a handful of performances and they would not really interest those readers who don’t speak Italian except for me to say that production values were generally even higher this year than last.
It is wonderful that theatre is still living in Italy’s under-funded educational system and that children of all ages are able to participate in and enjoy the richness live theatre brings to life. (See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buv2viA5dVI).
There is a lot of talk about what will be deemed the best performances and gossip abounds in very gossip-ridden Bagni di Lucca.
Gossip can be fun if it is not overtly malicious – after all it is the raw material of many great novels and the olive-oiling of many a social evening and we can (hopefully) all take a bit of fun directed at us – but it can easily degenerate into its sinister cousin, rumour, in the lips of undiscriminating and self-opinionated people.
In the opening prologue of Shakespeare’s King Henry IV Part II it is a character called Rumour who speaks these lines:
Open your ears; for which of you will stop
The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?
….. Upon my tongues continual slanders ride,
The which in every language I pronounce,
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
The speech continues in similar vein with such great similes as this one: (“pipe” as in musical instrument, “stop” as in the holes one covers with one’s fingers to produce different notes):
Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wav’ring multitude,
Can play upon it.
and concludes with this depressing affirmation:
From Rumour’s tongues
They bring smooth comforts false, worse than true wrongs.
Sometimes I wish more people would read Shakespeare in these parts of Bagni di Lucca because so much of what I hear around me seems, indeed, to come from that character called “Rumour”. That poor fool Othello, in another of the immortal bard’s plays, killed his wife and himself just by listening to that foul character called “Rumour” but, there, personified by Iago. Othello realises he’s been taken in at the end, just before he commits hara-kiri, when he says:
Speak of me as I am.
Nothing extenuate, Nor set down aught in malice.
With a population of just over six and a half thousand residents (I am excluding holidaymakers from this as they – fortunately – don’t stay long enough to enter into the hell of rumour) it’s quite incredibly shameful how much rumour wafts its wings in the streets of and around the hills surrounding Bagni di Lucca and how relatively few people can actually speak of themselves or others as they are…..
There is hardly a person I know, appreciate as a friend and admire as an expert on some subject or other that is not belittled by someone else’s rumourous report. (Incidentally, “rumour” derives from the Italian word “rumore”, meaning “noise”, empty, of course, although “pettegolezze” is the word more commonly used in conversations).
The situation’s got to the stage where I almost daren’t open my mouth to say I think so-and-so is a great sport because someone else is sure to find calamitous defects in that so-and-so. It’s like everyone’s individual perception being like a multi-facetted crystal prism which gives out concurring or conflicting signals on everyone else. We are all different beings after all, and can’t get on with every Tom, Dick or Harry, and vice-versa too!
Clearly, as I mentioned in a previous post at:
one can’t please everyone all the time or, rather, one can please some people all of the time and everyone some of the time, but I do feel that in small-town Bagni things can get a little out of hand when gossip degenerates into rumour. It may be getting ever more difficult to give a dinner party or even an outdoor fete or even meet up in a bar if things carry on in this way.
I realise some people love dinner parties because they can invite the most disparate guests and see what happens on the night but it would be so much more helpful if people made up their own opinions of others (and kept them to themselves) when they actually meet socially.
Talking of parties, I can happily say that I have usually never had to remember Shakespeare’s lines on rumour as I like to think about the positive qualities people I meet give me, whether they paint pictures or whether they grow vines or whether they drive a Ferrari or whether they compose musicals or whether they write for rags or whether they build nice furniture or whether they like Elgar or whether they just enjoy life.
At the same time there are some personalities that stand out and these are invariably either the memorably great and modest or the unmemorably pompous and arrogant. The problem is how to recognise them in time.
We all make mistakes, starting from choosing our so-called chums in the school playground, and with only six and a half thousand people in circulation in Bagni di Lucca mistakes in relationships can happen all too easily.
In the past year, for example, I have met people I can safely say I can trust and admire for the rest of my life and (unfortunately at the same time) people I wish didn’t live so close to me. What is needed is tolerance I suppose, but how many of us are willing to extend the boundaries of tolerance in this austerity-ridden, consumer-pushed and ideologically multifarious age?
Now I am beginning to sound like a moralist, which I don’t certainly want to be classed as, and will confide my deepest thoughts on who to trust and who not to trust on my truly best friends who know me better than myself and some of whom are the following: