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A Tragedy of Operatic Proportions

January 21, 2012
Can the Costa Concordia shipwreck be turned into an Italian Opera?

The recent tragedy in Italy may not be quite as bad as the sinking of the Titanic, but it is bad enough!

wreckage of the Costa Concordia
The wreck of the Costa Concordia
It seems to me that the horror of the Costa Concordia shipwreck (and that of the Titanic, too, on a much larger scale) derives in part from the fact that a cruise is symbolic of pleasure, contentment, relaxation, and enjoyment.  There are terrible accidents every day in this world, and enormous suffering, but we have become accustomed to it.  However, when people are struck – in the very midst of taking their pleasure – by grinding tragedy, fatal errors, and pointless loss of life, our sense of outrage can readily be triggered.

Macleans has published an article that takes this tragedy and turns it into a form of black humour: laying out the horrendous series of events as if they were the plot of an Italian opera.  With their permission I have posted the article on this website (you can get to it by clicking here).

After Macleans put the article online, the comments that readers began to post under it were divided between utter disgust and absolute delight and hilarity; with the edge, if there is one, going to the cheers and the bravos.  I myself have good friends who first chuckled, then recoiled, believing that the article verges on poor taste.

But when you think of it, almost all humour has a “black” side, doesn't it?  Jokes get a lot of their punch from human foolishness, stupidity, or bad behaviour.  In that, this Macleans article excels.  A person can acknowledge that there is terrible sorrow underway, and still laugh at the vain and fearful captain with a sexy girl at his side.  You can cheer for the brave mayor and the indignant Capt. De Falco, and you can cry as the bodies are found... all of which is, at the end of the day, the stuff of which great operas and great comedies are made.  I ended up saying “Bravo!” with some of the article’s readers, while being totally respectful of those who are indignant.

I’ve posted the article here on my website and you are welcome to form your own opinion. Meanwhile, may the dead rest in peace, may the brave be honoured, may the foolish repent, and may we all find a way to laugh at ourselves.

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