Listen: When Robin Williams Played the Metropolitan Opera

Monday, August 11, 2014 - 08:00 PM

Robin Williams at the Metropolitan Opera Robin Williams at the Metropolitan Opera (Album art)

In 1986, Robin Williams appeared on the giant stage of the Metropolitan Opera House to give one of his landmark stand-up performances, in which he took on a range of topics including opera singers and their audiences. He went on to lampoon the world of elite ballerinas, poke fun at the Met's chandeliers, and joke about his own training at Juilliard. 

Upon taking the stage, Williams asked, "I wonder if Pavarotti is down at the Improv going, 'Two Jews walk into a bar.'"

Williams's performance was considered a milestone, both professionally (it was the first solo comedy show at the Met) and personally (he had recently kicked a cocaine addiction that had threatened to derail his career). Highlights from the frenetically paced routine were released by Sony and won a Grammy Award in 1988. Below is the opening monologue. Williams died on Monday at the age of 63.

Note: Contains some vulgar language.

3 pm Update: Watch the first portion of the HBO special of Live at the Met (contains some different material, also with adult language).


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Comments [9]

Victoria Loudis from Queens, NY

Such a talent, and a really decent human being by all accounts. Robin Williams' antic energy will be sorely missed. Part of the tragedy is that newer treatments for Parkinson's are being tried. If he had hung in there a little longer, perhaps there would have been a way to make a difference in the course of the disease. A magnetic treatment for depression also exists. Of course it isn't covered by insurance, but Robin could afford it...

Aug. 17 2014 04:28 PM
Bonnie Dietrich

Although I never watched much TV, and only got to see a few of Robin Williams' films I always enjoyed his work. Now that he is gone I'm tremendously touched by everything I've been reading about him this week: he generosity, brilliance, kindness to so many people, and his struggles What a remarkable human being! It's a terrible loss for so many people, but I hope we can pay tribute to his memory through good deeds large and small.

Aug. 15 2014 01:08 PM
Thomas from Flanders, NJ

He would have been so perfect as Frosch the jailer in "Die Fledermaus."

Aug. 14 2014 05:57 PM

Robin Williams could have said along with Edna St. Vincent Millay:

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

This "candle" could not last either. I'm still shocked about Robin Williams suicide!

Aug. 12 2014 01:24 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

How can one overestimate the originality, the full, all out exploration of the subject, the circumstance at hand that ROBIN WILLIAMS probed at every stage and film performance. Like Tschaikowsky he was often depressed.
Tschaikovsky was clinically diagnosed as as melancholic. That might also apply to ROBIN. EDGAR ALLEN POE wrote THE RAVEN when he was high on cocaine. MOUSSORGSKY composed when he was drunk, so known to be the case that his friend RIMSKY-KORSAKOFF told him "The liquor keeps you in high spirits and nourishes your compositional capacity." I believe these addicts talk it into themselves, that they would be MUCH better at their craft if only they worked with greater discrimination in the details. ROBIN WILLIAMS R.I.P. you've given great joy to those who've experienced your talent.

Aug. 12 2014 01:22 PM
Eugene B. Kordahl from New Orleans, LA

As a long time listener to WQXR FM, I've heard the demise of many special personages announced. Once again, Mr. Williams family wishes are being respected with the emphasis on his appearance on the Met stage. I was looking forward to his appearance in "The Bat" as Frith, the jailer. Only my imagination will have to do. Hail and Farewell to an American genius of humor.

Aug. 12 2014 01:18 PM

Thank you Alexandra for the kind words. A loss like this is unexplainable.

Aug. 12 2014 11:23 AM
Alexandra Colmant from Queens, NY

WQXR is sensitve and discreet when paying tribute to deceased performing artists...I appreciate it.

The Karl Jenkins Ave Maria was simple, arresting, and clarifying.

Thank you for the programming and the broadcaster comments which seek to calm, and often inspire, the listener.

Aug. 12 2014 10:45 AM
Harry from Howard Beach, N.Y.


Aug. 11 2014 11:15 PM

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