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The saddest clown in the USSR and Vysotsky’s favorite artist: from misunderstanding at home to international recognition

The saddest clown in the USSR and Vysotsky’s favorite artist: from misunderstanding at home to international recognition

Marcel Marceau himself called him a genius of pantomime and “a great poet of the movement”, Vladimir Vysotsky considered him a talented artist and his friend, Czech journalists wrote that he was a clown “with autumn in his heart”. This was the only clown in the USSR-lyricist, intellectual, romantic and philosopher – Leonid Yengibarov. He didn’t think it was his main job to make people laugh, but to make them think. Many did not accept this approach, Nikulin first criticized him, and later recognized the uniqueness of his talent. At the age of 29, he became the best clown in Europe, and at 37, he died prematurely of a broken heart.

 

Yengibarov destroyed traditional ideas about clowns – he performed without bright makeup, a red nose and red wigs. He didn’t say a word during the entire speech, but the silence was more eloquent than any words. At first, his reprises were not a noisy success – the audience came to the circus to have fun and laugh, and few people could appreciate the poignant lyrical performances. The philosopher-clown disappointed the audience.

 

Even Yuri Nikulin could not immediately appreciate his unique talent. He later recalled: “When I saw him for the first time in the arena, I didn’t like him. And three years later, when I saw him again at the Moscow circus ring, I was delighted. He had an amazing command of the pause, creating the image of a slightly sad person, and each of his reprises not only amused, amused the audience, no, it also carried a philosophical meaning. Yengibarov, without uttering a word, spoke to the audience about love and hate, about respect for a person, about the touching heart of a clown, about loneliness and vanity. And all this he did clearly, gently, unusually.”

 

Yengibarov earned international recognition at a fairly early age – at just 29 years old, he became the best clown in Europe, when at the International clown competition in Prague, he received the first prize – The E. bass Cup. After that, success awaited him at home: Yengibarov performed not only in the circus, but also on the stage with “pantomime Evenings”, starred in films, and toured a lot.

 

Yengibarov was friends with Vysotsky, Marina Vladi in the book “Vladimir, or Aborted flight” called him one of the most favorite artists of the poet and she herself spoke of him: “He is young, everything is fine in him. He is also a kind of poet, he makes the audience laugh and cry – both children and adults. This wizard stole the palm from the aging Oleg Popov and other traditional carpet clowns. It works in minor tones. No face cream cakes, no red noses, no striped pants, no big shoes. Breaking plates, he switches the audience from raging laughter to complete silence, and then you are surprised that you have a lump in your throat – and then people take out their handkerchiefs to surreptitiously wipe away their tears.”

 

Before his death, he managed to fulfill his dream-to create a variety theater of pantomime. For sure, Yengibarov would have implemented many more creative projects, but he could not cross the fatal threshold for many creative people – 37 years. A famous clown, one of the best in the USSR, suddenly died of heart failure.

 

Vysotsky was grieving over his departure. Marina Vladi recalled: “One day you get a call and I see your face turn black. You hang up the phone and start crying like a little boy. I hug you, you shout: “Yengibarov is dead! This morning, on Gorky street, he had a heart attack, and no one helped him-they thought he was drunk!”. And 8 years later, on the same day – July 25 – Vysotsky himself died.

 

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