Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Voices Part IV - Some of The Hobbit Cast Reading Poetry, Shakespeare, and The Raven

I started this series of posts about voices to highlight the power of the voice and how great actors can move us, inspire us, and amaze us, with a wonderful and unique voice.  

In this fourth Voices post I want to highlight the voices of a few of the actors in the cast of The Hobbit.  Whether it's the depth of the voice, or the vocal range, or the particular music of the accent, or   even an idiosyncratic way of using words, to me the four men below have voices that command our attention and our emotions.

I've highlighted Richard Armitage's  marvelous voice in a previous Voices post, but his deep masculine voice, and wonderful vocal range always amaze and inspire me.  Luckily for us, thanks to BBC Radio, we have the privilege of hearing him reading poetry on occasion.  Below he reads "Wife in London", a poem by Thomas Hardy:

I think that it has to be challenging for an actor to play a famous person, even someone from a time before film and video still kept the real person more of a mystery.  Aidan Turner played the famous artist and writer Dante Gabriel Rosetti in the BBC series Desperate Romantics (2009).  Turner's voice has a lovely musical quality, and in the video below he reads one of Rosetti's poems, The Kiss, as he portrays the artist himself:

< There are actors that are known for their unique voice, and their unique phrasing of words. For me Sir Ian McKellen is one of those special actors.  In the video clip below a young Ian McKellen makes a very well known soliloquy from Shakespeare's Macbeth very much his own:

There are even some voices that frighten us, "tenebrosa" would be the word in Spanish, and I don't know an English equivalent. Voices that have a certain quality that reaches that certain part of our imagination frightened of the dark.  The great Christopher Lee has that special quality in his voice, and we can become enchanted by it, and frightened as well.  In the video below Christopher Lee reads from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:

To read  and listen to my other Voices posts, click on the link below:



  1. Interesting post! I'm glad that you've put several of these fabulous voices here. It helps to compare and really highlights how each is so distinctive yet so powerful, impactful. I was most surprised about Aidan's voice because I don't really know him as an actor. Not sure I've seen him in anything. And given the heavy-duty make-up and costumes the dwarves will wear, I suspect the one feature we will most clearly recognize are their voices. What I found interesting was how low Richard's voice was in the spoof movie of the Dwarves for Rise Up Christchurch, like he has already immersed himself so much in his role that the timbre of his voice has become lower, whereas it is much higher in his reading of the poem you've attached. He really does modulate his voice a lot. I suspect the musician in him has helped him understand the power of the voice and how to nuance it. I guess that's why he is so good at audiobooks as well.
    Another voice I would have loved for you to include is Benedict Cumberbatch's. Have you heard? Rumours are swirling that he'll play the voice of Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit...

  2. Hi Calexora,

    Thank you for your wonderful and thoughtful comments.

    When I was thinking about doing this post with some of The Hobbit actors, I thought I might make it a series of posts if I can find audio or video clips from the other actors, less well known actors. I was looking for a clip with Martin Freeman yesterday, but couldn't find one I liked.

    Would love to do a post and includes Benedict Cumberbatch's voice, maybe in a role or doing a reading that will make us think more of him as Smaug - I have seen that rumor on the LOTR/Hobbit sites also. I've seen quite a bit of his TV work from the UK, for a while it seemed every series on US public television had him as the star. But I haven't seen him play a villain and I can't imagine him as Smaug's voice right now, though he's a very good actor. I'll start looking and see what I find with Cumberbatch (I love Sherlock by the way).

    I've seen Aidan Turner in Being Human and Desperate Romantics only, but I actually prefer his voice when he's speaking with his own Irish accent, but I'm assuming we won't hear his real accent in The Hobbit (RP I assume).

    Agree with you about Richard's voice! His vocal range is amazing. I love to listen to him in anything, but especially reading poetry. I think that is so difficult to do well and not sound somewhat artificial, and his readings always sound as though he's just thought of those words himself, and so true to the emotion behind the words.

    I hope they announce soon if Cumberbatch is Smaug or not!

  3. I'd never heard Richard read 'Wife in London' before, Musa. Thanks for posting it. Besides his recitation of the Ted Huges poem 'Song' my favorite example of the rich texture of his voice is Lords of the North. The vocal range for at least a dozen different characters is simply amazing. Reminds me that it's almost a year since I've listened to it for the 3rd time...must try to fit the 4th in some time soon.

    That photo of Aiden Turner is the handsomest I've ever seen of him. He looks so much more mature today.

    Thx again, ann

  4. Hi Ann!
    I love RA reading Lords of the North also, wish he would have recorded all the other books in the Saxon Stories. I'm listening to "Sylvester" at the moment, I like the Heyer books too. Glad you liked "Wife in London" :)
    Aidan is a good looking guy, though still in his 20's. He wasn't as "wild" looking in Desperate Romantics :)

  5. I think why Richard's reading of poetry is so moving, and convincing is that he understands the poem, and can put the accent, and focus on the right words to really convey the full meaning of the poem. I suspect it's because he studied English at Pattison then trained at LAMDA and worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company...all good training grounds.

    And can I just add that anyone who speaks with a gorgeous English, Irish or Scottish accent makes me drool...I know...very fangurlly but it's true. I was in heaven when I lived in Edinburgh...So many beautiful accents (they are not all the same across Scotland) compared to plain old Canadian... :)

  6. Very interesting post and comments. All these fabulous actors make excellent readers, each one with his characteristic style, amazing to think we will see all of them working in the same project.."The Hobbit"

  7. @Summer - Agree with you that it is amazing the talented actors of all generations working on The Hobbit.

    @Calexora - I love all those accents too...how wonderful that you lived in Edinburgh. I visited once for a few days, years ago and loved the city.


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