I am besotted with this opera written by a man in his 80th year. Verdi knew in his bones how difficult both life and art could be, yet he chose at the end to immerse himself in laughter. He had a palpable affection for this flawed knight whose appetites are laughably huge and whose self-confidence is even bigger. He makes Falstaff a creature of abundance who lives large and never looks back.
After he has been stuffed in a dirty laundry basket, thrown into the river, poked and prodded, and terrified out of his wits, he comes to terms with the fact that he’s been the object of mockery and ridicule. At that point, a lesser man might retreat into an angry and defensive posture. But Sir John is bigger than that. He pats his belly and says, “People mock me and boast about it. Yet without me, they wouldn’t have even a pinch of spice in their life. It is I who makes them seem clever.”
The creative and big-hearted people who make up the WTOC family every summer bring that same spice into our lives. God bless them; they make us seem clever. They are still learning, they are flawed, and they don’t have all of the answers. But they daily deny the stinginess, fear and over-caution that takes the joy out of life. They, like Sir John, live with a philosophy of abundance, not scarcity. They, like him, aren’t deluded about the fact that none of this is perfect, easy or simple. They are willing to take chances – to reap the benefits when the risks pay off and to be undeterred and ready to try again when they fail.
And so, after three months that seemed simultaneously very long and way too short, we send this year’s Company back into the world. A combination of pride and late summer fatigue makes me more sentimental than I typically am, but in the spirit of Falstaff, I will indulge in it for a few more hours. To the 2013 WTOC and everyone who lavished time, energy and talent on this year’s season: Bravi tutti, and ciao for now.