Princess Sack-of-Potatoes’ birthday party was a great success. My daughter’s in-laws were very congenial and we all good-naturedly performed all the kids’ party rituals. We dutifully sang off key to ‘Happy Birthday” and applauded the blowing out of the four candles. We watched as the cake was cut and the opening of the presents and even a spirited game of pin the tail on the donkey. Only for some unknown reason it was tape the nose on the clown. This particular clown looked like some kind of nightmarish psychopath which I found quite disturbing but the kids were unperturbed.
When we had all eaten enough burgers and potato salad and cake and ice cream and all the presents were opened the parents gathered up their kids and headed home. Camera Girl agreed that the event was a great success and we began some of the clean-up.
But I was in the mood for something interesting. Lately I have been watching YouTube videos of the operatic aria “Largo al factotum” from the Barber of Seville. It’s the song that everyone remembers from various classic cartoons of the 1940s that has the famous stanza, “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!
I watched about a dozen different versions, some going back to the 1920s. And it occurred to me, “What an interesting character Figaro is!” Here is the swaggering braggart. He is a big fish in a little pond. In his own mind he is a hero, a Hercules of a thousand great labors. He is always in demand and always acclaimed by the crowd.
And of course, he is merely a legend in his own mind. His actual trades are barber, dentist, wig maker and a sort of go-between for couples in love. He passes love notes and such things. So, he really is a nothing.
But he has a quick wit, the gift of gab, a way with women and enormous self-confidence. And putting those things together creates a formidable character. Some people may recognize someone like this. I knew someone of exactly the type. They always have a treasure trove of amazing personal stories. And their personal lives tend to be an awful mess. They combine recklessness, selfishness and even a bit of cruelty along with their natural abilities as a clown, a skirt chaser and a leader of the riff-raff. In many ways they are fascinating personalities but they leave a trail of angry women in their wake and never seem to grow up.
And it occurred to me that is why I enjoy the aria. I recognize the type that Figaro is the symbol of. And the scene captures that reality splendidly. And the music is wonderful.
And what a great character he would be to put in a story! Somehow, I’ve got to have a swaggering braggart in one of my stories. It would just be too great a thing to ignore. And in fact, I need him to be a recurring character in a “world” that I make. It will be a sort of an homage to an old friend that I knew long, long ago in a place far, far away.
Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo! Fortunatissimo per verità!