Rossini and the Great(ish) Avocado Debacle

You may have missed this, but recently there was a minor furor over avocados. Some gazillionaire from Australia got on an internet soapbox and chastised today’s young people for spending too much money on brunch. $19 on smashed avocado toast plus four $4 coffees, to be precise. Kids nowadays, eh? His point, albeit a tired one, was that with all these outrageous extravagances, no one will ever be able to do grownup things like buy a house or retire early. Seems like a stretch to me. But then I’ve been buying $3 coffees for many years now. If you’re the self-flagellating type, you can go online and find what’s been catchily named the Latte Factor Calculator. Enter how much much you’ve spent daily on coffee over the last twenty years and see how you’ve thrown away hundreds of thousands of dollars.


If you’re reading between the lines here, I’m telling you that early retirement is not in the cards for me. However, I have great faith that all of you have been much more sensible, and that shrugging off the yoke of the oppressor is a viable option any day now.


By way of inspiration, consider the story of the great Italian composer Gioachino Rossini. You may think you don’t know much about the music of Rossini, but I promise you that you do. If you heard even a few bars of his Overture to the Barber of Seville, I know you could hum the rest. Don’t be ashamed if you’re more familiar with The Rabbit of Seville than its operatic forerunner. Same music, different words. (“Welcome to my shop, let me cut your mop…”)


Rossini started early. His first opera was premiered when he was just eighteen years old, and he went on to write an astonishing thirty-eight more of them over the next twenty years. When you consider that most of them were between two and four hours in length, I’d call this nothing less than nineteenth-century breakneck speed.


Then at the age of ripe old age of thirty-eight, Rossini retired. It wasn’t that he had run out of inspiration, he just didn’t want to compose anymore. In fact, when he was still in his twenties, he made it known that he was eager to stop working by the time he was thirty. His last opera was William Tell. (This is the other overture that I know you know even if you don’t think you know it: think The Lone Ranger.) He lived another forty years, but wrote only a few small pieces now and then. “Sins of Old Age” he called them.


His immense financial success from hits like The Barber of Seville, The Thieving Magpie and La Cenerentola (Cinderella) made retirement rather an easy choice. Rossini lived out the rest of his long life throwing fabulous parties and becoming quite the foodie. Fancy restaurants still serve many of his culinary inspirations, like Tournedos Rossini.


For those of you planning out your extra-extended golden years of freedom, you could do worse than taking a page or two from Rossini’s playbook. For the rest of us, shackled to the grindstone till our twilight hours, we’ll always have our overpriced brunch. If anyone cares to join me, I’m buying.