Four Last Songs: Aging and Creativity in Verdi, Strauss, by Linda Hutcheon, Michael Hutcheon

By Linda Hutcheon, Michael Hutcheon

Getting older and creativity can look a very fraught dating for artists, who usually face age-related problems as their audience’s expectancies are at a top. In 4 final Songs, Linda and Michael Hutcheon discover this factor through the past due works of a few of the world’s maximum composers.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901), Richard Strauss (1864–1949), Olivier Messiaen (1908–92), and Benjamin Britten (1913–76) all wrote operas overdue in lifestyles, items that demonstrate particular responses to the demanding situations of aging. Verdi’s Falstaff, his simply comedic luck, combated Richard Wagner’s impact via introducing younger Italian composers to a brand new version of nationwide song. Strauss, however, suffering from own and political difficulties in Nazi Germany, composed the self-reflexive Capriccio, a “life review” of opera and his personal legacy. even though it exhausted him bodily and emotionally, Messiaen on the age of seventy-five complete his basically opera, Saint François d’Assise, which marked the head of his profession. Britten, in the meantime, being affected by cardiovascular disease, refused surgical procedure until eventually he had accomplished his masterpiece, loss of life in Venice. For all 4 composers, age, faraway from sapping their inventive strength, supplied impetus for a few of their most sensible accomplishments.
With its deft remedy of those composers’ ultimate years and works, 4 final Songs offers a necessary examine the challenges—and opportunities—that current themselves as artists get older.

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Additional resources for Four Last Songs: Aging and Creativity in Verdi, Strauss, Messiaen, and Britten

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Even without real illness, life is a burden, and I feel that vitality and strength are diminishing, each day more than the one before. 82 And just days before his death at the age of eighty-eight, he wrote: “I can no longer read, nor write; my eyes are giving out; my feeling dims; and even my legs don’t want to carry me around anymore. ”83 Verdi would leave more than his operas as his legacy to Italy. In his last years, once he became fi nancially secure, Verdi began building a series of philanthropic establishments.

In the years during which Wagner composed his last opera, he not only scrutinized himself for symptoms of decline in “inspiration, invention, and technical fluency,”62 but had also become deeply concerned with what he saw as the degeneration (Entartung) of the entire human race. He believed he understood the causes of this: miscegenation, a nonvegetarian diet, vivisection and other forms of cruelty to animals, and hereditary wealth (supported by the state and the church). In his diaries and in a series of what are called the “regeneration” essays in the Bayreuther Blätter in the early 1880s, he both analyzed the problems and offered what he saw as solutions.

63 When Parsifal, the youth, is chastised for killing a swan, we are reminded of the essays against cruelty to animals. The more offensive writings on the corruption of the blood by the mixing of races and the need for the renunciation of the flesh seem incarnated in the portrayal of Kundry, an exoticized, sexualized, and Judaicized woman from the East who has caused the fall of Amfortas, the new Grail leader. That this fallen society can only be saved by someone from outside—Parsifal—who learns from his initial sin against nature and comes to experience suffering and compassion (Mitleid) for the wounded Amfortas is another of Wagner’s firmly held, personal, individualist be- 36 chapter three liefs.

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