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Four Last SongsAging and Creativity in Verdi, Strauss, Messiaen, and Britten$
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Linda Hutcheon and Michael Hutcheon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226255590

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226255620.001.0001

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Creative Responses to the Challenges of Aging

Creative Responses to the Challenges of Aging

Chapter:
(p.11) Chapter Two Creative Responses to the Challenges of Aging
Source:
Four Last Songs
Author(s):

Linda Hutcheon

Michael Hutcheon

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226255620.003.0002

This chapter uses as an illustration the late life and last works of a seemingly unlikely candidate for inclusion in a study of canonical composers: Jacques Offenbach (1818–1880), the master of the satirical French operetta form. In his last years, he sought to complete the work he wanted to be his serious legacy, the opera Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Through the many difficulties he encountered in doing so, his story introduces the kinds of the challenges faced by the four core composers of this study: aesthetic/generational (Verdi), political (Strauss), ambition/expectations (Messiaen), health/impairment (Britten). The critical reception of last works, both in general and in particular, is examined in the context of the long history of “late style” discourse, with its contrasting evaluative models of old age decline and apotheosis. With the rise of musical modernism and cultural modernity—and their aesthetic of progress and innovation—came an expectation of change and experiment that brought yet other artistic challenges.

Keywords:   Jacques Offenbach, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, late style, modernism, progress, opera

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