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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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The Particularities of Aging and Creativity

(p.96) Chapter Seven Conclusion
Four Last Songs

Linda Hutcheon

Michael Hutcheon

University of Chicago Press

Each of these canonical composers experienced their unique creativity as both the cause of and the cure for an individual “later-life crisis” (to match Elliott Jaques “mid-life crisis”). That each could and did emerge from this crisis is evidence of the power of the role of creativity in allowing them—in radically different ways—to adapt their self-fashionings in times of stress. To contextualize this adaptation, the chapter places them into a larger context of some of their peers—Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953), Leoš Janáček (1854–1928), Hans Werner Henze (1926–2012), Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912–1990), Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), and Ethel Smyth (1858–1944). Their diverse late-life stories highlight both the shared vicissitudes of aging and the individual power of creativity as a way to meet them, as well as the changing demands (made by oneself and others) that come with long artistic careers. Returning to the four central aging composers to conclude, the chapter asks whether their final operas could constitute Vollendungsopern, that is, summing-up works of completion that act as aesthetic final chapters in their self-constructed life narratives.

Keywords:   later-life crisis, Elliott Jaques, Prokofiev, Janáček, Hans Werner Henze, Jean Sibelius, Ethel Smyth, Vollendungsoper

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