A COMPOSER’S MIDLIFE CRISIS: WAGNER BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOPENHAUER
Dr Jamie McGregor, lecturer, Department of Literary Studies in English, Rhodes University
This course attempts to reconcile two outwardly contradictory views of the nineteenth century German opera composer Richard Wagner. Where Thomas Mann argued for a ‘basic unity underlying his perfectly consistent and fully rounded life’s work – a work that “develops”, but in a sense is all there right from the beginning … [suggesting] conscious strategy … a whole career carefully mapped out in advance’, there is, on the other hand, a widespread conviction that Wagner was never the same again after encountering the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer while midway through his greatest work, the Ring. This seeming paradox can nonetheless be resolved by seeing the composer’s shift in outlook as enabling the maturation and enrichment of his earlier aims.
Magee, B. 2001. Wagner and Philosophy. London: Penguin.