The Power of the Feminine
[ Issue 10 ]

The Power of the Feminine holds a lot of interest for Emily Bronto

Bikwil honours the Power of the Feminine

The Power of the Feminine

In this essay, The Power of the Feminine, Clare Hansson asks, "Was Wagner’s ideal of Woman his Muse on this spiritual plane?"

When I hear Wagnerian music, I hear rampant masculinity and surging power. I also hear luscious eroticism

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The Power of the Feminine — Clare Hansson


When I hear Wagnerian music, I hear rampant masculinity and surging power. I also hear luscious eroticism. Wagner's ideal of music and drama combined to create something on a plane far above the normal level of artistic experience. Was Wagner’s ideal of Woman his Muse on this spiritual plane? Two quotations illustrate the power of the feminine in Wagner's creative process.

Music is a woman . . . She must be loved by the poet, must surrender herself to him, in order that the new art-work of the future may be born . . . the begetter must be the artist. (Richard Wagner, Opera and Drama, 1851)

Women, indeed, are the music of life; they absorb everything more openly and unconditionally, in order to embellish it by means of their sympathy. (Richard Wagner, letter to Theodor Uhlig, December 27 1849)

Such outpourings on the importance of Woman to his creative spirit preceded Wagner’s conception of Tristan und Isolde in 1857. It was inevitable, then, that he would attribute the artistic flow of this work to a woman — Mathilde Wesendonck — whose loving care and profound understanding of his nature was inspirational to the work. When Tristan und Isolde finally had its première in 1865, Wagner's musical imagery in the prelude drew on sexual longing he had himself experienced. Audiences who have experienced similar feelings are swept along with the soaring sexuality of intervals demanding resolution, or the aching chromaticism of desire. With Isolde achieving transcendence in the climax, it could be said that the opera has a sustained feminine ending.

Another profoundly influential female in Wagner's life was the daughter of Franz Lizst, Cosima von Bülow, a self-sacrificing and congenial friend. She later became Wagner's second wife.

Wagner’s music springs from both his deep, personal experience with women and his power to awaken the feminine within his own essential nature. He preferred softness in all its forms during the process of artistic creation. From conception to the birth of his poetic and musical ideas, the feminine was woven into the finest threads of his musical fabric.

In point of fact, two days before his death in February 1883, Wagner began writing a treatise — On the Feminine in Human Nature.

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