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Aging, Creativity and Faith: The Late Musical Works of Oliver Messiaen

Aging, Creativity and Faith: The Late Musical Works of Oliver Messiaen
222 College Street, Ste. 106, Fields Building
Time: Feb 24th, 12:10 pm End: Feb 24th, 1:30 pm
Interest Categories: Religion, Study of (FAS), Psychology, Psychiatry, Music, Faculty of , Italian Studies (FAS), German (FAS), French (FAS), English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Drama, Theatre, Performance Studies (FAS), Critical Theory, Comparative Literature (FAS), Communications, Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (UTM), Art (FAS), Anthropology (UTM), Anthropology (FAS), 2000-, 1950-2000
Seminar on Olivier Messiaen's sole opera, Saint Francois d'Assise

The University of Toronto’s Institute for Life Course and Aging is pleased to present

AGING, CREATIVITY AND FAITH: THE LATE MUSICAL WORKS OF OLIVIER MESSIAEN


Linda Hutcheon, PhD

Professor, Department of English & Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto

Michael Hutcheon, MD, FRCPc
Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto

Deputy Physician-in-Chief, Education, University Health Network

Thursday, February 24, 2011
12:10 pm – 1:30 pm


The twentieth-century French composer, Olivier Messiaen, wrote only one opera--at the end of a long and illustrious career. He called "Saint François d’Assise" a musical spectacle in eight tableaux that traced the progress of grace in the soul of a saint. Not an obvious subject for an opera, the musicalized story of this saint’s life and death constituted the summa of Messiaen’s creative work, in his words, “a synthesis of my musical findings and, even more importantly, an unprecedented attempt on my part to express my Catholic faith by means of a subject that conveys its principal mysteries. Nevertheless, throughout the 8 years of composing the piece, Messiaen faced possible failure--in professional (if not religious) terms, afraid that he would die before completing this work, as various illnesses beset him. In this first and last opera, he set himself a task he came to fear he could not accomplish: to embed in it, drawing upon Japanese Noh theatre, plain chant, and Hindu ! and Greek rhythms, what he thought were his most important contributions to music—the truths of his faith, his concept of rhythm, and the use of nature (through birdsong) as a structuring motif. He had a crisis of confidence over the manifest difficulties of such a task and faced the challenge of a debilitating depression brought on by dealing with aging and illness, while continuing to create.

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Linda Hutcheon, University Professor Emeritus, Department of English and the Centre for Comparative Literature, is the author of 9 books on contemporary postmodern culture. Michael Hutcheon is a respirologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. His scientific research publications encompass a number of areas: pulmonary physiology; bone marrow transplantation; AIDS; medical education; the semiotics of both cigarette and pharmaceutical advertising.

Their collaborative, interdisciplinary work on the cultural construction of sexuality, gender and disease in opera has been published as Opera: Desire, Disease, Death (1996). Their second book, a study of both the real and the represented operatic body entitled Bodily Charm: Living Opera, was published in 2000 and the third, Opera: The Art of Dying, in 2004 by Harvard University Press. Their current project is a study of the later creative life and “late style” of opera composers.

This seminar will be webcast and can be accessed here.


Seminar Location: 222 College St., Suite 106 in the Fields Building


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