When Wagner was between the ages of thirty-four and forty, his musical productivity unaccountably withered away. At thirty-four he had completed his fourth successful opera, Lohengrin; six months later in January 1848 his mother Johanna died. During the next six years, he wrote a series of dramas and treatises in which he developed his notion that music is essentially feminine, like a maternal sea, and that the man who would be an operatic musician must first become an "unconditionally-loving woman." The joining of verse with music was for him the union of male with female. The musical drought ended with the terrifying flood of the Rheingold water music in 1853, coinciding with Wagner's deepening attachment to Wesendonck's young wife, Mathilde. Wagner himself stressed the necessity of his fusion with a mother figure in order to produce music, yet he maintained a split between good and bad mother images. He had had a very traumatic infancy and childhood, and his turbulent borderlineadolescence had been marked by night terrors, visual hallucinations, and episodes of destructive and self-destructive behavior, including rioting, vandalism, gambling, drinking, and sexual "buccaneering." Later, his low self-image was projected onto the French, the Jews, and the Italians, while his grandiosity and genius found expression in his dreams. His musical productivity seemed enhanced by his relation with two very different women, the diva, Schroder-Devrient, and his first wife, Minna, each fitting an aspect of the split maternal image. When his mother died, he had abandoned his music and his comfortable home to become a revolutionary. He
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was able to return to his musico-mythological universe only when he became convinced six years later (while he was still married) that Mathilde was in love with him.
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Seides, S.W. (1977). Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. XXXIX, 1975. Psychoanal. Q., 46:344-345