A Wagner Matinee

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"A Wagner Matinee"
Author Willa Cather
Language English
Published in Everybody's Magazine
Publication type Magazine
Media type Short story
Publication date February 1904

A Wagner Matinee is a short story by Willa Cather. It was first published in Everybody's Magazine in February 1904.[1] In 1906, it appeared in Cather's first published collection of short stories, The Troll Garden.

Plot summary[edit]

A young Bostonian named Clark receives word that his Aunt Georgiana is coming to visit from Nebraska to settle an estate. As a young woman, Georgiana had been a talented music teacher at the Boston Conservatory until, during a trip to the Green Mountains, she met Howard Carpenter, ten years her junior. They eloped and moved to a homestead in Nebraska.

Thirty years have passed since Georgiana has seen Boston. Clark recalls her kindness to him when, as a boy, he visited Nebraska and she introduced him to Shakespeare, classical mythology, and the music she played on her small parlour organ.

Clark takes his aunt to a symphony concert of music from Richard Wagner's Tannhauser, Tristan und Isolde, and The Flying Dutchman. She is intensely moved by the music and listens with tears running down her face. When the concert ends she says, "I don't want to go, Clark, I don't want to go!"

Clark realizes that she has nothing ahead of her but the grim drudgery of life back on the Nebraskan plains.


The story combines two familiar Cather themes — the hardship and desolation of pioneer life and the sustaining power of music on the human spirit.


The story takes place in Boston, but Clark, the narrator, describes Nebraska in detail.


  • Clark, the story's narrator, describes himself as having been "a gangling farmer-boy" with "chilblains"
  • Georgiana Carpenter, Clark's aunt
  • Howard Carpenter, Clark's uncle
  • Mrs. Springer, narrator's landlady

Allusions to other works[edit]


  1. ^ Woodress, James. Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987, p. 172

External links[edit]