I did not remember Charlotte’s magnum opus, although I learned this word from her when I was a child reading E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I thought her great work was her love for Wilbur expressed in the words she spun (“RADIANT,” “HUMBLE,” and others) that protected him from being slaughtered. Today, I aspire to her heroic unexpected advocacy, but I have been reminded that this is not what she calls her magnum opus. It is her egg sac.
About a dozen years after reading Charlotte’s Web, I started graduate school, planning to write an opera for my dissertation. I developed my composition portfolio as preparation for this piece I thought would become my magnum opus. Now, as I labor through revisions to my chamber opera Abigail, the work seems great in the sense of having overwhelming magnitude, but perhaps my magnum opus, like Charlotte’s, will be something distinct from what I write.