Wagner's Ring of Anti-Semitism: Can the Artist Be Separated From His Art?
Friday, November 04, 2011
When the Los Angeles Opera staged its first production of Wagner’s Ring cycle in 2009, there were protests outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and local politicians called on the company to cancel the production. Here in New York, the Metropolitan Opera is more than half-way through its multi-season Ring Cycle, and there’s been hardly a dissenting voice – locally at least.
Last month, a movie theater chain in Jerusalem said it won’t screen two Wagner operas from the Met's HD broadcasts, out of sensitivity to its patrons. Wagner, of course, was a fervent anti-Semite whose work later inspired Nazi leaders. So can the man be separated from his music? How should Wagner be treated in Israel, which maintains an unwritten Wagner ban?
Naomi Lewin is joined by three experts:
• Roberto Paternostro is music director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra. In July, he led the ensemble in Wagner's Siegfried Idyll – along with works by Jewish composers – at the annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany.
• Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of Interfaith Affairs at The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. He spoke out about the Los Angeles Opera's Wagner festival in 2009.
• Michael Beckerman is a Professor and Chair of Music at New York University and a specialist in 19th-century European music.
Weigh in: How do you think Wagner should be addressed today? Should the Met and other companies do more to acknowledge his anti-Semitism? Can one separate the art from the artist? Leave your comments below:
Podcast producer: Brian Wise; Engineer: Bill O'Neil