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

Tags:

More in:

Comments [45]

Rich

Wagner condemned the 'Tyranny of Christendom', which means,in a way, he wanted to destroy israelophobia known as anti-semitism. In Meistersingers, there is a reference to "the noble king David." It is simply impossible that Wagner could be a dye in the wool anti-Semite. The Ring Cycle, according to Nietzsche, is a celebration of the Nordic pagan,anti-Catholic spirit that says yes to life by expressing ecstatic sensuality. Also, Wagner fully acknowledged that the Jews had a glorious past. There is no endorsement here of Christendom's anti-semitism,from where it originated. Let's not fall prey to low-life hitler's wishful thinking.

Jun. 19 2013 11:32 PM
Rich

Wagner condemned the 'Tyranny of Christendom', which means,in a way, he wanted to destroy israelophobia known as anti-semitism. In Meistersingers, there is a reference to "the noble king David." It is simply impossible that Wagner could be a dye in the wool anti-Semite. The Ring Cycle, according to Nietzsche, is a celebration of the Nordic pagan,anti-Catholic spirit that says yes to life by expressing ecstatic sensuality. Also, Wagner fully acknowledged that the Jews had a glorious past. There is no endorsement here of Christendom's anti-semitism,from where it originated. Let's not fall prey to low-life hitler's wishful thinking.

Jun. 19 2013 11:32 PM
Constantine from New York

Also, please correct my spelling of "charicatures." Thanks.

May. 22 2013 04:00 PM
Constantine from New York

Once again, my comment went through twice. Once again, please delete one of it and this one.

May. 22 2013 03:50 PM
Constantine from New York

As has been noted, one cannot always separate the flaws of the creator of a work from the work itself. Wagner's anti-semitism may be part and parcel of his work in some cases. Mime and Alberich may well have been intended as characatures of Jews, though this is not explicitly stated. But need one regard a work as flawless, morally or otherwise, in order to enjoy its virtues? Should The Merchant of Venice, a blatantly anti-semitic work, be banned? And how many of us agree with Hamlet's values or actions? We can enjoy the play even if we think he's an idiot. We all know that "the opinions expressed in this work are not necessarily those of the performers."

Also, in addition to those composers mentioned, Chopin and Beethoven were also anti-semites, as has been pointed out by Daniel Barenboim, a notable interpreter of these and other compoers, anti-semitic or not.

May. 22 2013 03:48 PM
Constantine from New York

As has been noted, one cannot always separate the flaws of the creator of a work from the work itself. Wagner's anti-semitism may be part and parcel of his work in some cases. Mime and Alberich may well have been intended as characatures of Jews, though this is not explicitly stated. But need one regard a work as flawless, morally or otherwise, in order to enjoy its virtues? Should The Merchant of Venice, a blatantly anti-semitic work, be banned? And how many of us agree with Hamlet's values or actions? We can enjoy the play even if we think he's an idiot. We all know that "the opinions expressed in this work are not necessarily those of the performers."

Also, in addition to those composers mentioned, Chopin and Beethoven were also anti-semites, as has been pointed out by Daniel Barenboim, a notable interpreter of these and other compoers, anti-semitic or not.

May. 22 2013 03:48 PM
David from Flushing

Do they drive Ford cars in Israel? Henry Ford's book, "The International Jew," had far more influence on Hitler than the music or thoughts of Wagner.

May. 22 2013 11:41 AM

I agree with Henry Watkin - what is the purpose of this story? It is the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth; can't you acknowledge that without emphasizing his moral failings? You don't seem to do this to any other composer. As obnoxious as Wagner may have been, there must have been some good in him - where else did that beautiful music come from?

May. 22 2013 10:30 AM
Henry Watkin from New York, NY

Does this need to be the lead story on the WQXR web site on the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth. If this is really the most salient fact about the composer then perhaps the station should refuse to play his music. And what is gained by empasizing the fact of his antisemitism? Where does this discussion actually lead? Can we not, just for today, take what we can from his music, and appreciate his central role in the history of the art, for indeed, music was never the same after Wagner

May. 22 2013 09:49 AM

Whenever someone comes up with an "approved" list & "non-approved" list, doesn't that make them as bad as any dictator who knows what's best for you? No one person, Gov't, party or entity can decide what's best for me, especially when it comes to music. Freedom of Choice, Freedom of Expression - otherwise we would have only one radio station & one TV station, & one newspaper. A free exchange of ideas is the cornerstone of the US & it's a good thing, as long as you don't try to impose your will on me.

Nov. 09 2011 10:28 PM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

Bravos to those who say "let the music play!" (Stuart, Eilieen and Cavanaugh). It's the best revenge.

And Mr. Meltzer.......next time you find yourself in that "situation", give me call. I can help with a pretty good right jab!

Nov. 09 2011 09:12 AM
Stuart Manger from UK

Distastes, prejudices, hatreds flourish sometimes because people assiduously nurture and water them ( collectively or individually and pass them on to children to similarly feed and water them in some kind of sad greenhouse. And so they live to poison other generations.

If you think Wagner's ant-semitism is appalling, then they greatest way of negating it / paying him back as it were is to appreciate the music he might have hoped would never thrill Jewish people.

I would have hoped that that some 140 years after the man's death, we could agree on the staggering splendour of the music, rather than the silly prose he spouted.

Nov. 08 2011 12:35 PM
EileenCG from Katonah, NY

Art transcends the one who creates it -- however vile the creator may be.

If not,why not burn all the garments of virulent anti-semite Coco Channel, for example.

Nov. 08 2011 11:33 AM

Hermann Levi, 1st conductor of "Parsifal", Berstein, Solti, Barenboim, Rosenstock & many other Jewish conductors could separate Wagner's disgusting polemic writings from his music. So many great Wagnerian singers who were Jewish could do the same, why can't we. Just because a madman used Wagner's polemics AFTER Wagner died doesn't mean we can blame Wagner for that monster. We have the freedom to listen or not, that's what makes America great. We don't ban ideas, books, movies, or music. WE HAVE FREEDOM OF CHOICE & EXPRESSION. Let no one be silenced. All are entitled to their opinion.

Nov. 08 2011 10:21 AM
Michael Meltzer

One admonition, to those who I"m sure in good faithhave said here that this topic should never have been brought up:
There is no such thing as a topic that shouldn't be brought up. I've been walking around with this conflict for years and all the inputs here have at least been helpful to me. If all you intelligent people offer all these views and no one has a neat, sanitized, satisfactory resolution, maybe I can stop feeling that it is my personal failing.

Nov. 08 2011 01:37 AM

I agree that Wagner's writings were abhorrent & in no way justified. As to whether his music should be played, I turn to a Hungarian basso, Deszo Ernster, who was in the Bergen-Belson Concentration Camp. After the war, he sang at the Met and other venues, mostly Wagner roles. If that man, who endured the unimaginable could separate Wagner's writings from his music, then so can I.

Nov. 08 2011 12:19 AM
Paul P from Brooklyn, NY

I think we should be able to listen to Wagner's music without any thought of the person who composed it. Now if he was getting royalties from the sale of his music, I would have a different opinion.

Nov. 07 2011 09:22 PM
Michael Meltzer

First, remember that as anti-semites go, Wagner is a good anti-semite because he is a dead anti-semite. For answering the opening question of this blog, that makes a lot of difference. Whatever the outcome, he'll never again have one-on-one influence or power, never hire or fire, never assassinate anyone's budding career. He's fertilizer.
It's almost thirty years since someone last called me a Goddamned Jew, and I punched him. I was lucky, bystanders separated us before I was murdered, I was no match for that heavyweight piece of human crap. I have a short fuse on that topic, I would do it again.
At the same time, I have a short list of musical compositions I consider "perfect," so seamless that you cannot add or subtract a single note, perfect in their melody, harmony, architecture, emotion and aesthetic beauty. One of those in my list happens to be the Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin. I marvel every time I hear it.
I'm not an opera buff. If Wagner were my neighbor, I'd try to make him want to move elsewhere. But, I would never in a million years suggest that the Prelude that awes me
or any other piece of art be withheld from a world so desperately in need of beauty, especially when that beauty is a model for composers yet to come.
We steer a course between contradictions all the time, that's the human condition and perhaps one of the built-in limitations of human understanding. Business people are used to this, they call it "management." Wagner is just another addition to the pile.

Nov. 07 2011 04:51 PM
Doc C from Ocean County, NJ

Wagner has been gone a long time. Nazi Germany is gone. The holocaust is over and completely abnegated by civil minds. Only the blight of the middle east troubles and the other trouble between peoples around the world carry on. Just like Wagner, we too, will all be gone. Sadly, the troubles between people will persist. "There will be wars and roomers of wars." I fear that until we finally kill-off our own kind, there will be music. I suspect Wagner's music will last at least as long. I'm disappointed that this topic has even come up in this forum. There are far too many World issues that deserve the attention of higher-order thinking other than whether or not the music (art) of a racist, anti-Semite, criminal, or any abject instance of humanity deserves to be performed or appreciated. Shame on those who continue to fan the flame of hate ... and damn anyone pointing their finger in blame or contempt. Music should unite us, soothe our emotions, and help us get along with each other. I will listen to whatever makes me feel good and pray that it is something others will like well enough to perform for me. In spite of the man and his hateful heart, I will continue to listen to Wagner's genius.

Nov. 07 2011 04:25 PM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

I agree with Mr. Scherzer. There are other examples of flawed greatness in human history where we need to separate the creator from the created.

I am sure there are many Jewish musicans who have played/conducted Wagner. From a certain perspective, this may even be a way of thumbing their noses at him.

And I agree with Danny....let's leave this bit of historical trivia in history's dustbin where it belongs. This reminds me of a blog some months ago about composers' sexual preferences.

Another slow day in the blogosphere?

Nov. 07 2011 04:17 PM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

Why we are even discussing this - isn't banning art something the Nazis would do? After all, I think they did ban works of art that they called "degenerate."
Although Wagner was anti-Semitic and a rather obnoxious person, he did write some very beautiful music, so there must have been some good in him somewhere.
We should not ban any music, literature or art just because we do not like the person that created them.

Nov. 07 2011 11:38 AM
arden anderson-broecking from Connecticut

Historically speaking, anti-Semitism was rife in Europe in the nineteenth century, and Wagner was as much as anti-Semite as others were. That being said, I really don't think Wagner set out to write "anti-Semitic music." The Norse myths and epics from which he derived the Ring certainly weren't, nor can I think of anyhing of that nature in any of his other operas. He wrote about mythic gods and heroes,and about human love and passion, whether between man and woman or gods, God and man. I find nothing anti-Semitic in any of that.

Nov. 07 2011 10:24 AM
Ruth Ann from East Brunswick, NJ

My musical knowledge is not as extensive as some of your listeners but I know which music I love to hear, and Wagner's music pleases me. Yes, the man was
anti-semitic. Because I am Jewish it pleases me to flaunt the fact that he has given me the enjoyment he would have denied me. In addition I would like to point out the fact that Isreal has many industrial and economic partners in modern Germany whose backgounds are questionable. Let's face the fact that we can acknowledge the past without allowing it to interfere with our present lives. Anti-semitism exists and probably always will. We need to recognize it, expose it, be wary of it, and carry on enjoying life in spite of it, or the anti-semitics will win.

Nov. 07 2011 09:17 AM
Frank Feldman

The point is and must be that the anti-semitism is right there, in the libretti, and the music. Mahler saw this quite clearly, and said it was clear as day that Alberich was the stockbroker Jew, Mime the ghetto Jew. The audience at the premiere of Meistersinger knew that Beckmesser's song was a parody of cantorial singing. Parsifal has some Schopenhaurian compassion in it, sure, but is, basically, an opera about blood, pure, obviously Aryan, blood. The Jewess must die to preserve its purity. And on and on. Come on, people. You can't honestly have your cake in this case, and eat it too, without at least acknowledging its poison ingredients.

Nov. 06 2011 11:24 PM
Jim Newsom from Hot Springs, Arkansas

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and who are we to judge another person's life. That's above our pay grade. Just enjoy the work of Wagner or any other wonderful music, art or literature. At least this anti-semite amounted to something, most bigots and racists never do.
And besides, who was Adolf Hitler to be any kind of judge of whether a work of music was great or not. That man was terribly overrated and is the best evidence I can find that there is a hell with at least one occupant.

Nov. 06 2011 09:34 PM
Marie from Wanamassa, NJ

Re-reading my comment, I can appreciate that I come off somewhat as a sanctimonious prat. I neglected to add that while I have strong personal feelings, I do not believe Wagner’s, or anyone else’s, work should be banned. Indeed, I myself did walk down the aisle to Wagner’s Bridal Chorus.

I am aware that there are many artists throughout history who have had less than stellar morals. For most of the ones that I have knowledge of, I do have difficulty enjoying their art. But for individuals who have a different perspective, I would never mock their assertion of conscience. It is almost an impossible challenge to live a completely ethical life, and I do not claim to be a poster child for doing so, but I do try. And I do try to maintain some historical and practical perspective. Because where do you draw the line? Which leads me to wonder, upon further consideration, perhaps the most ethical thing IS to promote reconciliation and understanding, as Mr. Beckerman and Mr. Paternostro so eloquently make a case for.

Nov. 06 2011 09:09 PM
Danny from the bathroom

@Bernie

Everyone knows Wagner was anti-Semitic if they have some minor interest in classical music. Holding an hour symposium just to say "Wagner's racist" seems like a waste of time for everyone.

Nov. 06 2011 12:35 PM
Bernie from UWS

@Paul if you listen to the Rabbi's points here, it's not that Wagner shouldn't be played at all, it's that his music should exist in a context that acknowledges the bad things he stood for. The fact that the Met doesn't even hold a symposium or pre-concert lecture about this side of Wagner seems to suggest that they're whitewashing his darker side.

Wagner was the one composer who really informed the Nazi's belief system, unlike, say Richard Strauss, who was just a party to their ideology because he wouldn't stand up to them. I think Wagner should still be performed, of course, but context is everything.

Nov. 06 2011 09:02 AM
Paul from Brooklyn

Not only do I think that Wagner's music should not be performed due to his essay, "Das Judenthum in der Musik"; I also refuse to listen to any composer who was in any way connected to anything anti-semitic. It's a shame that I can no longer enjoy Monteverdi since he was maestro di cappella of San Marco prior to Vatican II issuing the Nostra Aetate and finally putting to rest 2,000 years of Christ-Killer based anti-semitism. Oh! There goes il Prete Rosso Vivaldi! And to think that I used to enjoy his concerti! Does that make me anti-semitic by proxy? I sure hope not.

Richard Strauss wasn't anti-semitic (having the misfortune of living in a time where he had to compose in order to save his own life as well as the lives of his family), but as court composer to the 3rd Reich, I'm going to have to knock him off the list as well. Better safe than sorry.

I guess it's only fair that I strike off literary authors from my list too, right? There goes Dostoevsky and Lovecraft... I'm sure you can all do the google search for "antisemitic" and whatever artistic field you'd like. We should! And we should compile this list on a website so that we can all access this information before possibly enjoying a work of art!

Also, extending this to the future, before I hear or see any newly commissioned work of art, I propose that the proper research should be done and fed into a sort of Conflict of Interest form for me to peruse prior to determining if I enjoy the artists work or not. How can I emotionally connect with an artist if they have not adequately and openly rebuked the Rwandan Genocide? Furthermore, I propose that we extend this line of reasoning to disavow any artist who was (or is) in any way racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic.

--

**I understand that sarcasm is difficult to convey via the internet so I need this disclaimer for the benefit of the obtuse.**

"Der Ring des Nibelungen" is a monumental achievement in every sense of those words. Any human who is capable of such bravura is worthy of all due acclaim -- no matter what he would have personally thought about me since I am of Orthodox Jewish stock and received all my elementary education in Yeshiva.

Nov. 06 2011 08:48 AM
Bill from NJ

Was Wagner an anti semite? yes. Did the Nazi's use Wagner's music as sort of official background music of the reich? Yes (though they also loved Beethoven, go figure). Did Wagner believe the Jews should be put in concentration camps? I doubt it.

I think the man had many things working against him, he could be a loathsome person, but so could a lot of people we revere. For his attempt at burying Mendelsohn (which he nearly achieved, the putz) alone we could revile him....and then, maybe, too, we should revile Lizt, since his daughter married Wagner, and we can assume she shared Wagner's distaste, and if so then she got it from her father..you have the idea. Personally, I think to honor Mendelsohn's birth year in 1809 in 2009, we should have declared a year without Wagner, to even the score....

Anti semitism wasn't limited to Wagner, many of the 'musical establishment' was, I believe the Vienna Philharmonic, for example, didn't hire Jewish musicians in the 19th century (could be wrong, but that is my impression). As one teacher of my son said (Jewish I might add), back then people like brahms probably woke up, told an anti semitic joke, then went on with their day...point being it was common.

With my own feelings the way they are, i can understand where some would feel strongly enough to want to ban the music, but I cannot share in that. I will also point out that after the Nazi era, musicians who had been ardent supporters of nazi ideals were allowed to continue their careers (while some, like Furtwangler, were IMO unjustly acccused of being Nazi sympathizers), and here we have someone who wasn't a nazi.

What makes it worse I think is that Wagner's descendants, at least the ones controlling the legacy, seem to have been pro nazi, from what I understand the current clan is planning on (or has) put an exhibition on the history of Bayreuth, and they openly had items about the horrible support of Nazis some in the family had, and that support put a further stain on it.

Personally, I have come to believe we should honor the music and its genius without trying to make a hero of the man, we should honor the music (if we like it, that is) but also be careful not to hagiarize the man who wrote it.

Nov. 05 2011 08:01 PM

Wagner's anti-semitism is a matter of public record but his reputation as a man also suffers from the relationship of his descendents to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party and perhaps this is unfair to him as he can't be responsible for their actions.

Be that as it may, he's one of the major composers and his music must continue to be freely heard. I say this even as one who has had part of his family murdered by the Nazis.

I think yeoman work has been done by Gottfried Wagner, a son of Wolfgang Wagner and a great grandson of the composer but who had been estranged from his father, in conjunction with Daniel Barenboim in getting Israel to play Wagner.

Despite Wagner's anti-semitism, we cannot blame him for Adolf Hitler.

Nov. 05 2011 04:39 PM
L. Lubin from Fort Lee, NJ

No doubt Wagner was antisemitic, as was a good deal of Europe in the 19th Century. But a good deal of his antipathy was due to grudges against Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn (hence his notorious diatribe "The Jews in Music.")

After attempting to get Hermann Levi to convert in order to conduct the premiere of Parsifal, which Wagner felt could not be conducted by anyone but a Christian, he relented and was more than pleased by the results. The following year Levi was the last person outside the Wagner family to see the Master before his death. He wrote to his father, the chief rabbi of teh university town of Chemnitz, that Wagner was the finest man he ever knew! Just as Hans von Bülow remained a friend and champion of Wagner's music after his wife Cosima was taken from him. And as did Liszt whose daughter she was. Wagner was only two years Liszt's junior. There obviously had to be something more than just the music to keep these peoples' loyalty and amity.

The Nazi's had their doubts about Parsifal, banning all performances, even at Bayreuth, in 1939. Hitler had a few performances in Berlin, but in the main, redemption through compassion was not considered an appropriate theme for the Reich. Yet some writers have attempted to use Parsifal as a roadmap of Wagner's supposed Aryanism.

Posterity too often has an agenda. A superficial knowledge of the facts is easily subverted to that agenda. A little more knowledge often is the remedy.

Nov. 05 2011 04:35 PM

Come on guys, lets just give Wagner a chance. I'm sick and tired of people diminishing this guys music cause of his antisemitism. None of this composers are perfect. The lack of perfection hindered not their genius.

Nov. 05 2011 04:28 PM
Dieter Ohl from Ridgewood, NJ

For the most part, either one likes Wagner's music or doesn't. To convince anyone else can be quite futile, just like with politics and religion. The musical genius has to be separated from the writer of inflaming personal convictions. Besides his antisemic stance, he also had a strong dislike of the French and Jesuits. We don't hear about Wagner not being played in France. He was always on the run from his creditors, the vast majority of which happend to be Jewish. There lies some of the explanation for his views. Unfortunately, many of his contemparies disliked Jews, including Bismarck who reportedly never saw a Wagner opera.

Nov. 05 2011 04:17 PM
Leo Kremer from Stamford, CT

I am the real opera lover starting listening to the opera from the age of eight. My favorite and most loveable composer by far is Verdi.
Regarding Wagner's operas, I may say that most of them are not impressive at all: very long, with seems-to-be powerful areas that cannot be remembered (believe me, I have a very good ear on music). Some of his overtures are really great and somehow easy to be tuned.
Unfortunately, his antisemitic and very offensive character in any way can give him decent place in the history of world operas.

Nov. 05 2011 01:19 PM
Mad from new york city

I should add that, as is well known, Theodor Herzl loved Wagner's music and was inspired toward Zionism after attending a performance of Tannhäuser. Music from that opera was used to open the Second Zionist Congress in 1898.

Nov. 05 2011 12:56 PM
Jim Newsom from Hot Springs, Arkansas

The study of art, music and literature can be difficult when a painter, composer or author has led a dissolute life. There are many cases of this and Wagner is just one of them. One of Abraham Lincoln's favorite songs was "Dixie" which is now virtually banned from the U.S. music repetoire. The Beatles were lambasted for drug use and John's off-the-cuff remark about the Beatles being more popular than Christ. Ezra Pound was an avowed fascist. Ernest Hemingway was a major league alcoholic. Mozart enjoyed the pleasures of life to the point where in modern day life he would have been considered white trash by some. Coleridge had more drug problems than Jim Morrison.
The holistic study of art, music and literature has always been an amalgamated study of the creator and the creation. And, in many cases, the faults and flaws of the creator make the study of the creation even more interesting.

Nov. 05 2011 12:37 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

Wagner was not a nice man but his music goes right through me. No the Waffen did not know the words of Wintersturme. But I think this aria ends with the words "Armed with gentle weapons, spring conquers the world". There is beauty in this phrase. I do not think he would have done the terrible things that were done both to Jewish and non-jewish alike. And believe me what was done to human beings chills the blood. Do not think he would have approved. I might be wrong. I block out his thoughts when I listen to his music.

Nov. 05 2011 12:33 PM
Mad from New York City

Yes, Wagner's anti-semitism was despicable but the average German soldier/WaffenSS, couldn't identify one piece of Wagner's music from another, didn't possess a collection of his 78's nor read his anti-Semitic rantings. Neither did they go marching off to war after attending Ring performances at Bayreuth. They did, however, march off to war and conduct "Jew hunts" after christian church services and blessings by christian clergy. I'm sure the overwhelming majority of them didn't know the words of "Winterstürme" but could easily recite passages from the bible.If you want to look for centuries of European Jew hating, you don't need Wagner, just read Martin Luther.

Nov. 05 2011 10:49 AM
David from Flushing

Should we allow Washington and Jefferson to be on our currency as they practiced slavery, or do we consider that only one part of their lives? There are many prominent persons that had "complicated" lives. Franklin, my hero, was no saint in some regards.

I think Wagner's main problem was being liked by the Nazis long after his death. There is no question that Wagner was a nasty man in several ways, but had the Nazi movement not taken place, I suspect his sins would have been forgiven by now. I note that Carl Orff seems to have evaded censure in this era despite some claims of Nazism.

Nov. 04 2011 07:42 PM
Marie from Wanamassa, NJ

Objectively, I recognize that Wagner was a musical genius.

However, emotionally I cannot hear a single note of his work without remembering what he believed, what he proselytized and what he came to represent with the Nazi regime. He was not merely an unpleasant or difficult person, as many so-called geniuses through history are often reported to be. He was a despicable human being with a loathsome philosophy. His hateful perspective was an integral part of who he was. I am simply unable to separate that from the music he produced. I am just not sophisticated enough or tolerant enough to rise above it. For me his music will always be tainted by his repugnant beliefs.

Nov. 04 2011 05:57 PM
TJ Harvey from Huntington, NY

Most of Wagner's composition is overwrought, and I find it tedious to listen to. Did the man have vainglory? Sure feels like it. As it feels when a dining companion talks on and on about himself and you're kinda stuck at the table.

American writer and humorist Bill Nye (1850-1896) said that Wagner's music is better than it sounds. Indeed.

Nov. 04 2011 04:25 PM
Raquel from Argentina

Hablo español. Soy argentina. Descendiente de judios polacos. Opino que no se puede separar al ser humano y sus ideas del arte que produce, aunque se trate de un genio como Wagner. Nunca escucho ni concurriria a un concierto donde se difundiera su musica.
Cuestiono al Sr Bareimboim por embanderarse con la ejecución de sus composiciones.

Felicito a WQXR por la excelencia de sus transisiones

Nov. 04 2011 03:38 PM
Izzy from UWS

I respectfully disagree. Wagner had explicity offensive characters in his operas - Mime the dwarf, for instance. Or Beckmesser, the critic. It's not a simple case of separating the man and music. There's plenty of other great music that we don't need to glorify Wagner.

Nov. 04 2011 03:30 PM
Seymour Scherzer from New York City

It took me many years before I could separate the man from his music. I've seen some off the operas at the Met. His librettos leave a lot to be desired; however some of the music is excellent.

I have the feeling that it may be best to divorce the man from his music. To do otherwise is to publicize the man and his message.

Nov. 04 2011 03:12 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 

Sponsored

About Conducting Business

WQXR looks deeper into the issues affecting the classical music landscape. 

Conducting Business is hosted by Naomi Lewin and produced by Brian Wise.

subscribe to Conducting Business

Listen to Stitcher

Feeds