Israeli Orchestra to Break Wagner Boycott

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 05:14 PM

An Israeli orchestra is set to perform a work by Adolf Hitler's favorite composer, Richard Wagner, in a taboo-breaking concert in Tel Aviv.

On June 18, a freelance orchestra of about 100 musicians will present selections from Wagner's Ring, among other works, at an academic symposium at Tel Aviv University.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this week that the performance will break a ban that against Wagner's music has existed in Israel since 1938.

The June event won't be the first time the ban has been broken, however. In 2001, the conductor Daniel Barenboim led a concert in Jerusalem that featured an encore performance of a selection from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

In 2000, the Israeli Rishon Letzion orchestra, conducted by Holocaust survivor Mendi Rodan, played Wagner's Siegried Idyll. It was considered a lesser offense at the time because it was not part of a national cultural festival.

Some Israelis find the associations in Wagner's music distressing, particularly its ties to Nazi cultural propaganda. The rare performances of the composer's works in the country have been controversial. Barenboim's 2001 performance was met with a standing ovation as well as shouts of "go home" and "fascist" by protesters in the concert hall.

The June symposium is titled "An Academic Musical Encounter: Herzl-Toscanini-Wagner," and, according to the announcement, will explore "the interesting and intriguing connection between the seer of the state, the conductor Arturo Toscanini and Wagner's music."

What do you think of the ban against Wagner in Israel? Please leave your comments below:


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Comments [19]

LXK093040 from New Jersey

Let's look a it from a different angle.

Do you think that if Wagner were alive today, he would conduct his works in a Jewish state, played by Jewish musicians, to a mostly Jewish audience?

Jun. 12 2012 12:04 PM
Harrietb98 from Bayside, NY

An evil man wrote beautiful music. The man is dead. His music lives on. So, if we don't listen to his music, we aren't punishing him. We are punishing ourselves.

Jun. 09 2012 12:07 PM
Carol from NYC

When JFK spoke, I was extremely inspired....but I didn't become a Catholic. Did Wagner go around killing Jews? I don't think so . . . but Hitler did. How we accept inspiration and what we do with it is totally personal. What about a minister's sermon? Inspiring for us to do good? Do we do it? Wagner's music is very inspirational and climactic... You can use it for whatever you want for that purpose...just look at "Platoon" (or was it "Apocalypse")? Many Jews were and are wonderful musicians; I am happy that they will be released from the confinement of "hate" and "duty to hate."

Jun. 07 2012 10:40 AM
June Severino Feldman from NYC

This is a really tough call, but one that is clearly to be made by the Israeli muscians and audience who may or may not choose to patronize this performance.

Jun. 05 2012 12:24 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau county

Dear Heath,
Wagner was a horrible person. He wrote such great music. What can we do about people like that who are so gifted in other ways? I have relatives in Naples who were murdered by the Nazis. The bullet holes on the wall is still there where they were lined up and slaughtered. The music goes on to comfort us against these terrible memories, and they are terrible. We must let these wounds scar over and let the beautiful things in life take over.
Best wishes

Jun. 04 2012 07:25 AM
Heath from New York

To Conceta Nardone

I challenge you to read The Racial Thinking of Richard Wagner. Could you honestly name another composer/musician/playwright etc. who lashed out as severely at any one group as Richard Wagner did at the Jews? No, you can't, because you are ignorant of the influence he had on anti-semitism in Germany and beyond in his day. This is not something to be taken lightly. He was an important link in the chain of anti-semitism leading up to Hitler. He wrote books about Jews and Judaism in music. You have no idea of the influence he had on the public and on anti-semites who later did commit crimes against humanity.

Jun. 04 2012 03:46 AM
jliu9 from Notre Dame

To concetta nardone: I am fully supporting your opinion. Actually, the story of Sherlock is a tragedy totally. Confucius had said, I would not agree with a son who tell the judge that his father has stolen a lamb, he should hide it , because he is his father, that's all.

Jun. 02 2012 12:46 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau county

To Heath:
We should then ban Puccini because he stole his friend's wife, Caravaggio for being a murderer, Berlioz- a drug addict, etc. Also Shakespeare and a whole bunch of people who had opinions we do not like but who created great works of art. Let us ban all those works and just enjoy the art created by some very boring people. Bland boring people with their bland boring works of art. As for Shakespeare, people are offended by the portrayal of Shylock. I am more offended that Shylock's daughter Jessica is happy that her father has to pay a heavy fine, etc. I seem to be the only person who has noticed that. (Please forgive my spelling mistakes) There were also some people who took offense that Beethoven's 7th symphony was used in The King's Speech. To which I again say "Beethoven did not do it."

Jun. 01 2012 04:27 PM
Michael Meltzer

...from WOODY ALLEN: “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.”

Jun. 01 2012 02:27 PM
Neil Schnall

There should be a world-wide ban on performing the music of Wagner, of course, but also Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, and even Bach, all of whom have been alleged to either be anti-Semitic or to have held attitudes of hostility toward Jews.

But why single out Jews as victims of hostility? There should be a ban on the performance or exhibition of any work of art created by anyone anywhere who has ever displayed, or been accused, or had even a passing thought, of hostility toward anyone at any time whatsoever.

Jun. 01 2012 01:09 PM
Jim from Ireland

At last sanity prevails! Holocaust surviving members of the Israeli Wagnerian Society is good enough for me. Wagner was not a war criminal - he was a man whose music and libretto was groundbreaking and is still inspiring and whose personal views I find repugnant and unnacceptable. Just as many people today have racist and bigotted views and some will go on to be remembered for their art.

Many of Wagners Operas deal with the struggle within the struggle and cross-over of sex/religion/primal instinct and death being met with heroic fear... why should the emotions of his art be any different now?

Jun. 01 2012 09:28 AM
Heath from New York should bare in mind that Richard Wagner was the top anti-semite in his day in Germany, and wrote viciously against Jews, such as in the infamous Judaism in Music. He was a definite link in the chain of anti-semitism leading up to Hitler. The core issue is not really the fact that he was Hitler's favorite composer. The core issue is that Wagner was campaigning against the Jews in his own time. In Judasim in Music he calls for the "untergehen" of Jews, the destruction, or "going under." This is no simple matter, I am saddened to hear that they will be playing his music in the home to the Jews.

Jun. 01 2012 12:48 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

RICHARD WAGNER, like RICHARD STRAUSS, like MASCAGNI, like BEETHOVEN, each had a flawed persona. In the case of RICHARD STRAUSS he was a NAZI, MASCAGNI was a FASCIST, and BEETHOVEN was a continously irascible demon. The composer Wagner was half Jewish. hIS father was Ludwig Geyer who was by profession a tenor, a composer, a portrait painter and a friend of Johanna and her husband Carl Friedrich Wagner. Carl was a stage door Johnny who sought out actresses, not faithful or loyal to his wife. Carl died shortly after Richard's birth and Ludwig thereupon married Johanna and raised Richard and his sisters. When Ludwig died, the future composer was only 13 years old. Richard loved Ludwig and to his dying days would reminisce over those early years of his own life, when Ludwig introduced the child to the pleasures of music and poetry. .Johanna renamed herself and her children, WAGNER to avoid the antisemitism of the Jewish name Geyer, which the whole family took on when Ludwig and Johanna were married. Wagner was, like Verdi, opposed to the dictatorial actions of politically savage people of high social status and/or financial interests that would conflict with his music drama themes. Interestingly, his RIENZI had the military sidle up to protect and guard him when his pamphletizing scored on issues detrimental to governmental policies. In RIENZI the military saw a populist leader murdered by patricians as one they could themselves support. Bad as Wagner's situation was, Verdi's was far, far unfair to the composer. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor and the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where professional actors are trained for the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers are coached in the Wagner roles and voice production and dramaturgy techniques.

May. 31 2012 06:03 PM
SusanW from NYC

My nephew sent me this link today and I am beyond delighted to read the good news. Maintaining old prejudices, anger and unforgiving rigidity keeps you stagnant and in a bad place...the arts wonderfully healing and a fantastic way to bring people together. I fully applaud this major step's been a long time coming and way overdue. Bravo!

May. 31 2012 05:54 PM
Cesar from New York

Wagner cannot be held responsible by Hitler adopting his music as the official music of the Third Reich.

However, Wagner was a declared anti-Jewish and the point is that his music shall be banned in Israel due to his antisemitic beliefs.

May. 31 2012 03:49 PM
David from Flushing

Richard Wagner was not a nice man in several ways and he was most definitely antisemetic. The question is whether the artistic merit of a work depends on the morality of its creator.

Should we not look upon the works of Benvenuto Cellini as he murdered several men and had a scandalous sex life? The relationship of Karl Orff and the Nazis has been a subject of some debate, though he seems to have escaped performance censure. For those with a memory of the era, it is understandable that they should recoil at the theme songs of the Nazi movement even if the composer was not directly involved. As time goes on, feelings will change.

May. 31 2012 02:43 PM
Pesach Schindler from Jerusalem,Israel

Since the objective of this discussion is to inform and be enlightened,may I respectfully recommend that irrespective of our views ,we suspend our opinions and read,re-read and study :

Leon Stein,The Racial Thinking of Richard Wagner.New York:Philosophical Library,1950.

Of interest to the WQXR community we note, that at the time Prof.Stein authored the Wagner work he served as Dean of the Graduate Division.De Paul
University School of Music.

May. 31 2012 02:40 PM from Nassau county

Wagner did not commit the atrocities. Horrible people did this. I am glad the ban is being lifted.

May. 31 2012 11:15 AM

Richard Wagner, or in that case Friedrich Nietzsche had nothing to to with Adolph Hitler and his National Socialism.

May. 31 2012 09:28 AM

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