Richard Wagner's Bicentennial Sparks Effort to Split Music and Anti-Semitism

Hitler's Favorite Composer Gave Himself Black Eye With Bias

Hateful Genius: German composer Richard Wagner was a notorious anti-Semite but a giant of the music world. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, there are more efforts to disentangle those two facts.
getty images
Hateful Genius: German composer Richard Wagner was a notorious anti-Semite but a giant of the music world. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, there are more efforts to disentangle those two facts.

By Reuters

Published January 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 5)

From Seattle to Australia, and across Europe, Wagner compositions from the “Ring” with its Valkyrie cry “hojotoho”, to the romantic “Tristan und Isolde” which provides the soundtrack for the world’s end in Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia”, draw audiences of all ages.

“It gives a higher feeling, you get goose bumps,” artist-photographer Christopher Gemenig, 27, a stud in his lower lip, said recently during the interval of Wagner’s swan-knight opera “Lohengrin” at the Dresden Semperoper.

Gemenig, and his companion Mia Mueller, whose flame-red hair bolstered their resemblance to Wagner’s doomed lovers Tristan and the Irish princess Isolde, acknowledged that despite Wagner having joined ranks with anarchists in a failed revolution in mid-19th century Dresden, the taint of Hitler ran deep.

“Hitler liked the music and all that Hitler likes is evil. I think that’s a curse of Wagner,” said Gemenig, whose favourite bit is the overture to “Gotterdammerung”. “But I think this is not a problem for me, and for many people it also is not.”

As they have every year since 1990, Germany’s first couple, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, quantum chemist Joachim Sauer, will attend the summer festival at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, the opera house Wagner built with money he borrowed from Bavarian King Ludwig II and never repaid.

“It never ends, it’s so rich,” Sauer, 63, said in a rare interview with Reuters, speaking of the appeal of Wagner’s operas. “And they are all so very different.”

These days Bayreuth is always sold out and has a waiting list that can be as long as a decade.

SILENCED VOICES

A little way down the “Green Hill” from the opera house, visible from the balcony of an annex built for Ludwig where Hitler acknowledged the Nazi salute of the crowd in the plaza below, is an outdoor exhibition called “Silenced Voices”.

Adult-height placards display short biographies and the smiles or serious gazes of singers, musicians, conductors and stage directors who were progressively shunned by Bayreuth, as the festival drew closer and closer to the Fuhrer.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.