Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism

Richard Wagner

23 July 2009.

Translated from The Art Server in Belgium:

Just before the yearly Wagner festival in the south German town Bayreuth, Stephan Mösch, a theater scholar and musicologist, has made claims about the composer Richard Wagner as an anti-Semite. Wagner, he said, was even more of a Jew-baiter than people thought so far.

Mösch made this point during an interview with a journalist of the German news agency DPA (Deutsche Presse Agentur). He said that he based himself on documents which until now had not been studied, like letters by Marianne Brandt, a singer who in 1882 sang a lead role in [Wagner’s opera] Parsifal. That Wagner was against Jews had already been established as a fact. Eg, in 1850, he wrote a long anti-Semitic article, ‘Das Judenthum in der Musik’.

See also here.

The Wagners, Germany’s most famous feuding family, stayed true to form with half the family boycotting the official memorial event Sunday for former Bayreuth chief Wolfgang Wagner, who died March 21 aged 90: here.

Israeli choreographer to stage Wagner-inspired work in Munich: here.

12 thoughts on “Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism

  1. Administrator on August 20, 2009 at 10:07 am said:

    Aug 3, 2009
    Boos at Nazis in ‘Parsifal’

    BAYREUTH – THE Bayreuth Festival’s new leadership may be ready and willing to investigate the Nazi past of the legendary month-long music fest dedicated exclusively to the works of Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

    But judging by the storm of boos and whistles when Swastika flags were unfurled and goose-stepping soldiers crossed the stage in a production of Parsifal by Norwegian director Stefan Herheim on Sunday, the audiences here still have a long way to go before they, too, are ready for such an undertaking.

    Herheim’s reading of Wagner’s impenetrable last work was first staged last year, before half-sisters Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 64, and Katharina Wagner, 31, officially took over the running of the world’s oldest and most prestigious summer music festival.

    As part of their joint leadership bid, the duo pledged to open up the family archives to independent historians to shed light on Bayreuth’s darkest era when Adolf Hitler was a regular visitor and close friend of then festival head, Winifred Wagner.

    In many ways, Herheim’s Parsifal is the artistic pendant to such a venture, tracing the history of Germany from Wagner’s own lifetime, through World War I and the Third Reich to post-war Germany and the present day.

    Simultaneously, it traces the reception of Wagner’s oeuvre in general and Parsifal in particular, while also re-telling the original Arthurian legend of the knights of the Holy Grail.

    Parsifal is probably the most difficult of Wagner’s works to stage. Composed between 1877 and 1882, it is more religious ceremony than opera.

    Indeed, Wagner termed it a ‘Buehnenweihfestspiel”, which literally means a stage consecrational festival play, and is a dense, almost impenetrable mix of mysticism, Christianity and Buddhism.

    The only work that Wagner composed specifically with the unique acoustics of Bayreuth’s Festspielhaus theatre in mind, the composer’s widow Cosima forbade it from being performed anywhere else but there for decades after its premiere in 1882.

    It was Cosima, too, who introduced the rule that audiences should not applaud at the end of Act I but remain seated in reverential silence, even if only the most dyed-in-the-wool Wagnerians abide by that tradition nowadays. — AFP


    HERHEIM’S staging, for all its intellectuality, is also a sumptuous visual feast, a magic lantern, full of poetic imagery.

    Before the curtain rises, we see Wagner’s ivy-covered grave as the prompter’s box.

    During the prelude, a pantomime is acted out showing the boy Parsifal resisting a final caress from his dying mother Herzeleide.

    Her deathbed is set in the garden of Wahnfried, Wagner’s home in Bayreuth, and the villa forms the setting for most of the action.

    It is a world of morbid eroticism and decay, where the corrupted knights of the Holy Grail are black-winged angels, the evil Klingsor a transvestite in top hat and tails and his Flower Maidens are straight out of a Busby Berkeley musical.

    Set designer Heike Scheele also stunningly re-creates the original scenery from the first production in 1882, a smaller replica of Bayreuth’s proscenium and the German Bundestag (parliament) in the 1950s.

    In the end, Herheim holds up a mirror to the audience itself, literally.

    Among the cast, Korean bass Kwangchul Youn was ideal as Gurnemanz, one of the longest roles in opera with crystal clear diction and velvety tone.

    British tenor Christopher Ventris is hard to beat in the title role and German baritone Detlef Roth was a worldly wise Amfortas.

    Only Japanese mezzo Mihoko Fujimura was a little out of her depth as Kundry, shrill and pressed in the vertiginouos high notes, but sounding more comfortable lower down.

    Italian maestro, Daniele Gatti, gave a soft-focused reading of Wagner’s luminous score, but was loudly booed at the end for his slow tempi.

    Parsifal rounded off the glitzy premiere week of the 2009 Bayreuth Festival, which continues until August 28 with performances of Tristan and Isolde, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, Parsifal and the four-opera Ring cycle. — AFP


  2. Administrator on July 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm said:

    Wagner first for Israeli orchestra

    GERMANY: An Israeli orchestra performed a work by Richard Wagner in a taboo-breaking concert in Bayreuth yesterday.

    The Israel Chamber Orchestra’s performance marked the first time an Israeli orchestra has played Wagner in Germany.

    Since its founding in 1948, Israel has observed an informal ban on Wagner’s music because of its use in nazi propaganda before and during World War II.


  3. Opera star pulls out of gig over nazi tattoo

    Monday 23 July 2012

    Russian baritone Evgeny Nikitin pulled out of the Bayreuth opera festival on Saturday after it was revealed he had tattooed himself with the swastika as a youth.

    Mr Nikitin had been due to sing the lead role in Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman for the festival, which opens next week.

    But a German television programme broadcast on Friday showed old footage of a bare-chested Mr Nikitin playing drums in a rock band, in which a swastika tattoo could be seen.

    Organisers made Mr Nikitin aware of “the connotations of these symbols in connection with German history.”

    They added that his decision to pull out was “in line with the festival’s consistent rejection of any form of nazi ideas.”

    Nikitin said that he got the tattoos in his youth.

    “It was a major mistake in my life, and I wish I had never done it,” he said. “I was not aware of the extent of the confusion and hurt that these symbols would cause, particularly in Bayreuth and in context of the festival’s history.”


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