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Rub your eyes: a Jewish orchestra has been invited to open the new Wagner Museum

The new Richard Wagner museum in Graupa, near Dresden, will open on January 12th, 2013 with a concert of music by Wagner, Liszt, Mendelssohn and possibly one of the composers exiled by the Nazis.

The concert will be played by the Neue Jüdische Kammerphilharmonie of Dresden, conductor Michael Hurshell.

The orchestra will make its festival debut in Dresden next week.

This is a sensitive, intelligent initiative and a significantly unifying way to launch the Wagner Year.

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  1. The New Jewish Chamber Philharmonic Dresden has undertaken a wonderful initiative to revive the works of Jewish composers whose careers and artistic development were destroyed by National Socialism. And it is beautiful that they perform in the New Synagogue which is built on the site of the famous Semper Synagogue that was destroyed in 1938. Events like these fill us with visions of hope.

    It is also good to see their gesture of reconciliation by performing the music of Wagner, though this issue is still very problematic. The characters of Albrecht and Mime in Wagner’s Ring are very obviously anti-Semitic caricatures, but this is still denied by a large part of the international community, including many in Germany.

    How can we achieve reconciliation when people refuse to admit what Wagner did? Forgiveness can only exist on the basis of truth. Until then, the compassionate gesture of even groups like the New Jewish Chamber Philharmonic Dresden will remain incomplete.

    • Michael Hurshell says:

      Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments. However, I beg to differ about the “obviously anti-Semitic caricatures” Mime and Alberich. Might I ask what the obvious elements of caricature, or anti-Semitism, are supposed to be? And: which comment of Wagner’s is meant by “refuse to admit what Wagner did?” All these are indeed favorite topics of discussion, among my musician colleagues as well as my fellow members of Dresden’s Jewish community. Please elaborate.

    • What did he do – ? that he was a nasty piece of work is a given – that he was a nasty anti -Semite is a given.
      To try and couple him with National Socialism in Germany and the horrors of the war and the destruction
      of the Semper Synagogue is ludicrous – he was dead some 50 yrs. when that happened . That he fit
      neatly into Nazi dogma with his anti -Semitic essay is not of his doing , the Nazis found they could use parts
      of the essay to their views and so used it – some Germans on reading the essay rejected it , obviously not
      enough -reconciliation to what , Wagner? he’s dead … the reconciliation is within themselves to at last play the
      music of a rather despicable anti- Semitic composer named Wagner – and to play his works in a synagogue
      can be viewed as as a form of poetic justice . Would that other synagogues take note.
      Nowhere does Wagner mention in instructions that the characters of Albrecht and Mime are to be based on
      unsympathetic Jewish characters . People who have much time on their hands will come up with anything.
      Albrecht and Mime could unknowingly be nasty self portraits.Forgiveness and truth — compassionate
      gesture …………spare us .

    • Gurnemanz says:

      “The characters of Albrecht and Mime in Wagner’s Ring are very obviously anti-Semitic caricatures”

      Says who? A more compelling case can be made of Wotan being a Jewish allegory then Alberich and Mime.

      • Sorry to return to this thread so late. Marc Weiner’s book “Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination (Texts and Contexts)” is a useful source for the study of anti-Semitic imagery in the Ring. See also, Paul Lawrence Rose, “Wagner: Race, Revolution and Redemption”. Wagner fans often approach his work with a kind of religious fervor, so these books, and most other discussions of the topic, are full of controversy. It will be a long time before the intensity of the denial subsides. Unfortunately, this further hinders the rehabilitation of Wagner’s wonderful music.

        • I should also mention the analysis provided in Theodor Adorno’s “In Search of Wagner” which is especially compelling because of his deep knowledge of Wagner’s music, his understanding of Germanic culture, and his profession as a philosopher.

        • Gurnemanz says:

          The odds of works of those two charlatans being put forward as “evidence” were about the same as for the Sun rising in the east(In all fairness though, Weiner has considerably mellowed his attitude lately).

          The books of Weiner and Rose are not full of controversy but rather of pure unadalturated rubbish.

          Let’s take Weiner first. He is just as arrogant as Mr. Osborne in dismissing those that hold a different opinion on Wanger’s works as “deniers” (a cheapshot with a clear attempt to forge an association with holocaust deniers) and he even goes a step further, one which had a reviewer that is generally sympathetic to Weiner and his thesis write “…this reviewer became downright uncomfortable when Weiner slapped Wagner’s apologists collectively by asking rhetorically if they “continue to respond to the nineteenth-century ideology associated with [Wagner's works] …?” (p. 30). He implies that anyone who has not dealt with Wagner’s anti-Semitism in the correct fashion is himself an anti-Semite.”

          The same reviewer also wrote this: “In each chapter, however, the evidence for anti-Semitic cultural codes in nineteenth-century Germany is uneven. Although there are exceptions (such as Jewish protests against premiers of Die Meistersinger [p. 123]), often Weiner’s claims that the physical aberrations of Wagner’s allegedly Jewish characters were commonly understood by the public is supported by evidence that is scant, secondary or unexplained. With frequently weak evidence as each body area is treated, one increasingly questions if Weiner could not find better primary substantiation. The whole cultural context he seeks to establish becomes undermined.”

          No, Weiner could not find better primary substantiation because this “common understanding of the public of Wagner’s Jewish characters” is a complete figment of Weiner’s imagination. Virtually nobody saw these alleged anti-Jewish caricatures as such, not even those most likely to. A particular case-in-point is Sixtus Beckmesser, one of the most frequently cited alleged antisemitic caricatures. David B. Dennis, historian and lignuist, analyzed just about every article about Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg in prominent Nazi publications before and after they came to power as well as articles of their intellectual precursors and fellow travelers and has not found in them a single reference to the character Sixtus Beckmesser as crypto-Jewish or an allegory of the Jews.

          How absurd and nonsensical could an antisemitic theory and/or explanation be when even the Nazis don’t buy into it?

          Incidentally, Weiner completely misrepresents Jewish demonstrations against Die Meisitersinger that appears in my quotes of the review. They were not because of some antisemitic caricatures in the work but because the launch of Die Meistersinger coincided with the republication of Das Judentum in der Musik.

          In my next comment I move on to Rose.

        • Gurnemanz says:

          Earlier I wrote that a more compelling case can be made of Wotan being a Jewish allegory then Alberich and Mime. Well, Paul Lawrence Rose unwittingly manages to do that, undercutting his thesis that Alberich and Mime are antisemitic caricatures at the same time.

          Rose argues in his book that the Ring is a rejection of the Ten Commandments and thus antisemitic. Who is it that lays down the laws, oaths and contracts in the Ring? It is Wotan and they are contained in his spear. If we accept that Wotan’s spear is an allegory of the Ten Commandements, wouldn’t that make Wotan an allegory of the Jewish God, God of Israel, God Creator of the Universe? Wouldn’t therefore Wotan be, gasp, Jewish? And if Wotan is Jewish, what does that make Mime and Alberich?

          There is another possible hint at Wotan’s Jewishness in the Ring: in Siegfried he is refered to as The Wanderer. The legend of the Wandering Jew is a recurring theme in Wagner’s mature works, represented by the Flying Dutchman and Kundry.

          Another prominent feature of Rose’s book are the portrayals of Wagner’s Jewish friends and associates which can only be described as character assasinations.

          The saddest part is that Rose’s and Weiner’s book actually appear sane compared to some of the stuff other Wagner-haters put down on paper. One of them first launched a diatribe against the Flying Dutchman saying how the captain and his crew represent “the Jews” since they are “ugly, dirty, ragged, empty souls, unable to love women, letting out screeching, howling voices that scare decent people off”(not an exact quote, a summary from memory). A couple of paragraphs later he makes the claim that “the Nazis modeled their flag according to that of the Flying Dutchman”. If we accept, for the sake of argument, that these assertions are true, the only logical conclusion that can come out of them is that the Nazis chose a Jewish flag as their own! You couldn’t make this stuff up!

          Another one just lets go and makes things up to support his thesis. This individual claims that Hitler discussed Beckmesser as an allegory of the Jews in the Mein Kampf. Anyone who has actually read Mein Kampf can testify that this is a lie, plain and simple.

          (I don’t name the authors and their books because I most certainly will not help the sales of their works. They’ve cheated enough people out of their money)

          Contrary to Mr. Osborne, it is not the “denial” that is subsiding. What is indeed subsiding, under pressure from real scholars such as Ian Kershaw, Richard Evans, Saul Friedlander, Jacob Katz, Joachim Fest, is this myth of antisemitism in Wanger’s works, a myth Mr. Osborne guillibly subscribed to hook, line and sinker.

  2. richard carlisle says:

    Good news– thanks for bringing it to us Mr. Lebrecht.

  3. Bill Liefschitz says:

    I may be completely off course here, but this smell to me like another person cashing in on the Holocaust, and of German’s guilt feelings about it.

    Why is there a need for a “Jewish” orchestra in Dresden? And why is there a need for an orchestra that specializes in music of jewish composers?

    Each of us is free to do as we see fit, but I don’t see this as anything worth celebrating.

  4. Wanderer says:

    “How can we achieve reconciliation when people refuse to admit what Wagner did? Forgiveness can only exist on the basis of truth. Until then, the compassionate gesture of even groups like the New Jewish Chamber Philharmonic Dresden will remain incomplete.”

    William, your comment is an oxymoron. “People” do exactly admit “what Wagner did”. Which leads to this sensitive initiative.

    But there are many people, on both sides of the fence, who actually do not want any reconciliation, but instead to dwell in eternal hatred and vengeance. I’m not saying you necessarily are one of them. But there are too many. What the moral-highgrounders like you always forget, is that in Wagner’s time, there was hatred and supremacist ideology on all sides, there was “Anti-Semitism” and there was “Anti-Goyism” in lack of a better word. Wagner wasn’t much of a “doer” anyway, but more of a thinker and sayer. No excuses, but you have to consider the historical context.

    And who is Albrecht in the Ring? Do you mean Alberich? You don’t know his name, but you know for sure that he is only an Anti-Semitic caricature and nothing else… ok…

  5. Rub your eyes , why ? – what in world does Wagner have to do with this recent past ? He was dead some 50yrs .
    We all know he was a despicable anti Semitic monster of a human being . If you were to read the pathetic
    essay he wrote concerning the Jews, you would put it down and perhaps consider him a little mad . Now if
    one went out and acted upon his writings and used the writings to ones own end (Nazis ) who would you blame.
    You can’t blame Wagner – he didn’t at gun point force anyone to subscribe to his lunacy – he’d dead , those that used
    Wagners’ writings to their own ends had a” FREE” will to accept or reject his lunacy .That many Germans bought into the lunacy speaks to the human condition of finding someone to blame for anything that goes badly for them as a whole .To have Wagner take on the collective blame of the Nazi era is ridiculous – it may be a convenient moral feel good exercise of finger pointing and easily lets off an nation that subscribed to the horrors . When you are putting a note to the music staff that blot is nothing but an ink blot on the paper, noting a sound to
    be played – it has no moral outlook and no political stance until the human condition makes it so .
    I recall Heifetz was beaten up in Israel for playing Richard Strauss. The human condition .

  6. Michael Hurshell says:

    Just back from our very first appearance at the Dresden Music Festival (this year’s line up is incredible: Vienna Philharmonic, Mariinsky Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Czech Philharmonic etc.). Someone in this thread asked “why a Jewish Orchestra in Dresden?” The question should actually be, “why in Germany?” – since we are the only orchestra in Germany who perform entire programs of these works. Today’s program is an example: we played music by Zeisl, Rozsa, Haas, Schreker, and Mendelssohn. How many people in the audience had ever heard even one of these works? Apart of course from Mendelssohn’s wonderful d minor violin concerto, played splendidly by Arnaud Sussmann. The other works were unknown to the listeners… When we open the Wagner Museum, of course, we will be playing a (mostly) different sort of repertoire.

  7. M. Golubinsky Mishkov says:

    Why does any Jewish person want to have anything to do with Wagner? Cut Wagner and the Germans loose. They can never atone enough for the horrors they enacted upon Jewish people. Wagner was a raving anti-Semite. Cut. Him. Loose.

    • Wanderer says:

      If Wagner had hated Hews as much as you hate Wagner, his Ring would not have been performed in 1876 and possibly his Bayreuth undertaking have failed completely.

    • don’t forget Mussorgsky as well.

  8. Much is made of the fact that Wagner never explicitly stated that Alberich and Mime are anti-Semitic portrayals. Actually, this is to be expected. It is a cardinal rule for playwrights and librettists not to spell out the meaning of their metaphors, because it is exactly their mystery that allows audiences to engage with them. Wagner had also learned from painful experience that even in the second half of the 19th century, his anti-Semitism was often considered gauche and crude by many of his closest associates and colleagues. This was another reason that he chose to speak through explicit, anti-Semitic metaphors that he was careful not to define. We see how well his strategy worked in the debates that continue to this day.

  9. Michael Hurshell says:

    Unfortunately for those who claim that Wagner placed anti-Semitic caricatures on the stage, they never provide proof. They simply say it is so, and then use arguments about “coded messages” and “meanings understood by all” etc. The main difficulty is, there is never any MUSICAL evidence. The scores are the key, and I will happily debate the question with anyone who knows the scores and will engage in a calm discussion. Hitler’s use of Wagner is not the topic.

    Just one detail: anyone who knows the Ring – I mean the music as well as the libretto – can easily discern that Alberich is a tragic figure. And his younger brother Mime is principally motivated by a lust for revenge upon Alberich, who enslaved him along with the rest of the Nibelungs. Where is the anti-Semitic caricature?

    Meanwhile, I would suggest those who recommend “cutting loose” from Wagner: tell that to Barenboim, Fisch, Levine, or for that matter (philosophically speaking) to Bruno Walter & Otto Klemperer, who were much closer to the horrors of the Holocaust than today’s self righteous commentators. Tell it to Korngold, Waxman, and a host of other Jewish composers who loved (and in some cases conducted) Wagner’s music.

    • It is always striking to me that most articles and books covering Wagner’s anti-Semitism are devoid of printed musical examples clearly illustrating any anti-Semitism IN THE MUSIC ITSELF. It’s all about Wagner’s correspondence and sayings (often as recorded by the even more virulantly anti-Semitic Cosima) and those of Wagner’s many anti-Semitic acolytes (as published in such places as Bayreuther Blätter).

      This concentration on Wagner has allowed nearly everybody to ignore the fact that the classical composer most favoured by the Nazis was Anton Bruckner (who wasn’t anti-Semitic, as far as I know). The background music of any number of Nazi propaganda films is more fake-Bruckner than pseudo-Wagner. There are several important and chilling essays covering the Nazification of Bruckner in Bruckner Studies (ed. Jackson, Cambridge UP). Warning: you’ll never hear Bruckner the same way after you read them. (See also the references in the 2nd link below.)

      Finally, it should be pointed out that, by far, the most popular classical composition to survive Nazi Germany is Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Wikipedia says “the Nazi regime was at first nervous about the erotic tone of some of the poems, but eventually embraced the piece.” I can never hear O Fortuna without seeing mass party rallies and films of group exercises of the Volk.

      • Michael Hurshell says:

        While I wholeheartedly embrace the value of knowing about a composer’s personal frailties, I do wish more music lovers would retain the ability to separate that knowledge from their love of musical works. Yes, Wagner had a horrible personality, he was a monster in his private life. Yes, he was an anti-Semite. Yes, he wrote an absurd pamphlet – “Das Judenthum in der Musik” – which is really annoying, for those of us (Jews) who love his music deeply. But trying to make RW, and this pamphlet (which he sadly published twice) the starting point of the Holocaust is absurd. Let me note here that most of the contents of thie pamphlet was plagiarized, the language and attitudes expressed occurr much earlier in Germany. But the Nazis instrumentalized his works, and his descendants had close ties to the Nazi leaders. Is that Wagner’s fault? In 1883 no one, anywhere, could have predicted what Germany would be doing 50 or 60 years later… Meanwhile, no one I’ve met would really consider putting Dostoyevsky’s works on the index. And his portrayals of Jews, in his works, are truly insulting and racist. – Orff is another matter entirely – he accommodated, he found an arrangement, with the Nazi regime. – To return to the original subject: the Neue Jüdische Kammerphilharmonie will open a new Wagner Museum, in which Wagner’s anti-Semitism will not be swept under the carpet, but rather included as part of his life – although, I must also note, actually Wagner’s attitude towards Jews can also be described as, at times throughout his live, highly ambivalent. This is a subject which has not, to my mind, been treated with the attention it deserves.

        • It’s true there is no musical evidence for Wagner’s anti-Semitism, for the obvious reason that music does not convey such specific meanings, hence the cleverness of Wagner’s racist strategy. The evidence is dramaturgical and semiological. Weiner and Rose show strong correlations between the portrayals of Alberich and Mime and the anti-Semitic stereotypes of the period. And of course, Wagner made no effort to distance himself from these appearances – and published his anti-Semitic pamphlets. Adorno also suggests that there are similar semiological meanings in the music used to portray the dwarfs. Naturally, none of this will be considered proof and the denial will be curiously insistent.

          Perhaps the more interesting (and extremely delicate) question is why a Jewish Museum in Germany would overtly embrace Wagner, and why they would make efforts to ameliorate his image. Why would this path be taken to assimilation, especially since Jewish Museums elsewhere have not? I think many would find your thoughts on this very interesting.

          For some thoughts about the larger historical context of Wagner’s Zeitgeist and how similar forms of musical chauvinism continue to this day, see this day, see:

          (For some reason I’m not getting updates about responses to this thread, so I might not respond to comments.)

          • Wanderer says:

            It is not a Jewish museum that embraces Wagner, but a Wagner museum, that embraces Jewish culture. Good for them.

      • Gurnemanz says:

        @Michael Hurshell

        One does not even need to know the scores. Even a casual glance at the synopsis and the libretto of Wagner’s works would expose these theories of coded antisemitism as bizzare nonsense.

        You mentioned Mime as a good example. All these Wagner haters harp on about the portrayal of Mime in Siegfried while at the same time being careful to conceal the fact that this same Mime appears in Das Rheingold as well and is, along with Freia, the only character in the drama one could feel sympathy for. He is propably the most tragic character in the Ring, a soul so overcome by desire to avenge his suffering that he loses his sense of good and evil. Alberich whips him for no other reason then personal pleasure in Das Rheingold and Siegfried constantly offends him in spite of Mime having taken in Sigelinde and then raised Siegfried as his own child. But hey, Mime has a hooked nose and plots to poison Siegfried and that’s all we need to know.

    • Gurnemanz says:

      @Michael Hurshell

      They should also tell it to Sir Georg Solti(THE Wagner conductor IMHO), Lorin Maazel, Arnold Schoenberg and Gustav Mahler.

      In the singing department they should forward their complaints to Lili Lehmann nad Friedrich Schnorr(the Jewish baritone of 1920s who sang Wotan in Bayreuth and because of whom Hitler would not attend the festival in those years).

      In the political department they could do worse then complain to Theodore Herzl.

      And when they are done with purging Wagner from memory because of hi being antisemitic they can move on to just about any classical composer they care to name,

  10. Thanks Wander for the correction. In the long thread I reversed the role of the portagonists, though a Wagner museum embracing Jewish culture also presents ironies worthy of discussion.

  11. Michael Hurshell says:

    “The Wanderer” is not a code for the Wandering Jew, sorry. The figure is a common one in ancient Northern mythology and poetry, as in the Anglo Saon poem “The Wanderer.” Wotan takes this disguise for various reasons… he enjoys incognito trips to what young film audiences would call Middle Earth, to seek female companionship (like the unnamed mother of Siegmund & Sieglinde), but later in the Ring, to try and find a way out of the mess the world is in. The way the Wanderer music moves through various permutations – from its appearance in Walküre, as Wotan describes his unavailing search for a free agent – a “hero” – who could solve the dilemma, to its transformation into the opening of the prelude to act 3 of Siegfried – it truly tells us something of Wotan’s – and Wagner’s – thoughts. In any case, I still await proof of the silly theories about “coded anti-Semitism” – there isn’t any in the libretti either. There are, of course, some passages by Wagner which are nationalistic, i.e. “pro German” – which of course doesn’t make them anti-Semitic, merely patriotic and, yes, xenophobic; like King Henry’s call to arms in Lohengrin act 1 (with some disparaging words about Hungary); or, of course, the infamous passage in Sachs’ address on the Festwiese, which is anti-French/Italian, depending on how you translate “welsch.” But there is nothing about the Jewish people or individual Jews, anywhere. Incidentally, Wagner wrote and published raging polemics against all sorts of people(s), depending on whom he was mad at for not funding his operas; against France, Germany, Bavaria, Berlin, England…. one should try and see his (annoying and we all wish he had written less) writings in a wider context of his attacking anyone who had not demonstrated (in his view) sufficient support for his works and his aims. An egomaniac, simply. Thankfully, there is no need at all for a “rehabilitation” of his music. They are performed all over the world, regularly, and I might add increasingly (more middle sized theaters trying their hand at the Ring, for example). People in the States, Europe, Asia, Australia etc. flock to his operas. Recordings of his operas are still selling well, e.g. the Solti Ring which was completed in the studio over half a century ago. – But the attacks by various people who really don’t know the works, for the most part, are annoying and particularly so when they are never backed by any serious discussion. I repeat, I am willing to engage in a serious exchange, based on knowledge of the works in question, anytime.

    • It is interesting that you say “there is no need at all for a ‘rehabilitation’ of his [Wagner’s] music.” Do the views in Israel not count?

      • Wanderer says:

        Wagner’s MUSIC is not in question, not even in Israel. It’s his anti-semitic remarks and the usurpation of his work by the Nazis that is the problem from the Israeli POV.

        • In addition to the aspects of Wagner you mention, many in Israel feel that the dwarfs in the Ring are anti-Semitic caricatures. His art is thus also a factor.

    • Wanderer says:

      “An egomaniac, simply.”

      Thanks Mr. Hurshell. Thanks for the analysis and thanks for the above essence. There we have also the motive for his antisemitism, as some of the better musicologist researches about the subject – e..g. by Diter David Scholz – show, how outraged he was about the press giving all the attention to Meyerbeer and no attention to him at times. Unfortunately Wagner couldn’t resist to kick below the belt, by attacking Meyerbeer’s Jewishness.

      Also it is tiering to read the constant self-indulgence of many here about Wagner’s anti-semitism, as if it was the constituting factor to their identity and Jewishness. Wagner inherited in all his writings remarks about Jews in about 1% of his publications and notes, as Scholz rationally analyzed. And 0% in his artistic compositions.

      So where does the need of some people come from, to project anti-semitism into about anything? Elevated sense of self-importance?

      • In Israel, Wagner is not performed. Do they too fall under the category of those with an “elevated sense of self-importance”? Are not some of their views of Wagner legitimate? I hope you understand my point that the issue is not so easily brushed aside.

        • Wanderer says:

          What makes a view legitimate? I think the musicological research today has shown repeatedly and extensively that the views who portray Wagner as linear precursor to the Holocaust and fierce antisemite are wrong.

          But that doesn’t mean we can’t have the deepest respect for the feelings of a shoah survivor, who will be negatively affected even by remote attributes of the Nazi tyranny.

          • Musicology has proved nothing. There is abundant evidence that Wagner, more than any other historical figure, gave cultural legitimacy and self-belief to the Nazi regime.

          • Wanderer says:

            Well, I guess Wagner should have seen this coming and abstained from any nationalistic and Germanic expression in his work. I guess it is legitimate to expect Wagner to have had psychic capabilities. (irony)

  12. Intolerant approaches to concerns about intolerance are always fraught with ironies. I hope the Wagner Museum in Dresden understands that an open, intellectually honest, and inclusive approach to the many perspectives surrounding Wagner’s work, is the best way to rehabilitate the composer’s image. Let accusations of intolerance be met with a genuine attitude of compassion, open-mindedness, and consideration. That will serve to rehabilitate the composer’s standing in the eyes of the world. It will also speak well for Germany.

  13. Gurnemanz says:

    Abundant evidence? Just what would that be?

    The fact that the number of performances of Wagner significantly declined during the Nazi period, in 1939 going down to less then two thirds of what they were in 1932? (Bryan Magee, Frederick Spotts)

    The fact that there is only one single occurence of a top Nazi figure publicly quoting an antisemitic remark by Wagner whether in speech or in wriring, Goebbels in a 1934 sppech? (Saul Friedlander)

    The fact that Hitler ordered that his henchmen be literally dragged kicking and screaming to the Festspielhaus in 1933?(Speer memoirs, corroborated by other witnesses and independent research)

    The removal of Parsifal from Bayreuth when the war began because of pacifist undertones? (though contrary to popular belief Parsifal was not officially banned)

    The fact that Hitler after Stalingrad could no longer listen to the Ring because the real message of the work finally dawned on him? (Frederick Spotts)

    No serious historian subscribes to the view that Wagner somehow gave inspiration to the Nazis or that he was their precursor in any way. Joachim Fest toyed with the idea in the 1970-ties but dropped it altogether towards the end of his life.

    As Wanderer said, unless someone proves that Wagner had a gift of clairvoyance and an extraotrdinary one to boot, it’s not possible to claim, actions of his family members who were not even his biological descendants notwithstanding, that he gave legitimacy to the Nazis.

    • For those who might not know, “Gurnemanz” (the pseudonym of the above commentator) is a central character in Parsifal. (He’s the chief knight of the Grail.) That might offer some insights into the commentator’s insistent perspectives.

      In his book, John Toland, Adof Hitler (New York: Doubleday, 1976, p. 22) documents an eye witness account of how even as a young man Hitler went into a political trance upon his first hearing of Rienzi and spoke of the mission he had before him. On pages 35 and 36 he documents that Hitler spent several weeks working on an opera libretto based on Wieland the Smith after he learned that an outline of a music drama based on it had been found in Wagner’s posthumous papers. In his Introduction to his translation of Mein Kampf, Ralph Manheim notes that the main source of Hitler’s pet phrases was the theater and the opera. Hitler was a regular presence at Bayreuth, and a personal apartment was built for him on the grounds. It is still there.

      There are countless examples of how deeply Wagner influenced Hitler – a fact for which Wagner is not blameless.

      One of the more significant ideologists of Germanic racial supremacy was Houston Stewart Chamberlain whose book “Die Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts” (1899) outlined “Aryan” greatness. His “Rasse und Persönlichkeit” (1925) directly influenced Hitler. He was an admirer of Wagner and wrote “Notes sur Lohengrin” in 1892. A biography of the composer followed in 1895. In 1907 he settled in Bayreuth and married Wagner’s only daughter Eva.

      The Third Reich’s associations with Wagner are very extensive, and so considerations about racist influences in his work are worth consideration. It is thus astounding how this topic still meets with so much blanket denial.

      • I am in total agreement with your last statement, William.

      • Wanderer says:

        “There are countless examples of how deeply Wagner influenced Hitler – a fact for which Wagner is not blameless.”

        For the law of logic’s sake, can we please stop with these fallacies. Wagner was dear for 50 years when the Nazis rose to power. Wagner didn’t know and was not influenced by any of them, neither did he advocate physical violence against Jews, nowhere and never.

        Are you also blaming the water, when a person drowns in it?

        • Wagner left a large body of writings and music that influenced Hitler and the Nazis.

          • Wanderer says:

            … influenced Hitler and the Nazis how exactly? Which part of the Nazi history do you consider not possible without Wagner?

          • Gurnemanz says:

            Nothing Wagner wrote influenced Hitler and the Nazis. Saul Friedlander has researched the subject and concluded that neither Hitler or any other prominent Nazis quoted from Das Judentum in der Musik either in public or in private. In fact, he concludes that there is no evidence Hitler or any other top Nazi ever even read that pamphlet. There is only one instance of a top Nazi official quoting in public an antisemitic remark by Wagner, Goebbels in 1933.(not 1934 as I wrote earlier).

            Hitler never quoted Wagner in any of his political speeches, he never mentioned him as a political or ideological influence either in public or in private(and before you begin grasping at the straw called “Hitler speaks” by Hermann Rauschning, I’d like to inform you and others that this work has been exposed as a hoax ) and never discussed Wagner’s political ideas with anyone.

            The official recommended reading list for Nazi party members does not contain Das Judentum in der Musik or indeed anything else by Wagner. Kurt von Westernhagen’s suggestion in 1930 to the Nazi party that they officially adopt Wagner as an ideological role-model was contemptuously dismissed. Das Judentum in der Musik was republished only on two occasions during the Third Reich and both times a relatively small number of copies were disseminated.

            Long story short, there is absolutely not one single document or statement made in public or private that officially designated Wagner as some kind of an influence nor was there a widespread campaign to publicize Wagner’s work as some kind of “proof of correctness” of the Nazi anti-jewish attitudes.

            Wagner is no more responsible for Hitler then the Beatles are for Charles Manson.

      • The Toland book quoted by Mr Osborne draws quite heavily for this subject on the two volumes by August Kubizek which most historians now would treat with considerable scepticism… Wagner did not ‘create’ Houston Stewart Chamberlain (I am not aware of any evidence that they ever met although HSC did attend the second Bayreuth Festival, six months before Wagner died).

        Nobody in their right mind would deny that members of the extended Wagner family were close to Hitler (oddly enough two of them with close idealogical or personal connections were British rather than German!) but to use that fact to suggest that somehow Wagner was the father of the Holocaust is just lazy…

        • The report about Hitler’s reaction to Rienzi is taken from Kubizek’s memoir “The Young Hitler I Knew.” The document contains an foreword by Hugh Tevor-Roper (a distinguished historian of Nazi Germany) who writes:

          “The account may sometimes be romanticized, but not, I think, much, or more than is legitimate and indeed inevitable in the recollections of youth. By all external checks Kubizek’s account is reliable, and to anyone who has studied the mind and character of Hitler it is also inherently plausible.” I leave it to readers to take the document for what it is worth.

          • Gurnemanz says:

            One of the things that distiguishes Hugh Trevor-Roper is that he gave the stamp of authenticity to the hoax that were “Hitler diaries” in 1983.

      • Gurnemanz says:

        The point of your remark on my screen name, Mr. Osborne? Incidentally, Gurnemanz is not the chief knight of the Grail in “Parsifal”, it is Amfortas. Wanderer was right, you have no grasp of basic facts about Wagner’s work yet you KNOW that they contain racism and antisemitismand even go as far as to berate those that have a different opinion on the matter.

        As for John Toland’s Hitler biography, time did not stop in 1976, Mr. Osborne, and many of the subsequent research made parts of that book obsolete, especially the part about Rienzi supposedly enchanting Hitler. I will deal with that extensively in a separate comment. The fact that Hitler in his youth tried to conjure up an opera based on Wagner is irrelevant and taken out of context(the real one I will present in the subsequent comment I mentioned above).

        Chamberlain’s writings on Wagner are a collection of lies, distortions and delusions. Especially the biography of Wagner which the eminent Wagner scholar Stewart Spencer called “one of the most egregious attempts in the history of musicology to misrepresent an artist by systematically censoring his correspondence.”

        Hitler a regular at Bayreuth? Irrelevant. He also regularly walked his dog. What does that prove? Nothing.

        Oh, and Eva was not Wagner’s only daughter…

  14. Gurnemanz says:

    Israel has a distorted picture of Wagner, one which consists largely of misconceptions, misrepresentations and prejudices. Na’ama Sheffi’s book Ring of Myths covers the issue fairly well, even though it is replete with factual errors about Wagner that undermine the book’s central thesis.

  15. There’s some evidence that Hitler’s favourite war-time operatic listening was The Merry Widow. Lehar as it happened was married to a Jewish woman (although the Nazi regime declared her an ‘honorary Aryan by marriage’.

    Make of that what you will…

    • Wanderer says:

      And Hitler also liked German Shepherds, which leads to the question (if we stay with the logic fallacy) who did breed them and how he can be made responsible for the Holocaust.
      And another relevant question: are Chihuahuas antisemitic caricatures, because of their dwarf like appearance?

      • Looseleaf says:

        Go ahead and make light of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and the slaughter of millions. It’s obviously such a joke to you that you feel comfortable even typing the nonsense you just did.

        In the end, your droll approach to the persecution of others and mass slaughter says everything about you and your avowed hero, the known anti-Semite Richard Wagner.

  16. Michael Hurshell says:

    Hitler’s “political trance” upon seeing Rienzi. Ah yes. An observation taken from “an eye witness account” – significantly, an anonymous one as it seems. When was this eye witness heard, by whom? I’d be very surprised if it was not someone speaking with considerable hindsight.

    Question 1: what exactly is a “political trance”…?
    Question 2: what element(s) in Rienzi, as perceived by Hitler, are pertinant to our discussion (which seems to have gravitated to “are there anti-Semitic caricatures in Wagner’s stage works”)?
    Question 3: Why do the supporters of the “Wagner is the first step on the road to Auschwitz” theory insist on assuming that they understand Wagner, history, the Nazis & Hitler BETTER than Klemperer, Walter, Solti, and the rest?
    Question 4: Why make Wagner responsible for H.S.Chamberlain’s writings? I mean, Chamberlain saw Wagner (at times) as the incarnation of HIS ideas. Another egomaniac. The dates mentioned above (1892 etc.) are of course all many years after Wagner died.
    Question 5: Why make Wagner responsible for Hitler’s presence in Bayreuth, and H.’s use of operatic turns of phrase in his speeches? ( Which libretto extract, by the way, is meant?)
    Question 6: What significance has Hitler’s bumbling about with the “Wieland der Schmied” sketches, with respect to any of the points being discussed? Actually, what happened (as far as I recall, the episode has been the subject of at least one Austrian TV documentary) was that Hitler decided he might, in some strange way of his own, be a composer – and H. forced his roommate, whose name I can’t recall, but who was studying music, to try and compose something to the extant libretto sections. Of course nothing came of it. But again: what does the fact that Hitler recognized the potential for propaganda in the (mis)use of Wagner (in newsreels, on radio broadcasts etc) have to do with Wagner’s own intentions?

    I do of course agree that Wagner’s descendants had very intimate ties with Hitler and the party. But that was hardly Wagner’s responsibility. Wagner’s music was instrumentalized by the Nazis; the fact that his music has survived this, all over the world, could only mean – if the arguments of those claiming W’s responsibility for the political developments in 20th century Germany – that the whole world has become pro Nazi or Neonazi. Seems a bit unlikely.

    As for Israel: the music lovers want Wagner – they wanted to have this music played, even back in 1981 when Z. Mehta tried to perform Tristan (Prelude & Love Death) at a concert. And the protesters then were not survivors – Mehta said in an interview that the folks sitting up front, tatoos visible (i.e. short sleeved concert goers) – wanted to hear the music. It was always politically motivated, to maintain the taboo. If there were feelings among the concert goers motivated by politics, why on earth would the ban on Richard Strauss ever have been lifted?? In any case, I recall whith what pleasure and musical fire the concertmaster of the Israel Phil. performed Waxman’s Tristan Fantasie (in Germany). We had quite a talk about Wagner being played in Israel.

    Finally: “The Third Reich’s associations with Wagner are very extensive, and so considerations about racist influences in his work are worth consideration. It is thus astounding how this topic still meets with so much blanket denial.” Firts of all, “associations with Wagner” means “association with his music” (as in: mis-use), or “association with his descendants.” “Racist influences in his work” – PLEASE – give me examples, details, not generalizations. Asking for proof is not a “blanket denial.” No one disputes Wagner’s anti-Semitism, but accepting the Nazis’ own appraisal of how important Wagner was to them, to give the public an idea of how cultered their movement was (while most Nazis did indeed prefer Lehar, or at least Carmen), is hardly playing the game. I tend to rather follow Bruno Walter’s or Erich Korngold’s view of Wagner, rather than Goebbels’.

    • Wagner isn’t freed from responsibility for influencing National Socialism because he wasn’t alive at the time. Artists are responsible for the legacies they leave that influence future generations. And the issues surrounding Wagner’s racism are not resolved because some famous musicians have embraced his work.

      We should also avoid straw man arguments based on things that weren’t said. The issue isn’t whether Wagner was the first step toward the Holocaust (he wasn’t,) or that the whole world is Pro-Nazi (it isn’t,) or that people who question Wagner are Wagner-haters (most aren’t.) Nor can one make blanket statements about what Israelis and Israeli music-lovers think about Wagner. The opinions vary widely, though the large majority still support not performing his music in the country.

      The case of Strauss that you mention is interesting because he was the President of the Reichs Musikkammer, something viewed as egregious opportunism by some. Perhaps the difference is that Strauss did not write anti-Semitic pamphlets, nor did he write anything that could be seen as overtly anti-Semitic as the Ring. In fact, I believe Strauss had some Jewish in-laws. Strauss also wasn’t so strongly embraced by the Reich as Wagner – and in fact, their relationship ended on bad terms. And the nationalism in Strauss’s work has a very different character. (BTW, I agree with your comments above about Orff.)

      We can endlessly rehash the scholarly work about the anti-Semitic imagery in the Ring, but our standpoints on this are already clear. We will just have to disagree because the metaphors are open to interpretation and Wagner was careful to leave them that way. We should allow for a wide sprectrum of views. Intolerance with these questions becomes especially ironic — and for survivors, deeply hurtful.

      For me, the more interesting question is the psychology of the intense denial exhibited by some Wagnerites. I think a study of it could provide interesting insights about musical reception.

      • Wanderer says:

        “Artists are responsible for the legacies they leave that influence future generations.”

        Impossible. Artists are unable to defend themselves against misinterpretation and abuse of their work beyond their death.

        • Wagner is responsible for his anti-Semitic pamphlets and other racist writings. And he is responsible for creating metaphors in his art that are easily aligned with his racist views.

    • The person who witnessed how profoundly Hitler was affected by a performance of Rienzi was August Kubizek, one of his associates during his years in Vienna. Kubizek described Hitler as in “a state of complete ecstasy and rapture, in which he transferred the character of Rienzi, without even mentioning him as a model or example, with visionary power to the plane of his own ambitions.” He said Hitler then spoke of “a special mission that would one day be entrusted to him.” This report seems consistent with Hitler’s character and his relationship to Wagner’s work.

  17. Gurnemanz says:

    Ah, that ancient legend of “Rienzi” having a profound effect on Hitler. “The hour it all began”…

    Mr. Osborne quoted the story from a 1976 biography of Hitler by John Toland, which in fact comes from memoirs of August Kubizek, Hitler’s friend from his early days in Linz and Vienna, “The young Hitler I knew”. Added is a quote form the foreword to these memoirs by Hugh Trevor-Roper(I readily admit that my earlier remark about Mr. Trevor-Roper was a bit of a cheapshot).

    However, as I noted before, time has not begun to stand still in 1976 nor was further research on the subject of Hitler and the Third Reichsuspended since. In 36 years authorities other then messrs Toland and Trevor-Roper emerged, the most widely considered as such is Sir Ian Kershaw.

    It is Mr. Kershaw who wrote the foreword to the latest edition of Kubizek’s memoirs and in it he particularly expressed his opinion on the story of “Rienzi” and Hitler, which is rather interesting:

    “Another story described by Kubizek, and repeated in countless books on Hitler, also seems elaborated to the point of near fantasy. This is the lengthy episode of the nocturnal climb up the Freinberg, a mountain just outside Linz, following a visit to a performance of Wagner’s Rienzi, an early work about a Roman tribune of the people who was eventually cast down by his one-time followers. Kubizek has Hitler, in near ecstasy, elucidating the meaning of what they had seen in almost mystical terms. After the war Kubizek remained insistent that the story was true. The evening evidently left its mark on him, and he reminded Hitler of it when they met at Bayreuth in 1939. Kubizek concludes his chapter on the ‘vision’ by telling how Hitler recounted the episode to his hostess, Winifred Wagner, ending: ‘in that hour it began’. But this was Hitler showing off his ‘prophetic qualities’ to an important admirer, Frau Wagner. Whatever happened on the Freinberg that night that so impressed the impressionable Kubizek, nothing ‘began’ then. ”

    As you can see, according to Kershaw, the “Rienzi story” is fanciful at best, complete fantasy at worst. One must note, for the sake of intellectual honesty, that Kershaw does find Kubizek on the whole reliable. But “Rienzi story” contradicts just about every other account of Hitler’s life before 1914, including Hitler’s own. They all agree that while Hitler was keenly interested in politics at the time, he expressed absolutely no desire of a political career of his own, and only ever dreamt of becoming an artist.

    There is another twist to the story that goes against those trying to forge a direct link between Wagner and Hitler. I’ll tell it in another comment…

    • Actually, nothing Kershaw says discounts the report of Kubizek which is quite plausible. And in any case, there are so many examples of the influence of Wagner on Hitler that it is ridiculous to deny them. Hitler once said, “Wagner’s line of thought is intimately familiar to me. At every stage of my life I come back to him.” Among many other things, that’s why Hitler insisted that party officials attend Wagner performances, why he was a regular presence at Bayreuth, a close friend of the Wagner family, etc.

      Of course, none of this will open the eyes of the Ring Nuts – as they are known. For them, Wagner is a kind of religion and any criticism of his work a form of blasphemy. It leads one to wonder about the curious relationship between their intolerance and the intolerance exemplified in the writings of Wagner. Note also, that Herr Gunemanz is not willing to put his real name on his messages.

  18. Gurnemanz says:

    Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that Kubizek’s story of Hitler having some kind of an epiphany after seeing “Rienzi” is absolutely true.Let us also suppose that the artist can be responsible for how his work is used after his death. Well, guess what? Wagner walks scott-free even in this case \because as early as 1852 he disclaimed the work completely, was embarassed by it, called it “a pecadillo of his youth” and in general wanted nothing to do with it.

    Face it, wagnerophobes, you can not win on this.

    • Wagner never distanced himself from his racist writings which align in important ways with the metaphors in his work. He faced protests at his performances during his life and still did not renounce his racism.

      • It might be worth noting that for his fiftieth birthday, Hitler requested and received, among other Wagnerian treasures, the autograph manuscript of Rienzi. Clearly Wagner deeply influenced Hitler throughout his life. It is irrelevant that Wagner discounted Rienzi, since Hitler admired all of Wagner’s works.

        • Gurnemanz says:

          So according to you, Hitler is a bigger authority on Wagner then Wagner himself! You couldn’t make this stuff up!

      • Wanderer says:

        What you call antisemitic ‘metaphors’ is called ‘projections’ by modern psychology.
        They do not exist except in the perceiving mind.
        Wagner did describe himself what he intended with those figures. Antisemitism had nothing to do with it.
        As has been shown here repeatedly with factual information and numerous quotes.
        What do you have except conjecture?
        Hitler admired all of Wagner’s work? Is it really so hard to apply logic and understand, that this is irrelevant to the subject at hand? Or would you liked to be judged by the bedbugs living in your basement?

  19. The observation that artists are responsible for the legacies they leave etc . reflect a poor understanding of
    creativity or the creative process and what the artist is about . When an argument fails use phrases such as ant-Semitic metaphors -and racist strategy . it indeed must be an immense burden as well as a rare gift not given to us struggling musicians in being able to use the art of semiological meanings and racial strategy to suit a premis in deciphering the music of Wagner , who knew a Cmajor chord could be anti semitic chord when used by
    Wagner in his racial strategy . I have just as an exercise thumbed through 655 pages of a Wagner score and
    couldn’t find a phrase or note that fell under metaphors or strategy of anti semitism . and I consider myself
    a fairly good score reader , could I have missed something ?

    • An oasis of common sense in this discussion.

    • Gurnemanz says:

      Don’t worry, you have Mr. Osborne and his role models messrs Weiner and Rose to show you the light. Pity Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Georg Solti and Arnold Schoenberg didn’t have these intellectual giants to show them how blind they were.

  20. Below is an interesting excerpt from Hans Rudolf Vaget’s “The Political Ramifications of Hitler’s Cult of Wagner” that I mentioned earlier. He explains that the Nazi appropriation of Bruckner was forced since he was a deeply religious and non-political person. Vaget then outlines some of the interesting history behind the Nazification of Wagner, and especially how Hitler used Wagner to lend himself cultural and political legitimacy:

    “The case of Wagner is quite different, for a certain ideological
    affinity – at its core nationalistic and anti-Semitic – was
    self-evident and needed no propagandistic amplification. Moreover,
    Wagner had thematized again and again, from Rienzi
    to Parsifal, the idea of Erbe, even of Welterbe – world dominion.
    German Wagnerians thus grew up with the expectation that
    the Master’s heritage would one day be claimed. After Wagner’s
    death, the Bayreuth Circle, especially Houston Stewart
    Chamberlain, proceeded to radicalize the notion of a Wagnerian
    heritage by linking it to the hegemonic ambitions of Wilhelminian
    Germany. And throughout that post-Wagnerian era, a
    diffuse but vaguely appealing expectation was kept alive that
    one day a Parsifal-like savior would appear when Germany
    needed it most. Thus, when Hitler claimed that he was now
    wielding the sword that had been forged by Wagner and
    Chamberlain (as he did in his 5 May 1924 letter to Siegfried
    Wagner), he was in effect claiming to be Wagner’s political
    heir. The reference to Nothung, the magic sword handed
    down from Wotan to Siegmund and on to Siegfried, resonated
    not only for Hitler but also for his followers with powerful
    mythological and cultural overtones that lent him the aura of
    a potential savior in the manner of a Lohengrin, a Siegfried, or
    a Parsifal and, with that, the glamorous semblance of historical

    See my post above for the url to the complete document.

    • The additional passage below from Vaget’s article shows why the majority of people in Israel reject Wagner’s work. His music was clearly appropriated by the Nazis for their own purposes, but it is also true that his work, more than any other, lent itself to such uses. Norman summarized it well in his above statement, “There is abundant evidence that Wagner, more than any other historical figure, gave cultural legitimacy and self-belief to the Nazi regime.” Vaget reports an interesting example of how this was done:

      “When power was finally achieved, Hitler and Goebbels arranged
      for a propaganda spectacle that has entered the history
      books as the “Day of Potsdam”. It was intended to deceive the
      public about the revolutionary and terroristic designs of the
      regime. Ostensibly a show of loyalty to the traditional powers
      and of historical continuity, the “Day of Potsdam” culminated
      in a specially arranged, festive performance of Die Meistersinger
      in the Prussian State Opera. Wagner was to provide the
      capstone to this most successful propaganda effort of the new
      regime. At that performance on 2l March l933, the people of
      Nuremberg were instructed, during the “Wach auf” chorus, to
      turn to Hitler’s box, thereby transferring their homage from
      Hans Sachs to Adolf Hitler. Perhaps no other moment better
      encapsulates the political uses of Wagner in the Third Reich
      than this unashamedly operatic gesture. The identification
      with Prussian tradition in Potsdam during the day and with
      Wagner at the opera at night achieved for the new regime an
      incalculable strengthening of its claims to historical and cultural
      legitimacy. It almost goes without saying that at the Bayreuth
      Festival that year, this theme was repeated in full orchestration
      and in deafening fortissimo: ‘As we listened to the
      conclusion of Die Meistersinger today”, wrote Hans Alfred
      Grunsky, “it seems to us as though we were hearing in our in-
      ner ear, together with the jubilant ‘Heil Sachs’, the ‘Heil
      Hitler’ with which millions of people greet our Volkskanzler.’”

      • You might as well use the Day of Potsdam as an example of how the Nazis perverted the meaning of an artist’s work for their own purposes. They did it often. I wonder how many people here are aware that Nazi authorities promoted a rewritten text for Mozart’s Requiem Mass with references to Jewish names from the Old Testament removed. A recording of this version exists with Bruno kittel conducting his own choir and the Berlin Philharmonic.

        • I think that is exactly the point. Mozart is not viewed with suspicion because the appropriation was clearly forced, while wtih Wagner the affinity with the Nazi’s anti-Semitic nationalism was more natural.

          • Wanderer says:

            Maybe it was, maybe not, but it still is a plain and simple usurpation of Wagner’s work by the Nazis. You have the logic backwards. Do you blame the air, when a fart floats in it?

  21. Gurnemanz says:

    Ring Nuts? Herr Gurnemanz? Passing now to name calling, ethnic slurs and underhand character assasination, Mr. Osborne? A sure sign how one is bereft of arguments and soundly defeated in a debate. And you offering as evidence misrepresentation of Kershaw, a Hitler quote for which there is no source(though I have a good idea where it comes from), and quotes from Hans Rudolf Vaget taken out of context. Thank you for providing the whole text though, since one can see that Herr Vaget in no way endorses your view.

    BTW, ir is interesting how of all the people who commented on this section you single out only myself as using a screen name. I’ll take that as the best possibble compliment and proof that I succesfully and thouroughly debunked your ideas.

    • Gurnemanz says:

      Just for the record: I’m not German, in fact, my people have over a hundred years of continual conflict with Germany, culminating in the World Wars.

    • Nothing has been debunked, and these debates will likely continue among scholars for decades (as well as among fans.) To summarize, some of the key issues are that Wagner did not renounce his anti-Semitism even when his works faced protest during his life time, that some of the metaphors in his work align closely with his racist views, that Wagner influenced Hitler deeply, and that Wagner’s anti-Semitic nationalism allowed for his work to be easily appropriated by the Nazis. As a consequence, Wagner is closely associated with the cultural life of the Third Reich in ways that are both justifiable and unjustifiable.

      Wagner’s work is among the most influential and profound in the history of Western culture. His music should be rehabilitated, and he should be forgiven, but this can only be done when these problems are fully acknowledged. The irony is that some Wagnerites continue with forms of denial that only further harm Wagner’s reception.

      • Wanderer says:

        A little reminder: antisemitic nationalism was very common (unfortunately) in the 19th century. In Germany, in France, in Great Britain, anywhere. That by itself is an unfortunate but quite common attribute of the age of enlightenment with it’s shift of ruling entities from religious absolutism (where Judaism was confined to the Ghetto) to nationalism. (Secular) Jews in the 19th century were caught in the dichotomy of either assimilation or redefinition of their former religion into a virtual “nation”, thus Zionism was born. They had their share of nasty “anti-goyim” preachers and pamphlets as well.
        Now please see Wagner’s despicable anti-semitism in this historical context, together with his personal narcissistic shortcomings, which led to his personal anti-semitic attacks against his competitors Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn.
        Not in their worst nightmares could Wagner and the people of his time have preconceived, what would happen many decades later in Germany.

  22. Mr. Osborne again has caused me to go to the score and while I read 2Fluten ,2Hoboen , Klarinetin, Horner’
    Fagotte violinen violincelli etc along with instructions , nowhere does Wagner indicate that in Wach auf chorus
    turn to who ever is in power, I did find a D major chord that I thought could be an anti-semitic chord but it
    was too bright and cheerful- there was a pizz. on a note that could lend itself to an endless anti-semitic debate .
    There is no abundant evidence that Wagner ” gave” any cultural legitimacy to the Nazi regime, he couldn’t , he
    was dead as a door nail when they arrived on the scene, that they ” appropriated” his music to their own ends is
    a given ,nowhere in any scores that I read is there even a hint however subtle of anti semitism ,world domination
    or the future coming of the Nazi party . Mr. Osborne it seems takes stock in his sources and believes them to be
    correct thus presents a never changing point of view . – the problem I find with” belief ” is that it leaves very little or no room for reason .

  23. Michael Hurshell says:

    Just a quick note on some above comments, specifically the terms “Erbe” and “Welterbe.” Please do not use German words if you do not understand them. “Erbe” most emphatically does NOT mean “domination”, and of course “Welterbe” does not mean “world domination.” “Erbe” means “Inheritance” or in some contexts “legacy” or “wealth.” The actual use of “Welterbe” occurrs in “Das Rheingold” – referring to the power-giving qualities of the Ring, and therefore set up as a negative example! The whole Ring metaphor is about power and its corrupting qualities. To quote the use of the word as an example of Wagner’s ideology is absurd, really laughable. This is what happens when those who argue that Wagner infused his works with anti-Semitism etc. try to quote from a libretto. The word occurrs again in “Götterdämmerung” when Siegfried is asked to give the Rhine Maidens the Ring – but for him it represents only 2 things: the memento of his most famous deed, slaying Fafner; and the ring he took from Brünnhilde. For a better understanding of its meaning in that scene, refer to the score and how the various motifs are used. But first, learn German.

  24. Gurnemanz says:

    Mr. Osborne’s method of debate is a mixture of the old “do you still beat your wife” fallacy and psychological terrorism similar to interrogation methods O’Brien applied to Winston in Orwell’s “1984″. Mr. Osborne repeatedly and relentlessly expresses some phantom “need to see the truth” about Wanger’s works until (hopefully) the opponent either, just like the hapless Winston, surrenders all common sense and starts believing that there are 5 fingers held up and that Sixtus Beckmesser somehow managed to pull the wool over the eyes of a whole medieval German town and place himself in a top position without any merits whatsoever, or he leaves in dusgust therefore enabling Mr.Osborne to claim victory.

    Well, I for one am not falling for the trap. You are holding up 4 fingers Mr.Osborne, and there is absolutely no antisemitism in Wagner’s music.

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