Taboo Removed on Wagner Music

An Israeli orchestra plans to play the music of Wagner, a favorite of Hitler, at a German festival, despite incorrect reports by Israeli media.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 09:47

Wagner's bust in Bayreuth
Wagner's bust in Bayreuth
Israel news photo: Flash 90

An Israeli orchestra plans to play the music of Wagner, a favorite of Hitler, at a German festival in Bayreuth, despite incorrect reports by Israel’s mass media that the performance has been cancelled.

Wagner’s music is considered taboo, and Holocaust survivors' groups have led a long-time protest that has prevented Wagner’s compositions from being performed in Israel. Wagner himself also held strongly anti-Semitic views and once wrote that Jews were only capable of producing money-making music and not works or art.

The ban on his music by Israeli performers has also been upheld outside Israel, but Wagner’s great-granddaughter Katharina had planned to visit Israel this week to officially invite the orchestra to perform the music at a Wagner festival in Bayreuth in southern Germany. She told the London Guardian that she wanted the Israeli orchestra to play at the German festival in an attempt to “heal wounds,” but she cancelled her trip to Israel after a protest followed a report in the media which incorrectly stated that the performance also was cancelled.

“The only thing that has changed is that she cancelled her visit to Israel,” Israel Chamber Orchestra spokeswoman Merav Magen Lelie told Israel National News. “This is the first time Wagner will be performed by an Israeli orchestra.”

The Israeli orchestra’s musicians are free to opt out of participating, and none of the rehearsals will take place in Israel. Lelie said that so far, all of the orchestra’s members intend to perform in Bayreuth.

She pointed out that opposition to Wagner’s music by Holocaust survivors and their relatives is not universal. She said that the chamber orchestra’s music director Robert Paternostro's grandparents were  Holocaust survivors. (INN apologies for a previous report that died in the Holocaust.)  Several years ago, he rediscovered his Jewish roots through his mother, who had married a non-Jew.

Opposition to performing Wagner’s works is widespread. Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was quoted in the Guardian as saying, "Wagner cannot apologize. It's a closed book. There is no way of making up for his anti-Semitic writings."

Holocaust survivor Noah Klieger told the Germany news agency Deutsche Welle last week, “Wagner was the father of the theory of the races; he was the first one to claim that there was a master race - the Germans – and a low-class race - the Jews. He was the first to explain this in writing.

“We don't need reconciliation with Wagner. We have reconciliation with Germany. We have nothing against the new German generations. I go to Germany very often.... But Wagner is the same Wagner - whether it's today or 100 years ago, it's the same Wagner with the same theory…. He was one of the greatest composers ever, but this has nothing to do with his theories.”

Nearly 20 years ago, catcalls and a large-scale walkout met Israeli musician Daniel Barenboim’s attempt to lead the Berlin State Opera in a performance of part of Wagner’s music.