Chamber Orchestra’s Wagner performance sparks TA protest

Israeli orchestra to perform anti-Semitic composer's piece in Bavaria; protester: “By playing Wagner they’re saying we accept the Holocaust.”

By KAROLYN COORSH
July 26, 2011 16:56
2 minute read.
Youths protest outside the Tel Aviv Museum, Tues.

youth protest wagner_311. (photo credit: Karolyn Coorsh)

 
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A dozen people protesting the Israel Chamber Orchestra’s presence at a Richard Wagner festival in Germany on Tuesday night have asked the public to cancel their subscriptions to the orchestra’s shows.

Holding signs and chanting “What a shame,” the group demonstrated outside the Tel Aviv Museum on Tuesday morning.

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Wagner’s music is not typically played publicly in Israel or by Israeli musicians, due to the composer’s anti-Semitism and ties to Nazi culture.

“It’s absurd to me,” said Noy Dagan, 18, one of the protest organizers. “By playing Wagner, they’re saying okay, we accept the Holocaust.”

The orchestra will play Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, an orchestral piece, in Bayreuth, Bavaria, famous for its annual Wagner opera festival in July and August. It will be the first time an Israeli orchestra plays Wagner in Germany.

Wagner died half a century before Hitler rose to power. The Nazi dictator was a fervent admirer and drew on the composer’s writings in his own theories on Germanic racial purity.

Aside from anti-Semitic overtones in some of his operas, Wagner also penned a number of polemics raging against the corruption of music and the “German spirit” by Jews.

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But orchestra conductor Roberto Paternostro said on Sunday it was time to separate Wagner’s worldview from his music.

“Wagner’s ideology and anti-Semitism was terrible, but on the other hand he was a great composer,” he told Reuters. “The aim is in the year 2011 to divide the man from his art.”

But Dagan says that is too much to ask.

“Wagner didn’t separate politics and art, so why should we,” she said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post before Tuesday’s protest.

Rejecting the orchestra’s claim that the younger generation in Israel was more supportive of hearing Wagner’s music, Amichai Shikli, 29, said he was at the protest to show the public that not all are on board.

“We’re here to say there is no consensus about Wagner and the point is that the Holocaust did not occur just one day out of nowhere – there is... an ideological, cultural background,” he said. “And Wagner is one of the most influential characters in German culture, in shaping the anti-Semitic view.”

Shikli suggested the orchestra’s presence at the festival is “more than disrespectful” to those who died in the Holocaust, as well as to those who survived.

“It shocks me,” Shikli said.

“It doesn’t make sense for a public orchestra that represents Israel to play in a Nazi festival,” he said.

One of the signs carried by protesters outside the museum read “Six million people can’t hear Wagner either.”

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