Wagner opera funds to go to Ramallah

Troupe made up of Israeli and Arab musicians scheduled to perform at Nazi-era theater in Berlin.

Barenboim performs 224. (photo credit: AP [file])
Barenboim performs 224.
(photo credit: AP [file])
As if performing a Wagner opera in a Nazi-era theater by an orchestra comprised of Israeli and Arab musicians was not an unlikely enough a concept, the organizer of the event said Wednesday that proceeds from the show will go to building a concert hall in Ramallah. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra - a troupe made up entirely of Israeli and Arab musicians - was founded in 1999 by the late Palestinian academic Edward Said and the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim as a gesture of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East. Barenboim, who continues to conduct the group, has called it "the most important musical project" of his life. The orchestra is scheduled to perform Wagner's "Die Walkuere" on August 23 at Berlin's Waldbuehne - an arena built as part of the complex for the 1936 Olympics by the Nazis. Barenboim said that "Hitler and Wagner would be turning in their graves" if they found out about the concert. He denied, however, that his group had grand political ambitions. "The only thing we say is that we do not believe there is a military solution to the conflict in Palestine," he said. "People need to learn how to live with each other and listen to each other. That's what we do as musicians every day." He said a concert hall in Ramallah would go far in improving the daily lives of Palestinians. "Political negotiations are important, but everyday life is even more important," he said. If the concert hall gets built in Ramallah, Barenboim says that he would help organize a concert there every four to six weeks. Barenboim, who was born in Argentina and holds Israeli citizenship, has been known to make provocative musical selections in the past. In 2001, he caused an uproar in Israel when he broke the country's unofficial ban on Wagner and led the Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra in a performance of the opera "Tristan und Isolde."