Israel in Bayreuth: Wagner Festival Shatters Taboo

In the perception of many Israelis, Wagner supplied the sound-track to Hitlerism. That is why he cannot be performed in Israel by any publicly subsidized orchestra. Some years ago Wagner’s grandson, Gottfried, declared in Tel Aviv that this policy was perfectly understandable while a single survivor of Hitler’s horror was still alive.

This week, the hundredth Wagner festival opened in Bayreuth. For the first time it will include, as part of a fringe festival, a concert by the Israel Chamber Orchestra, in the Stadthalle, not the Festspielhaus. It will play the Siegfried Idyll and works by Mahler and Mendelssohn. In the Festspielhaus, Die Meistersinger will be performed.

The initiative for the concert came from its music director, Roberto Paternostro, who is Jewish and whose mother and other relatives were Holocaust survivors. “It was a very difficult and rocky path to get to this point,” Paternostro said at a news conference. “But there wasn’t a moment when I had any doubts about this project. It was my greatest conviction to bring together these two sides, Israel and Wagner. For me it wasn’t much of a problem. Wagner’s ideology and ant-Semitism were terrible. But he was a great composer. The aim is to distinguish between the man and his art.”

Source: Agence France Presse and Eric Kelsey in The Toronto Star (July 28)


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