Sunday, January 1, 2012

* Springtime for Wagner and Israel

I'm all for sticking to your guns. 

 For decades  Israeli orchestras have refused to play a note of Wagner on Israeli soil on the principled proposition that Wagner was an anti-Semite and that Hitler admired his music and even used it in juicing up his maddened crowds into Sieg Heil allegiance and formation. In 2011 however an ensemble from an Israeli orchestra  played a Wagner piece at the Bayreuth Festival, a world celebrated musical venue dedicated to the works of Wagner and run,until recently, by his genetic heirs.

I think the Bayreuth Israelis have got it right:  Stick to your guns but stop pointing them at yourselves.

Why ignore the Bible simply because it was composed by writers who didn't blink at those who kept slaves and was, 1500 years later, manipulated to excuse and justify slavery itself?  

If Harriet Beecher Stowe had decided to boycott references to the Bible  when she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, the White House might have actual slaves in it today instead of the great-great- grand-daughter of emancipated slaves presiding as First Lady of the Land.

Why deny your ears the beauty of the overture to Tannhäuser or the the entrance of the Gods' into Valhalla in The Ring, simply because the genius who wrote it had despicable prejudices which were broadcast  by a megalomaniac to justify the murder of six million Jews?

Better to study the music to see what in it fanned the fires of Hitler's megalomania, than to ignore the embers that might still be burning around the world. 

Know thine enemy.

Besides, Anna Russell, below, has made a howling satire out of Wagner's The Ring  which no civilized person should pass up.

Said about Tannhäuser

Mark Twain

I saw the last act of "Tannhäuser." I sat in the gloom and the deep stillness, waiting--one minute, two minutes, I do not know exactly how long--then the soft music of the hidden orchestra began to breathe its rich, long sighs out from under the distant stage, and by and by the drop-curtain parted in the middle and was drawn softly aside, disclosing the twilighted wood and a wayside shrine, with a white-robed girl praying and a man standing near. Presently that noble chorus of men's voices was heard approaching, and from that moment until the closing of the curtain it was music, just music--music to make one drunk with pleasure, music to make one take scrip and staff and beg his way round the globe to hear it.

Mark Twain in a Travel letter from Bayreuth

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