Banning Wagner in Israel

Posted on: February 3, 2009

In Saturday’s (1/31) Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout writes, “The Israeli Opera has a new music director with plenty of ideas—one of which is six decades old. Asked by a reporter whether he had any plans to program the operas of Richard Wagner in Tel Aviv, David Stern answered in the negative. … Mr. Stern was endorsing a public policy, not expressing a personal preference. Wagner’s music is not played in Israel’s opera houses or concert halls. … Wagner, needless to say, wasn’t a Nazi. He died five years before Hitler was born. But his hatred of the Jews, like Hitler’s, was more than a mere tic: It lay at the heart of his megalomaniacal vision of the world.” Critics generally try to separate artists from their social or political ideology, Teachout notes, but Wagner’s ideas are the reason for the unofficial ban on his music. “I don’t think that Wagner’s anti-Semitism would justify removing his works from the repertoire of, say, the Seattle Opera or the Chicago Symphony. At the same time, though, I do think it fitting that there should be one place in the world where Wagner’s music is not played in public solely because of the hateful ideas of the man who wrote it.”