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Bayreuth festival cancels invitation to Israeli orchestra

The Local · 6 Oct 2010, 17:36

Published: 06 Oct 2010 16:12 GMT+02:00
Updated: 06 Oct 2010 17:36 GMT+02:00

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The decision to rescind the offer was made after news of the invitation leaked prematurely, prompting executives to rethink the offer at an emergency meeting of festival executives in Bayreuth on Tuesday night, the Haaretz newspaper said.

"Amid concerns that reactions in Israel would be fiercely negative, the visit was cancelled," the paper wrote.

Calls to the Tel Aviv offices of the Israel Chamber Orchestra on Wednesday were not answered.

The ensemble said on Tuesday it had accepted an invitation to play at the festival next summer despite long-standing Israeli opposition to performing works by the anti-Semitic composer.

"The decision was not to break a taboo," Erella Talmi, the chairwoman of the orchestra's board of directors, told Israeli army radio. "The decision was to accept an invitation that showed a new openness."

But since the Nazi Holocaust, musicians in what is now Israel have largely honoured an unwritten ban on performing pieces by Wagner, Adolf Hitler's favourite composer.

Many Israelis are Holocaust survivors and find the associations provoked by the music distressing.

Writing in the Yediot Aharonot daily on Tuesday, Holocaust survivor Noah Klieger called the orchestra's decision to participate at Bayreuth an "outrageous surrender."

Story continues below…

"I have no idea who came up with this idea, but I do know that we must not allow this performance to take place," he wrote.

In 1991, Israeli composer Daniel Barenboim led the Berlin State Opera in a performance of an excerpt from "Tristan und Isolde" in Tel Aviv, prompting catcalls and a walkout by several members of the audience.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:36 October 6, 2010 by auniquecorn

It means that anyone that goes to this performance will burn in hell.
21:24 October 6, 2010 by germinator
well, this nicely avoids the trickier issue of whether Beyreuth should have boycotted Israeli performers altogether.
21:45 October 6, 2010 by wood artist
It's sad that music still has political connotations.

During the era of the Soviet Union, composers were routinely challenged that their music was somehow not properly "communistic" in nature. During the Third Reich, numerous composers were similarly challenged, though often because of their religion or the subjects of the story matter that the music accompanied.

Although I can certainly understand the sensitives of the Holocaust survivors, listening to Wagner does not immediately mean endorsement of that viewpoint. Would the same be said if Hitler proclaimed that J S Bach was his favorite composer?

We can debate the themes found in the Ring, and argue whether the storylines deal with a Master Race and such, but those are discussions separate from the music itself. If a German orchestra played the Horst Wessel song in Tel Aviv, that would be one thing...but orchestral music, especially from "non-political" operas seems like something we could "get over."

I applaud Beyreuth for extending the invitation in the first place, and also the orchestra for accepting. Nothing should make us forget, but many things could help us move on. This might have been one of them, but we'll never know.

23:32 October 6, 2010 by dankworth
Perhaps we can forgive a jewish musician who might have qualms about performing a piece by Wagner who was a notorious anti-semite.

EVERYTHING, including music, is political.
00:32 October 7, 2010 by Prufrock2010
"EVERYTHING, including music, is political."

No it isn't. In fact, that's one of the stupidest comments I've seen in quite a while.
09:35 October 7, 2010 by freechoice
My God, is Israel is still in war with Germany based on some technicalities?
23:56 October 7, 2010 by dankworth
"No it isn't."

Yes it is. Everything about the arts is political. Everything about a musical performance is a political statement from the songs (and lyrics) an artist choses to sing ( or not to sing) to the place he choses to perform. Even the clothes an artist wears is a statement. Anyone who doesn't understand that understands nothing about the music and the power it wields over our society.

But you're excused Prufrock2010. How would a lawyer know about anything creative.
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