The fledgling Israel Wagner Society that was formed little over one year ago, has organised a symposium on Wagner and the first ever concert of the music of Wagner in Israel for the 18th June 2012.
An Israeli symphony orchestra will play works by Richard Wagner inside the country for the first time since the state’s foundation in 1948.
The last time an Israeli orchestra tried to play the music of Wagner was when Arturo Toscanini (a noted anti-fascist) planned to play Wagner with the then Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra the day after Kristall Nacht in November 1938. That concert was cancelled.
Many people in Israel, including senior members of the Government and previous Prime Ministers, have strongly opposed any attempts to program the music of Wagner in concerts in Israel due to Wagner’s anti-Semitic views, and the association of Wagner’s music with the Nazi regime and Adolph Hitler (Wagner was Hitlers favourite composer).
In 2001, Daniel Barenboim and the visiting Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra played the overture to Tristan Und Isolde at a Jerusalem concert as an encore. This precipitated angry walkouts, and he was widely denounced by the then Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Today, the Israeli Government and Military use German built trains and submarines, but remain unwilling to embrace the music of Wagner.
The President of the Israel Wagner Society, 67 year old Jonathan Livny, has said he has circumvented the long-held view that publicly subsidised orchestras should not play Wagner by ensuring that each of the 100 musicians who will play in the concert will be privately engaged as individuals. He has also stated during an interview with The Independant that those who were most vociferous in calling for a boycott of Wagner “don’t listen to classical music anyway”. He added: “The important thing is that this is good music, and I am against any boycott of that regardless of who wrote it. Also you can’t understand modern music without listening to Wagner. Schoenberg, and Mahler. All these composers were disciples of his. It’s like saying ‘don’t listen to Beethoven’. He made his imprint on music. And so did Wagner.”
Sadly, opposition from some sections of the Israeli community and Government is expected, so the the plans for the symposium and concert have been announced barely three weeks prior to the event, so as not to give any opposition time to regroup.
The concert will be part of a day of discussion and music at Tel Aviv University. It will explore the inspiration the Zionist visionary, Theodor Herzl, drew from Wagner’s opera TANNHAUSER when he was writing the first draft of his seminal book The Jewish State.
For Australian readers the symposium and concert is notable for the involvement of Israeli born conductor Asher Fisch, who takes over as the Chief Conductor and Musical Advisor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in 2014, and also conducted the performances of Wagner’s DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN for the State Opera of South Australia in 2004, and Australian helden baritone, John Wegner.
The program for the event is below.
Opera Insider wishes our musical friends in israel best wishes and Shalom for this mighty and historical event.