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August 11, 2008


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A.C. Douglas

"Then somebody combines a lecture about the anti-Semtic symbolism inherent in Wagner's work (much of which is true)...."

None of which is true.

I just posted two comments to that NewMusicBox thread savaging the imbecile comments of one William Osborne, whomever he may be, setting straight his thoroughly ignorant and tendentious remarks concerning the above, and on the involvement of the Wagner family in setting the price of the webcast.

On a happier note, I just discovered your fine blog yesterday, and in a highly untypical move, added it to my blog listings without any further trial reading.

Good to see your participation in the classical blogosphere.


David Preiser

Much appreciated, ACD.

I just read your comments over at NMB, and I actually didn't know the Wagners no longer owned the whole thing. I knew there was some sort of government support (it is in Europe, after all), but that was it. I try to more less follow the various court intrigues about who is going to take over, but had assumed it was still a family shop.

I also don't think Wagner deserves any defense regarding his anti-Semitism. I happen to agree with you that all the symbolism people see and talk about was not entirely intentional on his part, but I think if these were pointed out to him he wouldn't exactly deny it. Anti-Semitic symbolism was not uppermost in his mind when he was creating The Ring; he had much bigger thoughts. Dwarves and bent-over, whining crones were part of European cultural mythology, existing outside of any Jewish stereotypes. But I do think there's something there.

The thing is, Wagner was a horrible human being, full stop, and his anti-Semitism was hardly his worst sin. The way he treated Franz Liszt is as much a sin in my book as anything he said against Jews. In any case, much of it was a learned cultural fad, exacerbated by Cosima, and maybe some resentment at Jewish members of the press.

Wagner's writings and comments on Jews are well known, and sure, there's plenty of mythical Teutonic nationalism in what he was trying to achieve. But so what? That has nothing to do with his real achievement in music and theater. Such is the power of music that one can be moved without knowing, or being affected by any of that nonsense.

And you're right that Hitler was not influenced by Wagner's writings. He discovered those joys later on, and Wagner was a convenient tool for his aims.

But that's fodder for a post on Wagner, which I will do at some point. My real concern was that these guys were spitting on a good idea for reasons which had little or nothing to do with the concept, and appeared to be totally detached from the realities of the music business.

Link reciprocated, btw.

A.C. Douglas

On the ownership and executive governing of the Festspielhaus and the Festspiele itself, the Wagner family not only "no longer ow[ns] the whole thing," they no longer own any part of it. The Stiftung is sole owner of and executive governing authority for the whole enchilada.

On the anti-Semitic symbolism in the operas, I had this to say on the matter in a July 2004 post on S&F:

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"Can one find anti-Semitic overtones and references in the text and characterizations in [any] of Wagner's operas...? If one is so disposed, one most assuredly can. One can find pretty much anything one is looking for in Wagner's stage works, an ineluctable consequence of their at-bottom archetypal nature. Archetypes are essentially empty matrices that can be filled-in and fleshed-out in their particulars in multiple ways, and at multiple levels, by the filler-in-ers and flesher-out-ers, and so if one is determined to find anti-Semitic content in the filling-in and fleshing-out, one can be absolutely assured of not being disappointed. That archetypal quality is not a fault in Wagner's stage works but their very genius, and a principal source of their timelessness, universality, and astonishing resonant power. [...] Soberly considered, ... the alleged racist anti-Semitic coding in ... Wagner's stage works adds up to nothing more than a manifest and classic case of the obscenity being in the mind of the beholder not the beheld which is itself guilty only of being too deep and too rich for its own good."
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Another telling point is Wagner himself, a man who spoke and wrote at Wagnerian length on just about every detail of his intentions in his works, but who never once — not even in private conversation with his most intimate soul-mate, Cosima — even so much as hinted at any anti-Semitic intent or content in his operas, and who in fact held the lunatic belief that nothing even remotely Jewish should ever be referred to or represented onstage.

So much for anti-Semitic content in Wagner's operas, intentional or otherwise.

And, yes, Wagner was a rabid and loathsome anti-Semite, and by any ordinary human standards a pig of a human being generally. But as you say, So what? What's important is that he wrote _Tristan_, and, and, and, etc., and that's all that should matter — to us, at least.

Finally, while it's always gratifying to have S&F linked to, especially by worthy sources, a reciprocal link by you is not in the least obligatory. To quote myself again from an S&F post:

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"Although we're most gratified when linked to by others, we don't engage in link trading on S&F. We almost dumped the eMail that came to us announcing [a new blog] as it suggested such a link exchange. If you have a new website or blog that you think would be of interest or use to S&F's readers, by all means let us know about it. If we think the website or blog worthy of a listing on S&F, we'll list it. If not, not, regardless of whether you post a link to S&F on your website or blog or not."
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