Negligible reports tucked away below the fold of forgotten inside pages oftentimes signify much more than the scant attention accorded them. So it was with news that the Israel Chamber Orchestra played Wagner in Germany at the Bayreuth Festival dedicated to his veneration. This perhaps constituted the greatest break yet of Israel’s unofficial, socially accepted taboo on public performances of Richard Wagner’s music (as distinct from listening in private).
Nonetheless, easygoing apathy greeted a story that yesteryear would have instigated riots. Classical music is anyhow the preserve of shrinking clusters of cultural aesthetes, once numerous and influential in our midst. Today, they’re judged esoteric and hardly anyone cares.
Moreover, several false premises paint Wagner-aversion as ludicrous and outdated. Wagner’s music, we’re told, shouldn’t suffer because Hitler appropriated it. The composer, after all, died half a century before the Third Reich.
Another premise is that our loathing for Wagner is insular and generation-based. Hear ICO chairwoman Erela Talmi: “The atmosphere has changed, and those people who were at the concentration camps are either weaker or no longer with us, and those who voiced their [anti-Wagner] opinions are only a few and it’s hard for them to be heard now.”
Subtext: The dead and dying survivors’ eccentricities sprang from exaggerated, no-longer-relevant emotionalism. Presumably we’re now free to love Wagner. Continue reading