Kudos to Warren Boroson for his excellent Aug. 7 interview with Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College with regard to Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism and his music. I agree with Leon Botstein and am not in favor of the informal banning of Wagner’s music in Israel or anywhere else.
I understand that Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism will always remain a matter of dispute and particularly in the memories of the Holocaust survivors in Israel but I also believe that often greatness and goodness do not necessarily go hand in hand and that music should have no place in politics.
Yes, Wagner’s anti-Semitism lessens his accomplishments as a composer but as Leon Botstein said in the interview, Wagner’s music appeals to so many Jews because he’s good. Many of our Jewish conductors and Jewish opera singers brought Wagner’s music to concert halls and opera houses all over the world.
As a point of interest and a little trivia, I recall when reading about one of my favorite opera stars, Jan Peerce, that at the age of 34, he took his first step into “legit” classical music. The catalyst was none other than Arturo Toscanini, who heard the tenor on a Radio City Music Hall broadcast singing, of all things, the first act of Wagner’s “Die WalkÃ¼re.” The great conductor decided that here was precisely the voice he needed for an upcoming performance and this was the start of Jan Peerce’s opera career. From then on, he was Toscanini’s tenor.
As a lover of classic musical and particularly opera, I find that people react to music with emotion. Some of my Wagner favorites are “TannhÃ¤user,” “Lohengrin,” “Tristan und Isolde,” and “The Ring of the Nibelung,” his great tetralogy. His music should be heard and not banned.