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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK
Wagner concert sparks Israel row
Conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim has defended his decision to perform an opera by Richard Wagner at a Jerusalem festival, despite opposition from the Israeli Parliament.

Israeli performances of works by the German composer are often accompanied by protest from Holocaust survivors and others who say he promoted anti-Semitism.

At a debate in the Knesset on Wednesday, some deputies called for the performance to be cancelled, saying it would be an "insult" to the memories of Jewish victims of the Nazis.

Barenboim - who is Argentinean-born but brought up in Israel - said he will go ahead with a performance of Die Walkuere at the Festival of Israel in July.

The Knesset
Israel's parliament will debate the issue next week
"It is a fact that Wagner was an anti-Semite," he said on Israeli radio.

"Just as many great men of his time were, but what's causing problems in Israel is that he's associated with Nazism, and that came later."

Israel is home to some 300,000 survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig on 22 May 1813 and died in Venice of a heart attack in 1883.

Although he had been dead for some time when German National Socialism evolved, he did provide anti-Semitic inspiration for the Nazis, for whom he was a cultural icon.

'Irrational'

Adolf Hitler was a great admirer of Wagner, and the composer's music was played at Nazi rallies.

Wagner is best known for his grand-scale operas - The Ring Cycle, Tristan and Isolde and Lohengrin.

Barenboim said he could understand the feelings of those who felt uncomfortable with Wagner's music, but that he was "outraged" at the attempt to stop other people hearing the music.

"I think the whole issue of Wagner is irrational," he said.

"You can say many things about Wagner but he is not responsible for the Holocaust.

Protest

Last year the Israel Symphony Orchestra played its first performance of Wagner.

That concert was conducted by Mendi Rodan, himself a Holocaust survivor, but was disturbed by a noisy protest from a man whose family died in concentration camps.

Previous attempts to perform Wagner in Israel have failed.

Festival organisers plan to go ahead with the performance and almost half the available tickets have been sold.

The matter will be debated in a plenary session of the parliament next week.

See also:

07 Jun 98 | Middle East
Tel Aviv opera drops plans for Wagner
27 Oct 00 | Middle East
Israeli orchestra breaks Wagner taboo
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