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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 08:09 GMT 09:09 UK
Conductor stands firm on Wagner row
Wagner was Hitler's favourite composer
Conductor Daniel Barenboim has said he will not voluntarily change plans 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.

Barenboim received a letter on Monday from the festival officials asking him to reconsider the programme.

But Barenboim - who was born in Argentina but brought up in Israel - said it was up to those officials to order the change or cancel the July performance of Die Walkuere at the Festival of Israel in July.

Placido Domingo
Domingo: due to perform Wagner's Die Walkeure in Israel
"They are the ones who invited us to the festival and asked us to play Wagner," Barenboim told the Chicago Tribune.

There has been a steady stream of protest against the performance since the event was announced a month ago.

Israeli members of parliament, Jerusalem's mayor Ehud Olmert and culture minister Matan Vilnai have expressed their difficulties with Wagner's associations.

Nazi rallies

In an interview on Israeli radio Barenboim admitted that Wagner was an anti-Semite but said that what was causing problems in Israel was his association with Nazism, which came about when Wagner was long dead.

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

He did provide anti-Semitic inspiration for the Nazis, for whom he was a cultural icon.

Daniel Barenboim
Barenboim conducts the Berlin Staatskapelle and the Chicago Symphony Orchestras
Adolf Hitler was a great admirer of Wagner, and the composer's music was played at Nazi rallies.

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

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 argues that his music is too important to be ignored.

"The last thing I want is to hurt anybody's feelings who have been through such terrible times," he said.

"I didn't want anybody who felt unable to hear this music because of the association [with Nazism] to be confronted with it.

"But people who don't have the association should be able to hear it."

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.

Barenboim said he expected a decision to be made on whether the performance will go ahead in the 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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