The topic on last night’s Moral Maze was Wagner’s anti-Semitism.  I never heard such nonsense talked.  It has to be admitted that he did make some highly anti-Semitic statements.  But he made a great many other statements as well.  His unfortunately highly quotable anti-Semitic pronouncements have been cynically singled out and exaggerated, to suit their own agendas, by both pro- and anti-Semites.

In any case, the greatness of the work surely transcends the failings of the man.  So many of the great artists have testified to a voice greater than themselves speaking within them.  Dante said it was Love who dictated his poems to him, Lowry called it the other side,  Eliot the auditory imagination, Keats talked of negative capability and Coleridge of the Imagination.  It is this greater voice that speaks to us in Wagner.  People were saying that the music is itself anti-Semitic.  The music anti-Semitic?  Just where please?   Parsifal, it is supposed, is a hymn to Arian blood and the Nazi philosophy.  It is hard to think of a work more anti-Nazi than Parsifal, surely the most moving testimony to compassion and forgiveness that has ever been written.  Have these people ever been to a production of Parsifal?  Most of Wagner’s works were not put on at Bayreuth during the Second World War because it was felt that their philosophy would undermine the German war effort.                                                                                                  

I find it tragic that Wagner’s intense humanity – his arresting insights into the complexity of human nature,  his profound theology and philosophy, his environmental concern, his ability to express the beauty of nature, his profoundly humane comedy, the nobility of his characters, even his villains, the almost unique power of the grandeur and tenderness of the music to possess the soul – that all this should be swept aside because of his occasional anti-Semitic statements.  How blind can you get? How sad.













Related Posts

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>