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Why Does Richard Wagner Get Blamed For Everything 200 Years After He Was Born ?

   This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest composers of all time , Richard Wagner , who is also without a doubt the most controversial  figure in all of classical music .  He died in  1883 ,  already  extremely controversial  for most of his life  , and the controversy has never died down . Nor is it likely to  any time in the future . 

   What made a mere composer, albeit  a towering  genius ,  into a  bone of contention all over the world for nearly two centuries ?  The answers are very complex .  Wagner is a polarizing figure  in classical music and opera ; people tend to  love or hate his music ; few are indifferent  to it .  There is something about  his  music  which  fascinates and thrills  some listeners  yet also something  which  disturbs and repels  many others . 

    It is rich, sensual music  filled with  sumptuous and multi-hued orchestration .  But it can also be  grandiose and rugged at times . From the dramatic viewpoint , Wagner  was also  a  keen  psychologist , and his principal characters are extremely complex and highly interesting people ,no mere  cardboard characters and stock   villains, heroes and  maidens in distress .  Unfortunately, his operas, or "music drams" as he preferred to call  his mature stage works  , are extremely long  , fearsomely complex  and  extremely challenging  to  singers, conductors ,orchestras  ,  directors  and designers to produce .  Some consider them too much of a muchness .

    Ah, and yes, there's the  inconvenient fact he happened to  be the favorite  composer of  one Adolf Hitler  , the over ambitious   nobody from  Austria  who became  perhaps the most evil person in world history  .   But is all  this the fault of Wagner, who died six years before Hitler was born , as so many  people  assume ?  I think not .

    Yes, both were anti-semites .  Wagner was frankly a pretty  nasty  felow .   Monstrously egotistical ,  self-centered ,  manipulative,  unscrupulous ,  a   dead beat of the worse kind,  womanizer and serial adulterer ,  etc.  But when it comes to evil  , he was  no Hitler , who was determined to  commit genocide against the Jews or Europe, and almost accomplished his monstrous goal , as well as  slaughtering millions of others  and leaving Europe  in  utter destruction and unspeakable misery at the time of his death . 

    Yes, Wagner disliked Jews very much , was always  making  nasty comments about them and wrote an appaling extended essay called "Judaism in Music",  which  accused Jews of being incapable of creating great art works of any kind, despite their enormous contributions to the arts  in history .  Yet , as the old cliche goes, some of his best friends were jews . 

    But did he advocate genociide against the  Jews or any other group ?  No.  Did he advocate creating a totalitarian fascist  police state  of the kind Hitler and the *** created ? No.   Basically , all he wanted to do in life was to reform opera  , which he certainly did , create great  operatic masterpieces  and to promote them  as best he could .  Would he have approved of the monstrous  cruelty,barbarity and brutality of Hitler and the *** ? I doubt it . 

    The problem is that Hitler  read his own insane  ideas into Wagner's music and  dramas which simply aren't there .   Take the stories of his operas ;  there are no Jewish characters in them , no discussions of Jews or Judaism either positive or negative, and not a single  anti-semitic statement by any of the characters in the librettos  ,which he wrote entirely himself ,uliken most other opera composers ,who collabortated usually with professional librettists . 

    The plots of the operas have nothing to do with Judaism ,except for his  last work,Parsifal, only indirectly  .  The word "Jew" cannot even be found in any of his librettos .   His operas deal with love, hate ,  ambition , lust,  greed for power,  and the redemptive power of  love, in the Greek sense of Agape .  There is absolutley nothing in them which glorifies  Aryan Germanic triumph over the Jews, although some  critics and musicologists have read this into them, albeit in an oblique way . 

     Yet so many  people have  condemned Wagner's  wroks  for  supposedly being  anti-semitic and having  had  a  baneful influence on Hitler and the *** .  However, this makes about as much sense as blaming Jesus for the Spanish Inquisition  , the  Witch trials  and  executions and  the violence of the Crusades .  

     It's about time that  all those who  love classical music  and opera jettisoned all the baggage which comes with Wagner's music  and  learned to  accept  it on its own terms .  But it will not be an easy task  to bring this about . 

Posted: Mar 18 2013, 10:14 PM by the horn | with no comments
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