Israeli university cancels planned Wagner concert

Wed Jun 6, 2012 10:35am EDT
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By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli university has cancelled plans to hold a concert featuring Richard Wagner's music after Holocaust survivors complained the performance would cause them "emotional torture".

Israeli ensembles rarely play Wagner, citing the 19th century German composer's anti-Semitism and Hitler's affinity for his work. Sporadic performances of his works in the Jewish state in the past have drawn controversy and condemnation.

Tel Aviv University said on Wednesday it had decided to cancel plans by a private group of Wagner aficionados to rent out an auditorium on campus this month after fielding "angry and difficult" complaints from Holocaust survivors.

Uri Chanoch, deputy head of a survivors' group, had protested against plans to hold the concert in a letter to the university's president with a copy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"This is emotional torture for Holocaust survivors and the wider public in the State of Israel," said the letter, which appeared in the Israeli media.

Yonathan Livni, founder of the Israel Wagner Society, had hired 100 musicians to circumvent what he saw as a policy of Israel's state-subsidized orchestras to shun Wagner's work.

An unofficial ban on Wagner, including a taboo in airing his music on state-owned media, predates Israel's creation in 1948. The Israel Philharmonic under its former name, the Palestine Orchestra, imposed it in 1938 after Nazi attacks on Jews in Germany.

Attempts over the years by some musicians in Israel to perform Wagner's music have caused audience members to walk out in protest and have triggered heated public debate.   Continued...