Israeli orchestra confronts taboo at Wagner shrine

Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:01pm EDT
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By Eric Kelsey

BAYREUTH, Germany (Reuters) - The Israel Chamber Orchestra will play a work by Adolf Hitler's favorite composer Richard Wagner in Germany on Tuesday, challenging a seven-decade taboo in their homeland.

Israeli ensembles rarely play Wagner because of the seminal 19th century composer's anti-Semitism and the appropriation of his music by by the Nazis, calling it insensitive to Holocaust survivors.

But orchestra conductor Roberto Paternostro said on Sunday it was time to separate Wagner's worldview from his music.

"Wagner's ideology and anti-Semitism was terrible, but on the other hand he was a great composer," he told Reuters. "The aim is in the year 2011 to divide the man from his art."

The orchestra will play Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, an orchestral piece, in Bayreuth, Germany, famous for its annual Wagner opera festival in July and August.

It will be the first time an Israeli orchestra plays Wagner in Germany.

"It was a very difficult and rocky path to get to this point," Paternostro said earlier at a news conference. "There wasn't a moment when I had any doubts about this project."

"It was my greatest conviction to bring together these two sides -- Israel and Wagner," said Paternostro, who is Jewish and whose mother and other relatives were Holocaust survivors. "For me it wasn't much of a problem."   Continued...

<p>Roberto Paternostro conducts the Israel Chamber Orchestra during a rehearsal in Bayreuth July 24, 2011. REUTERS/Michael Dalder</p>