The Difficult Wagner: Why Leipzig Fights Richard W’s Obvious Anti-Semitism – Leipzig News

“The son of the city of Leipzig” Richard Wagner can no longer get rid of this discussion. She flared up for his 100th birthday in 2013. And Leipzig City Councilor Thomas Kumbernuß (Die PARTEI) puts it back on the agenda in connection with the “Wagner 22” festival. For how does one relate to a composer who has revealed himself in such an anti-Semitic way?

Is it possible to hide this shabby human side when staging Wagner on the Leipzig opera stage? Does it belong in the support program for such a festival?

From Thomas Kumbernuß’s point of view, it goes without saying.

“The Wagner 22 Festival takes place from June 20 to July 14, when the entire Richard Wagner stage work will be performed at the Leipzig Opera,” he stated in a first city council inquiry on the subject.

“This event will be flanked by a lavish accompanying program that – like the festival itself – does not address anti-Semitism in Richard Wagner’s work and actions. Events such as ‘Richard Wagner als Linkhegelianer’ on June 22 point more to a kind of moral cleansing of Richard Wagner than to a critical assessment. “

Therefore, his main question was: “Will the city of Leipzig or one of its own companies (eg Leipzig Opera) hold events as part of the ‘Wagner 22′ festival, which addresses Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism, especially in his diatribe? Judaism in music’?

Then there was a very detailed answer. Because even if you do not see it at first glance, the interest from Leipzig’s institutions with Richard Wagner’s critical sides has increased significantly since 2013. And it can also be experienced this year, it sounds from the city’s cultural office.

Appreciation to Gustav Brecher

It starts with “Wagner 22”: “The entire Wagner festival is in the tradition of the Jewish conductor Gustav Brecher. ‘.

A key moment of renewal was the Wagner care. To this end, from 1927 he prepared the first Wagner festival for the 50th anniversary of Wagner’s death in 1933. After taking power [der Nazis] he was driven out of the city by the people of Leipzig and died in 1940 while fleeing the Nazis. In the run-up to the Wagner Festival, the rehearsal stage at Leipzig Opera was renamed Gustav Brecher’s rehearsal stage.

On May 13, 2022, a relief by Brecher was inaugurated at the opera. In addition, the Jewish conductor and his wife were commemorated with stumbling blocks at Brecher’s then residence in Markkleeberg and in front of the opera at Augustusplatz.

And in the Mendelssohn House, Wagner’s behavior has been discussed for a long time, the cultural office states: “In the Mendelssohn House, there are no special events at the Richard Wagner as part of the ‘Wagner22’ festival. But in the regular tours, the problems surrounding Richard Wagner are addressed, as Richard Wagner explicitly named Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in his speech on ‘Judaism in Music’.

The relationship between the two composers was already strained in their lifetime. Nevertheless, Richard Wagner was a guest on the current Goldschmidtstraße 12 – as such he is also part of the guided tours – and was treated perfectly by Mendelssohn.

The exhibition also includes a letter to Mendelssohn’s grandson Felix Wach, in which Deputy Mayor Rudolf Haake, who had the Mendelssohn monument demolished in 1936, described Wagner as the ‘greatest musician and poet in this city, who was fortunately also an ardent anti-Semite’ nominee. .

At this point, Richard Wagner’s authorship ‘Judaism in Music’ and the ban on Mendelssohn’s music in the National Socialist period are also being discussed. “

Exhibitions planned in the City History Museum

In the City History Museum, Wagner’s behavior was already a topic in 2013 and will be again in 2022 and 2023.

“The City History Museum has a long history with Wagner, which is also associated with extensive collections, which over the last century have ranged from undisputed admiration (1913) to extensive repression (after 1945) to a critical re-acquisition of his personality. reception (the exhibition ‘Wagnerlust and Wagnerlast 2013’) is enough.It is quite clear to the museum team that dealing with Wagner’s work today requires a sincere examination of his anti-Semitic diatribe ‘Das Judenthum in der Musik’ (1850/68). projects are currently being prepared in this area:

From 15.06. (until 4 September 2022), a study exhibition by SGM in collaboration with the University of Leipzig and Richard-Wgner-Verband will for the first time systematically deal with the relationship between Mendelssohn and Wagner as well as the opposite reception of both Leipzig masters, which was harsh charged by Wagner. We expect a fresh and decidedly critical look at this topic from this project, which is co-supervised by a team of students.

From January 2023, we will be showing an exhibition about the music city of Leipzig during the Nazi era in SGM’s large special exhibition area.

It will also address the dual epoch and cultural breakthrough through the fall of the Mendelssohn Monument in 1936 and the earlier laying of the foundation stone of Richard Wagner’s National Monument in 1934 by Hitler personally; moreover, the exclusion of especially Jewish musicians before and after 1933 will play an important role. An extensive accompanying program is under development for both exhibitions.

During the redesign of the Old Town Hall, SGM has just added a new and very clear commentary on the anti-Jewish scripture to the space dedicated to Wagner’s work, clearly identifying it as one of the reasons for modern anti-Semitism with racial and cultural connotations. “

But how does this become visible in the “Wagner 22” festival?

Which did not quite answer Thomas Kumbernuss’ question about how the composer’s anti-Semitism was handled in “Wagner 22”.

The Ministry of Culture also responded. But she did not really satisfy the city council.

In any case, the opera management is well aware of the problem that the cultural office announced: “Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism is viewed critically. His anti-Semitism plays an important role in planning meetings, in dramaturgy meetings, in discussions between the directorial teams at the Leipzig Opera because of its despicable nature. The new director position is also based on this self-image. In all existing productions of Wagner’s works by Leipzig Opera during this period, there is absolutely no anti-Semitic element. Like great human dramas, the works are actually constructed without this reference. “

“Great human dramas”? It’s there, it’s getting really hard. It is at least a very peculiar interpretation, after Joachim Herz with his long-classic Leipziger Ring had shown that Wagner’s operas can be interpreted and staged “as a parable about the current (…) real social processes of the time” (Fritz Hennenberg )).

But Thomas Kumbernuß has other toothaches with the answers. It starts with the seemingly harmless phrase “The relationship between the two composers was already strained during their lifetime.”

But we’ll get to that.


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